Labor joins Australian researchers today calling for the Liberal Government to end its reckless political game and release $150 million in funding for the National Collaborative Research Investment Scheme (NCRIS).

When the Abbott Government came to office, NCRIS had 21 months of secure funding.

But now, with less than four months until the end of the financial year, Christopher Pyne is holding 2015-16 funding hostage – $150 million in funding that was included in the last Budget.

Christopher Pyne is risking the 1700 jobs and 35,000 research projects NCRIS supports, in a desperate attempt to bully the Senate into passing his unfair university deregulation bill.

Make no mistake – the decision to hold NCRIS funding hostage was made by Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott.

In January, Christopher Pyne described their decision as “a high-stakes game”. The reality is that the Government is playing chicken with the country’s future. 

Labor does not believe the future of 1700 high-skill jobs and 35,000 research projects is a game.

As Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt, has said:

“This is not the way a grown-up country behaves. It’s very childish and it’s having profound impact to something that is going to increase the productivity of the nation … In the next couple of weeks, we’re looking at dropping our productivity of the future, not raising it.”

Professor Brian Schmidt - RN Breakfast - 5 March 2015

Mr Pyne’s claim this morning that NCRIS funding is “part of the reform bill” is also untrue – the funding is not in the legislation, and could be released through an appropriations bill at any time.

NCRIS facilities have already started losing staff and negotiating redundancy agreements.

There is a very real risk that some facilities will be forced to close if their funding is not secured by the end of March.

If this happens, Australia could lose these capabilities for years to come.   

The Government’s own National Commission of Audit found that creating uncertainty around research infrastructure funding is short-sighted and wasteful:

“Without ongoing funding, established facilities will not deliver their maximum benefit to the research community and much of the value of the initial investment will be lost. Should established facilities be required to close, the cost of re-establishment would be significantly more than that required for their ongoing operation and maintenance.”

National Commission of Audit, Appendix Vol.2, Section 10.2, p. 32 

It’s time for Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott to stop toying with the livelihoods of 1700 Australians and heed this advice.

It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.


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