HYDROGEN FUEL-CELL CAR MAY BOOST VICTORIA'S BROWN COAL INDUSTRY

A vision of the future drove through Canberra last month and parked at Parliament House. It carried a message of hope for Victoria’s embattled brown-coal industry.

The Toyota Mirai is a hydrogen fuel-cell car. It is on sale in Japan, soon will be in the US and Europe, and is being tested for Australian conditions.

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LABOR DOESN’T NEED TO SEARCH FOR A REASON FOR BEING

The Australian Labor Party is sometimes accused of not being clear about what it stands for. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the accusation can be heard even within Labor’s ranks.

 

The accusers typically want the party to stand for something other than the core beliefs it has long held. Yet they themselves are none too clear about what they think should replace those beliefs.

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HOW TO ENGINEER AUSTRALIA'S ECONOMY FOR THE FUTURE

How many engineers does it take to change the future?

Some people, such as the Grattan Institute’s higher education analyst Andrew Norton, want you to believe that we already have more engineers than we need.

Norton disparages the view that Australia will need more graduates in engineering and the physical sciences if we are to broaden our economic base and invest in industries that create future jobs.

In his budget reply speech, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced a Labor Government will offer 100,000 HECS-free degree scholarships to students in the so-called STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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LIBS STILL PUSHING UNPOPULAR UNIVERSITY DEREGULATION

The Abbott Government’s attempt in this year’s Budget to pose as a friend of small business and working families should not blind Australians to the fact that the Government has not abandoned many of the ruthless cuts in its first Budget.

That is nowhere more apparent than in Christopher Pyne’s agenda to Americanise Australia’s higher education system, which remains firmly in place.

The deregulation of university fees and the proposed 20 per cent cut in the funding of undergraduate places are included as savings in the 2015 Budget papers, despite the fact that the Government has twice failed to get the necessary legislation through the Senate.

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TALKING TO VICE-CHANCELLORS ALONE ISN'T HOW TO REFORM HIGHER ED, CHRISTOPHER PYNE

For 10 months, there have been two national conversations about the Abbott government’s attempted makeover of Australia’s universities.

Christopher Pyne, the education minister, has had a conversation with the universities’ vice-chancellors, who have mostly fallen into line as the minister’s cheer squad – at least on fee deregulation, if not on funding cuts.

There has been a very different conversation among students and their families, and among academics, few of whom share the views of those in who reside their chanceries.

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How innovation can power a healthy economy

Just say "start-up" and the eyes of most aspiring entrepreneurs and not a few columnists will light up at once.

For them the term conjures up a vision of the dazzling wealth and global fame awaiting whoever leads the next phase of technological innovation.

But for more established corporate executives, the "start-up" label might carry overtones of threat. Put "start-up" together with "innovation" and you have the ingredients of what Michael Smith, writing in the Australian Financial Review on February 1, referred to as "creative destruction", borrowing a notion coined by the mid-20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter.

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BUDGET CUTS SCIENTIFICALLY NEGLIGENT

IT takes real nerve to present the Abbott Government's massive cuts to science, research and innovation funding as an achievement, but Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane (Talking Point, Mercury, January 6) has once again shown he is not one to let facts get in the way of a good story.

In an article purportedly about the home-porting of the RV Investigator in Hobart, Mr Macfarlane showed a distinct lack of grace in failing to mention that construction of the vessel was funded by the former Labor government.

As innovation minister in that government, I was particularly proud to make the announcement, having spent many years pursuing various Howard government ministers about the desperate need to replace the decrepit RV Southern Surveyor Australia's only bluewater research vessel.

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National innovation agenda essential for manufacturing

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, increases in technological capacity are leading to increases in productivity but not necessarily in employment and average income.

The development of robotics and of 3-D printing is changing the nature of manufacturing and cannot be ignored. The challenge is to harness these advances so that they generate, rather than shrink, jobs and wealth.

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Turbulence ahead for Pyne's dog-eat-dog model

Any presumption that Labor’s opposition to the Abbott Government’s higher education changes is an exercise in revenge politics or knee-jerk negativity is wildly off the mark. Nor is it driven by political expedience or populist appeal.

Labor opposes the higher education bill because it is a deeply flawed policy. It vastly increases the cost of a university degree and shifts that financial burden on to students. This is particularly unfair on disadvantaged young people and mature-age students.

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Saving manufacturing by first killing it

Earlier this month the chief executive of the ANZ Bank, Mike Smith, gave Australian manufacturers the benefit of his wisdom on the country’s economic future.

Mr Smith said that the death of the car industry was an inevitable part of the transformation of the economy to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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