The Liberal Government’s reckless decision to hold research infrastructure hostage to its legislation for $100,000 degrees is putting even more jobs at risk than previously thought.


Officials from the Department of Education and Training revealed in Senate Estimates last night that 1,700 Australian jobs are on the line in Christopher Pyne’s desperate, last-ditch attempt to implement his ideological deregulation agenda.


In the 2014 Budget, Christopher Pyne announced that:


“The Abbott Government is delivering $150 million to continue the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) … [which] supports major research infrastructure to encourage collaboration between the research sector, industry and government … to conduct world-class research.”

                                                                                        Christopher Pyne, Media Release, 13 May 2014 

No ifs, no buts.


But by August 2014, the threats and intimidation had started. If the Liberals’ unfair and unnecessary higher education changes were not passed, NCRIS funding would be cut.


This Budget measure was supposed to be part of the Government’s “Economic Action Strategy”. It was one of few things the Liberals got right.


Now it’s shaping up to be just another tragically short-sighted broken promise.


Thanks to Senate Estimates, we now know that 1,700 people are employed at NCRIS facilities – 200 more than previous estimates – and the work of 35,000 researchers depends on the facilities.


We also know that NCRIS facilities have attracted more than $1 billion in investment from industry, state governments and other research agencies.


Yet we are hearing extremely disturbing reports that a number of the 27 NCRIS facilities are already starting to wind down their operations and commence redundancy discussions with their dedicated technical and research staff.


The Liberals’ ransom strategy is putting jobs at risk, undermining long-term research projects and threatening key international partnerships.


The Government’s own National Commission of Audit recommended ongoing support for NCRIS and 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 


But the Liberal Government does not listen and it does not learn.


John Howard’s most highly-regarded research legacy is at risk of becoming just another great innovation program developed in Australia, copied by other countries and then abandoned by today’s Liberals.


Labor calls on Christopher Pyne to back away from his broken promise on NCRIS funding before it is too late.

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