Research programs to shut down on Tony Abbott’s watch

New analysis of the Abbott Government’s Budget shows extensive cuts to research and science programs, making a mockery of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claim that he is “devoted to research”.

As a result of the Budget, CSIRO research programs into bowel cancer – the second largest cause of cancer deaths in Australia – will cease completely.  CSIRO research in the neurosciences – including critical research into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other diseases affecting growing numbers of Australia’s ageing population – will also be shut down entirely. 

Yesterday Tony Abbott said:

“This is a Government which is dedicated to science, which is devoted to research, and wants to massively increase Australia’s research effort.”


His own Budget papers prove that this a lie. 

Scattered throughout the Budget papers are direct cuts to research programs, cuts to preventive health programs and cuts to higher education that includes nearly $1 billion in cuts that will directly hit research in Australia, with a total impact of more than $6 billion a year.

Worse still, Education Minister Christopher Pyne is threatening further cuts if Australians don’t agree to its unfair cuts to universities. What the Minister fails to say is that his unfair higher education package is about getting students to pay higher fees to cross-subsidise university research. The Government has simply abrogated its responsibilities to properly fund university research.

These cuts will have real impacts on Australia’s research capabilities. 

In addition to the CSIRO cuts that will hit cancer and neuroscience research, researchers at the CSIRO’s Geelong’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory are also set to lose their jobs.  This laboratory is conducting international research into the deadly Ebola virus and is home to important research that is critical to protecting Australia from Avian Influenza, SARS and the Hendra virus.

How on earth can the Prime Minister spruik his Hollowmen Medical Research Fund, pretending he’s a friend of science and research when he’s cutting billions of dollars from research programs?

Tony Abbott’s Budget cuts to research include:

  • CSIRO: $114 million cut
  • Australian Research Council (ARC): $75 million cut
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation: $27.5 million cut
  • Cooperative Research Centres (CRC): $80 million cut
  • Research Training Scheme (RTS): $173.7 million cut
  • Commercialisation Australia abolition: $260 million cut
  • NICTA (National ICT Australia Ltd) abolition (from 2016): $84 million cut
  • Geoscience Australia: $16.1 million cut
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation: $120 million

Total: $836.2 million

Cuts to higher education that will indirectly impact on research

  • $3.2 billion cut from changes to the HECS-HELP repayment threshold and increased interest rates for HECS-HELP debt, which will increase from CPI to up to 6 per cent
  • $1.1 billion cutting an average of 20 per cent of Commonwealth funding for undergraduate places - by increasing the proportion of student payments for courses. For science students, this will mean an increase of 54 per cent for the cost of their degrees, and for medicine and dentistry students this means an increase of 32 per cent
  • $504 million cut to Student Start-Up Loan Scholarships program and $290 million cut to the Relocation Scholarship Assistance program: These cuts remove supports for low income and regional/rural students to undertake university studies

Total: $4.8 billion

Cuts to preventative health programs

  • Abolition of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency: $6.4 million cut
  • Abolition of the National Partnership on Preventive Health: $367.9 million cut
  • Health Workforce Australia abolition: $142 million save cut

Total: $516.3 million

If Tony Abbott really cared about science and research, he’d appoint a Minister for Science and reverse these disgraceful cuts.

The Medical Research Fund was dreamed up the week before the Budget to try to soften the blow on Tony Abbott breaking his election promises not to increase taxes.

You don’t fund the search for the cures of tomorrow by imposing a tax on the patients of today.

As any scientist will tell you, we won’t find the cures of tomorrow without world-leading mathematics, quantum computing and nano-technology to support our medical researchers.

Tony Abbott just doesn’t get how important research is to the future prosperity of Australia.  It’s a disgrace that the Prime Minister is cutting investments in this critical research.


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