Hundreds of researchers and industry partners are in Parliament House this evening to celebrate the success of their Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs).

In a desperate attempt to find something positive to say, after cutting $107 million from CRC program over two Budgets, Ian Macfarlane, Christopher Pyne and Sussan Ley today announced a “strategy” for Boosting Commercial Returns from Research.

Ian Macfarlane has been going on for months about this consultation – using the much-anticipated strategy as a fig leaf to cover his embarrassment at the $3 billion worth of cuts inflicted on science, innovation and industry programs under his watch.

Unfortunately, after almost six months of considering submissions, all Mr Macfarlane and his colleagues have managed to produce is a list of further reviews, actions that are already underway, and meaningless motherhood statements.

Of the 14 key actions under the seemingly invisible “strategy”, ten involve another review, development of a plan, consideration of options or identifying further opportunities for possible future action.

The remaining actions are already well known:

  • Announcement of new research priorities – identical to those taken to the Commonwealth Science Council in April and publicly discussed at the time.

  • Working on the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund.

  • Two years of funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy – after holding the program hostage in pursuit of $100,000 degrees.

  • Development of an IP Toolkit – a recommendation of the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property, which Ian Macfarlane has since abolished.

It’s nice that the three Ministers are getting the mirror out and having another look into their various areas of responsibility.

But it’s hard to take their efforts seriously when the Abbott Government’s approach to science, research and innovation has so far been characterised by funding cuts, delayed announcement, threats and policy chaos.


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