Australian Democrats party response to STA 2022 Federal Election Priorities

Response from the party:

1.     Make Australia a global STEM superpower by growing R&D investment to lift Australia into the top ten OECD countries (relative to the size of the economy).

The Australian Democrats strongly support lifting investment into Australian science. An Australian Democrat in the senate will support any legislation that seeks to lift investment in all areas of science. In recent years, we have seen Australia’s spending on research and development plummet to 1.79% of GDP, well below the OECD average of 2.37% for developed nations, and the lowest it has been in Australia since 2008. The Australian Democrats support a target of R&D investment as 3% of GDP and will advocate for this target.

2.     Invest in a $2.4 billion Research Translation Fund to drive income-generating commercialisation of Australian research and create thousands of new jobs.

The Australian Democrats will support any increase in R&D investment. In the last 8 years we have seen various ‘translation funds’ established by government. The Australian Democrats will seek to streamline access to these funds and consolidate administrative costs into a central body.

In addition to supporting commercialisation, we also support investment in R&D exploration.  Like the arts, which also need greater funding, we would encourage exploration in science without a clear goal.  We need to build scientific knowledge in order to find the opportunities for breakthroughs that can be commercialised in due course.

3.     Craft a comprehensive plan across Government to coordinate R&D strategic investment, policy and roles to seize competitive strategic advantage for Australia.

Over the past decade, we have seen Government diminish the role of established administrative bodies such as the NHMRC and ARC in favour of diffuse funding based on government selected priorities. The Australian Democrats will support any plan that seeks to strategically coordinate research investment and policy, taking any funding decisions out of the hands of politicians. Research strategy and investment should be determined by the experts following robust application and review processes.

4.     Embolden discovery research by boosting investment in the major grant agencies to catapult breakthroughs and secure the science workforce with a bridge to the other side of the pandemic.

The Australian Democrats recognise the value of investment into Australia’s talented science and research workforce and will support any increases to the major funding agencies.

5.     Tackle the broken system of insecure work tied to competitive research grants especially for Australia’s early career scientists – the future of the profession.

If Australia is to position itself as global leader in science and research, it must capitalize on its existing and emerging talent. The Australian Democrats will support any initiatives that seek to secure its workforce, particularly its early to mid-career researchers, recognising that this can only come from increased government investment.

6.     Commit to keep funding the national science agencies in the coming term by at least current levels of investment indexed by CPI.

The Australian Democrats believe that maintaining research investment to agencies such ARC and NHMRC at CPI represents a continued, unsustainable decrease to the sector in real-terms. The Australian Democrats will fight to see significant funding increases for both these major science agencies.

7.     Develop a comprehensive plan to transition to a net-zero emissions economy and safeguard Australia’s unique biodiversity.

The Australian Democrats are committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and reduce emissions by at least 66% by 2030. Details of our party’s evidence based plan can be found here.

8.     Renew a long-term investment in the nation’s vital research infrastructure through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

The NCRIS scheme has been tremendously successful in supporting researchers and business from around the country to access research infrastructure, as well the experts needed to operate it. The Australian Democrats will support any renewal or expansion of this scheme.

9.     Craft a plan to tackle a decline in STEM achievement of Australian school students and stop the brain drain of our children out of STEM.

The Australian Democrats will support any initiatives that aim to enhance STEM (and STEAM) achievement in schools and to retain children into STEM. The Australian Democrats recognise that the absence of secure career pathways in STEM is a contributing factor to the ‘brain drain’ and that prioritising Australian science and significantly boosting investment is one opportunity for attracting young students to STEM.

10.     Make a further commitment to programs to boost diversity and inclusion in STEM to ensure the nation draws on the widest possible pool of talent.

The Australian Democrats strongly believe in the principles of diversity and inclusion, and will support any initiatives that seek to ensure greater representation from all backgrounds in STEM.  ”


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