The national peak body for scientists has warned that the 2019/2020 Budget has missed the opportunity to invest in solution-making scientific and technological research and Australia’s world-class institutions and agencies that make it possible.
President of Science & Technology Australia, Professor Emma Johnston AO, said the Federal Budget was a mixed result for Australia’s science and technology driven future.
“While funding for CSIRO appears to have decreased, this reflects a decline in CSIRO expenditure rather than a cut in government funding. Government investment in the agency has kept pace with inflation, in line with STA’s pre-budget recommendations,” Professor Johnston said.
“Reductions to the Research Support Program, however, compound the cuts this program suffered in December – severely limiting our universities’ ability to conduct world-leading research and drive innovation.
“Research at tertiary institutions is also severely hampered by the reallocation of $3.9 billion from the Education Investment Fund (EIF) to a new Emergency Response Fund. While it is important to support those affected by emergencies including floods and fires, stripping funds from education to support emergency responses is a false economy.
“STEM education increases our national capacity to predict, prevent and respond to the impacts of national emergencies.”
Professor Johnston said some allocations in the Budget would aid Australia’s capacity to build a strong future based on science and technology – including a welcome focus on women in STEM.
“It is good to see the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council have been supported to meet the costs of inflation this year, something STA has called for over many years,” she said.
“Bold investments in medical research and development through the Medical Research Future Fund will empower Australian scientists and technologists to become world leaders in their field.
“What we did not see in this budget was an ambition to be the clever country in all fields.
“A complementary Fund to support the translation and commercialisation of knowledge built through non-medical science research programs would amplify the economic returns that STEM brings for Australia.”
Professor Johnston said other positive steps were commitments to further investment to build space infrastructure, a boost to Questacon’s science education and outreach programs, and support to encourage and retain women in STEM.
STA will produce a more detailed budget analysis in the coming days.
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