[ASC-list] More on the budget

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Wed May 11 23:13:56 UTC 2011

The following is a useful overview from FASTS on the budget.

Also Bridie Smith picked up a minor casualty in the Age today - the international science linkages program - http://www.theage.com.au/business/federal-budget/funding-cuts-to-leave-scientists-out-of-loop-20110511-1eiwg.html
Federal Budget 2011/12

Dear FASTS members

As you are aware the Federal Budget was handed down this evening.

A copy of the full budget papers is available at: www.budget.gov.au which includes links to all Portfolio Budget Statements.
Specifically, information relating to the Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Portfolio is available at:

Below is a snapshot of measures and preliminary analysis of the Budget papers as they relate to the science sector.

NHMRC funding has been maintained with small increases projected in the forward years.
2011/12 - $850m
2012/13 - $876m
2013/14 - $890m
2014/15 - $894m
In addition, in 2011-12, NHMRC will conduct a review of the NHMRC Program Grant and Practitioner Fellowship funding schemes to determine the strengths of schemes and identify where improvements can be made, particularly in processes related to peer review assessment of grants. Results of these reviews will be presented to the NHMRC Research Committee for its consideration and advice. The review is expected to be completed with advice provided to Research Committee to improve the schemes by June 2012.

Congratulations to all those who fought to stop funding cuts over the last few months.  Your unified voice and persistent action were heard.  The review presents an important opportunity to develop a long-term and strategic approach to medical research funding so researchers don’t need to protest every year.

CSIRO Quadrennial funding has been confirmed, however, at this stage it is difficult to confirm the rate at which funding will increase over the forward estimates and what impact that will have on staff.  Early analysis indicates increases of between 2 and 4 per cent in the forward years with no job losses.

No discernible change in ARC funding

Cooperative Research Centres
$33.4m over 4 years has been re-directed from the Cooperative Research Centres program.

Inspiring Australia
Honouring the Government’s election commitment, $21m will be provided over 3 years to support the implementation of Inspiring Australia, which focuses on improving science communication.  This includes funding for FASTS anticipated to be in the order of $225,000 per annum for 3 years.

Square Kilometre Array Radio Telescope
$40.2 million over 4 years will be provided to support the joint Australian and NZ bid to host the SKA radio telescope.  Announcement of the successful site is expected in 2012, with construction to commence in 2016.

In a separate but related issue, FASTS argues that it is important for governments to quickly resolve funding and governance issues associated with the Australian Synchrotron.  The Synchrotron has enjoyed outstanding success and achievements since experiments began in 2007 and the facility has secured its place as a critical component of the global network of synchrotrons. Domestically, the facility enables cutting edge research and development for a broad spectrum of industries spanning medicine to manufacturing.  The integrity of Australian science and good governance of our facilities are paramount if we are to be taken seriously by the international science community and if we are to preserve Australia reputation as a reliable place to do business.

Addressing skills shortages.
The research workforce will not be adequate to meet demand in the next decade.  This has been recognised by the Australian Government in the recently released Research Workforce Strategy (RWS).  While the Budget contained no measures that directly respond to the issues raised in the RWS, promising is a new $558m National Workforce Development Fund aimed at responding to the most critical emerging skills needs facing Australian industry.  Recently the resources sector has publically stated that they are in great need of science and engineers to remain competitive.

Education sector
Commitments to expand the number of university places according to student demand, and improve indexation of core university funding from 2012 have been honoured. This will assist the government meet its stated aspiration of having 40 per cent of Australia's 25-34 year olds attain a qualification at Bachelor level or above by 2025.

Take home message.....
The Federal Budget is quite unremarkable and takes a business as usual approach. The budget offers no vision to the science sector, nor does it recognise science and technology as drivers of economic growth and productivity. Australia continues to lag behind the OECD average on research expenditure (less than 2 per cent of GDP) leaving Australia ranked 13th amongst OECD countries.

While Australia may be in straitened financial times, I am always reminded that science and scientists need to keep up the lobby effort when I read President Obama’s chief science adviser, John Holdren’s words:

“Science, technology and innovation have been the primary drivers of [American] economic growth and productivity growth for decades.....   No matter how severe the fiscal constraint, this is not the time to stop investing in the drivers of the economic growth we need for recovery, for job-creation, for economic growth going forward."

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.

Anna-Maria Arabia

Chief Executive Officer
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
26 years of science advocacy in Australia

T: 02 6257 2891
M: 0412 940 921
F: 02 6257 2897
PO Box 259
Canberra City ACT 2601

Niall Byrne - on the road
In Townsville/on Magnetic Island until Tuesday, 17 May.
Ph 0417 131 977 or our office 03 9398 1416
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au<mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au>
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