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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 900


Senator MASON(3.53) —I wish briefly to speak to this report but by no means in as complimentary terms as the previous speaker. The point I made previously when speaking about a trade mission to Japan cannot be given sufficient emphasis. The Government has done science and technology and any future development in high technology in this nation the gravest possible disservice by arranging in the last Budget to have the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation allocation slashed by an effective 8 per cent, thereby ensuring that new, innovative, important or forward-looking scientific programs will go. It is a fact that in organisations that carry out research and which have an infrastructure of a certain size which has to be carried no matter what other funding is available, the level of cutting at the area of action is greater than it would appear to be overall. In other words, an 8 per cent cut in overall funding probably means a 20 per cent or 30 per cent cut in actual programs.

It is also a fact that when it is necessary for organisations to cut that kind of research it is always the innovative, forward-looking, useful programs for the future that go first. By some bizarre set of priorities, the Government has given the Australian Atomic Energy Commission an 8 per cent increase in its funding. I speak on the science and technology statement on this matter because it concerns the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones). I think it is greatly to be regretted that his views were overturned, put down and overruled by some of his less intelligent and less forward-looking colleagues in the Cabinet. I am absolutely sure that must have happened. The Government is fortunate in having a Minister who has a reputation in the community for being a forward-looking, intelligent person. His reputation is little use to him and to it, because he is the person whose ideas have been ignored.

I hope that neither the Government nor any member of it will come to us in future and bring forward any cant about the Government's dedication to the future of this country, and about how we will go into high technology and advance into the twentieth century in our manufacturing and the like, after committing such a signal crime against the Australian people. I call on the Government to think carefully about its actions and their consequences and to repair the damage as quickly as it can. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.