Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    
Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 851

(Question No. 48)

Senator Puplick asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 28 February 1985:

(1) Did the Report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Examiners, who recently visited Australia to examine science and technology matters, recommend, inter alia:

(a) 'increased support for university research';

(b) 'a sustained effort to improve the quality of university equipment'; and

(c) that 'support for basic research under the ARGS should be increased'.

(2) Has the Australian Research Grants Scheme (ARGS) Committee, in each of its last two annual reports, complained to the Government about the reduction in funds made available to the Committee and the fact that such reductions in funds have left many worthy research projects unfunded.

(3) Did the ARGS Committee Report on Grants Approved for 1985 specifically draw attention to the fact that 'the level of funding for research is not sufficient to allow the ARGS to provide adequate equipment to outstanding researchers', and that much of the major equipment available in universities is 'either obsolete or rapidly approaching the end of its effective life and is thus impeding the progress of high quality research'.

(4) What does the government propose to do to overcome the glaring failure of its own policies in research support funding which has been exposed by the ARGS Committee and the independent analysis of the OECD Examiners.

Senator Button —The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The report referred to is a draft report prepared by the OECD Examiners and released in January 1985. The final report of the Examiners will be released following the forthcoming Review Meeting between the OECD Examiners and Commonwealth and State Ministers in early April. In answer to the Senator's specific questions:

(a) Yes.

(b) Yes.

(c) Yes.

(2) There has been no reduction in funds to support the ARGS. In its report on grants approved for 1984 the Committee 'welcomed the increase in funding' (17 per cent in dollar terms from the previous year), but considered that the funds available were appreciably less than the amount required to maintain an adequate level of activity. In 1985 the Committee acknowledged that funds had increased by 6.5 per cent in dollar terms from the previous year but was dissatisfied with the level of funding because of its inability to support many worthy projects.

(3) Yes.

(4) The comments made by the ARGS Committee and in the draft OECD Examiners' Report relate to support for university research and non-directed basic research supported by the ARGS. Support for university research comes from a wide range of sources apart from the ARGS, including a number of mission-oriented schemes. Total identifiable research expenditure in universities has increased significantly since 1977 in real terms. During this period, there was a growing contribution in mission-oriented areas such as medicine, energy and marine science. Both the current government and the previous government have in recent years given priority in research funding to mission-oriented and tactical research. The Government recognises the importance of non-directed basic research (such as ARGS), and will take into account the comments made by the ARGS Committee and the OECD Examiners in framing this year's Budget.