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Department disregards rural research crisis

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PRESSRELEASEPeter McGauran MPShadow M inister for Science and Technology Federal M em ber for Gippsland. DEPARTMENT DISREGARDS RURAL RESEARCH CRISISDespite official evidence, the Department of Primary Industries and Energy has dismissed the collapse of Australia's rural research effort.Replying to a question on notice, the Minister for Science and Technology this week revealed CSlRO's rural Divisions would suffer dramatic reductions in research programs and job losses because of the .slump in farm incomes.However, the Department of Primary Industries claimed in Senate Estimates no livestock or crop related research was threatened by the fall-off in industry contributions to rural research.The Shadow Minister for Science and Technology, Peter McGauran, said today the Department had failed to grasp the reality of the rural downturn."The deep cuts in funds will cripple Australia's research and development base for years to come, but the Department intends to take no action.""The Department of Primary Industries says it's steady as it goes with rural research," McGauran said."Yet with the collapse In wool prices, the CSIRO reports its wool-related research program will be halved within five years."Overall, reductions of this degree will see 250 research projects terminated over the next few years."Despite this the Department says the reductions will "not necessitate the termination of research projects"."Mr McGauran said the CSIRO also reported the drop in wheat prices meant the Grains Corporation would slash its research plans. ."The CSIRO's institute of Plant Production and Processing will suffer a cut in funds of 54% from the corporation in 1991/1992."This will affect 21 existing projects, halve the number of planned projects in the coming years and jeopardise six key staff positions."Yet the Department of Primary industries says "no curtailment of (research for) crops commodities is predicted.”COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

Mr McGauran said the fall in incomes for commodities would also affect other of CSIRO's agricultural-related Divisions.

"The rabbit research effort within the CSIRO's Division of wildlife and Ecology will be cut back because of funding falls from the wool industry.

"Similarly, the Division of Soils has indicated its research program will contract as the rural crisis continues".

Mr McGauran said the CSIRO's Division of Atmospheric Research had also revealed its drought research program had been jeopardised because of insufficient funds resulting from the rural recession.

"If Australia is to retain its rural research expertise it is vital CSIRO's agricultural capabilities are kept intact.

"This will require funding bodies consult with rural research agencies in order to maintain core resources and skills."

Mr McGauran said official advice to Parliament this week showed there had been no consultation between rural research corporations and research agencies about the longterm effects of the rural recession.

For further information, contact Peter McGaurani (03) 614 4203 or (03) 347 0164

Sunday, June 23, 1991