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Recession wrecks rural research

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Australia's rural research effort will be scuttled by the collapse in farm incomes.

In reply to a question placed on notice by the Shadow Minister for Science and Technology, Peter McGauran, the Government today outlined planned cuts to CSIRO’s rural research effort.

The Government revealed CSIRO’s wool research program will fall to half its current level within five years.

"This will mean the closure of 250 research projects," Mr McGauran said.

"The inevitable staff cuts will strip the research sector of its skills and see the end of any hope of bringing new efficiencies to the industry for years to come.

"More ominous still," Mr McGauran said," is the Government's admission that wool textile research is set for a new round of funding cuts.

"Australia will soon be without the research and development (r »d ) capabilities to meet the challenges from overseas synthetic fibres, which threaten the longterm market for wool,1 1 he said.

The downturn in the wool market had also eroded industry support for research into new production and processing developments.

"The CSIRO's institute of Animal Production and Processing will now terminate plans for projects based on wool production, wool harvesting and raw wool marketing,” Mr McGauran said.

"This is a result of a direct cut of 10% in funds from the Wool Research and Development Council, which the Government admits will co%*Lnue for some years.”

Mr McGauran said the drop in funds would cripple the R&D base for the wool industry for decades.

The cuts will also fall heavily on CSIRO's institute of Plant Processing and Production, which has been the national focus of rural research for primary industry.

Mr McGauran said the institute's funding from the Grains Corporation would be slashed by 54% in 1991/1992.

Peter McGauran MP Shadow Minister for Science and Technology Federal Member for Gippsland



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"The Government has conceded this will jeopardise 21 existing research projects within the Division of Plant Industry alone."

Mr McGauran said the Division's ability to build its future agricultural research effort had also been dramatically cut.

"Because of the collapse in the grains market, the Corporation will only fund five new projects, which is half that of recent years.

"These projects will also have reduced effectiveness because their operating grants will be slashed for by 60%."

Mr McGauran said the Division of Plant Industry's wool- supported projects were also targeted for cutbacks.

"Operating grants are set to fall by 26% and six key staff positions are imperilled," he said.

Mr McGauran said the Government had also indicated the rural slump had affected other of CSIRO's agricultural-related Divisions.

"The rabbit research effort within the Division of Wildlife and Ecology will be reduced because of falls in funding from the wool industry.

"Similarly, the Division of Soils has foreshadowed cuts in its research program as the funding crisis continues."

Mr McGauran said there had been no consultation between the CSIRO and funding agencies on the longterm effects of the deterioration of the nation's rural research effort.

He said that research could not turned on and off and researchers and user groups had to coordinate their actions.

"The priority must now be to retain the expertise and keep the core research capabilities alive.” «· .

For further information, contact Peter McGauran: 03-347 0164

Monday, June 17, 1991