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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11391

Ms LAMB (Longman) (15:46): by leave—Having only recently taken the role of deputy chair of this House committee into education, employment and training, I'd like to thank both the chair, the member for Bowman and the previous deputy chair, the member for Griffith, for their work on this inquiry.

In his foreword, and further repeated in his statement just now made to the House, the committee chair recognises that researchers spend significant time, effort and resources applying for research funding. With low success rates it's often implied that this time and effort is wasted. I know that these low rates of funding success come after some five years of a coalition government. Under the Liberals, Australia's research effort has been undermined and its future put at risk. This report also notes the appalling track record of the Liberals, since they came to office, of cuts, chaos and policy failures. Australia needs a robust, strong research culture if we are to succeed in the Asian century. We cannot simply sit back and expect to succeed while countries in our region continue to invest more in science, research and education. That is why Labor has strongly opposed the cuts to our universities and research institutions.

Just before Christmas last year, the government ripped $2.2 billion from universities by freezing the Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding. Our universities rely upon this funding to support the costs of undertaking research. Just this month the government announced more than $130 million in cuts to research block grants to pay for regional university pork-barrelling, which simply attempts to undo the damage they caused in the first place.

This comes on top of the government's short-sighted decision to abandon the highly successful Education Investment Fund. Because of this poor decision, Australia's research institutions and universities have no access to specific funding for research equipment, new laboratories or renovation of existing facilities. The EIF was established to provide co-investment for critical infrastructure and research in Australia's research institutions, universities and TAFEs. The nearly $4 billion fund now lies dormant in the Future Fund. Research institutions, universities and TAFEs are now forced to fund infrastructure through vastly depleted operating grants.

Labor on the other hand has an outstanding record of reforming Australia's research efforts. When we were last in office we nearly doubled university funding and made significant investments into research. Looking into the future, we will continue to invest. Our university funding policies will see more than $10 billion flow to universities over the next 10 years with uncapped places, funding for equity and pathways as well as infrastructure funding to flow from our new university future fund. We have committed to a goal of three per cent of GDP into research and development to bring us in line with other advanced economies and, critically, Labor will support academic freedom.

In closing, I'd like to join with the chair to thank the many, many individuals, organisations and departments who made submissions and gave evidence at the hearings. I'd like to thank the secretariat for enabling the investigation and assisting with the reporting. I'd also like to note the committee's next inquiry into the status of the teaching profession, which in part will reference the attraction and retention of teachers and principals and the provision of appropriate support platforms for teachers. I commend the report to the House.