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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 630

Senator COULTER —I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Given that the government's budget strategy is fundamentally based on a hoped for increase in private investment leading to economic growth and increased employment, that the budget contains a decrease in funding for the CSIRO, that over the years of Labor governments the universities and other research institutes of Australia have been put into financial straitjackets, that fewer students have entered science, that the marks for students entering science courses have fallen to the lowest levels ever, that student fees have increased and have had to be repaid at a faster rate, and that there is nothing in the budget to redress this trend, how can the government seriously expect private investment to expand when it has shown no commitment—and I stress no commitment—to investment in the intellectual capital of this country?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Far from there being decreases in science funding, the budget clearly demonstrates on its face a 2.1 per cent real increase in funding for science related expenditures, as I am sure Senator Schacht and Senator Cook, in particular, will be only too keen to point out in more detail. The government has decided to approve additional funding for the science agencies above the level of forward estimates, an additional cost of some $90 million over the next three years. It was the case, so far as the CSIRO was concerned, that there had been previously a one-off injection provided by the May 1989 science statement as a triennial injection for that particular period, and that has now been built into the base funding for the agencies for the next and future trienniums. Further, the government has agreed to no longer apply the efficiency dividend to non-administrative, including research, elements of the agency's expenditure, which amounts to 70 per cent of the total, and that is another big boost.

  The only area where there has been any backward move, I guess, in relation to the science agencies is that we did provide for some additional infrastructure funding for the agencies during the current triennium. That was announced as a one-off for the current triennium and it has always been understood to be for this period only. It will not be continued, as a result, for the next triennium, and the CSIRO will be providing for infrastructure from its base funding in the past. But that will be enhanced in the way that I have already described.