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Monash University report on the 'brain drain'

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Kim Beazley - Monash University Report On The Brain Drain Wednesday, 18 July 2001

Monash University Report On The 'Brain Drain' Kim Beazley - Leader of the Opposition

Media Statement - 17 July 2001

Today's newspapers carried stories of a Report undertaken by Bob Birrell of the Monash University Centre for Population and Urban Research on behalf of DIMA.

The Knowledge Nation Taskforce acknowledged that while ABS statistics show that Australia is a net importer of skills generally, we are probably losing the high-level researchers in key emerging industries.

The Birrell Report confirms the Knowledge Nation Taskforce's conclusion that:

While Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that Australia is numerically a net importer of skilled professionals generally, we are losing too many quality business people, academic and scientific researchers in key fields because of lack of opportunities here, and too few are returning to share their experience and contacts.


The Birrell Report acknowledges that its data does not accurately measure the level of qualification of the people leaving to work overseas. It acknowledges that it is possible that our brightest and best are leaving to take up opportunities overseas and being replaced by people with lesser qualifications -exactly the point made by the Knowledge Nation Taskforce.

The Knowledge Nation Taskforce Report states that we need to do more to keep people with high-level qualifications here in Australia in growth sectors such as biotechnology, ICT, and environmental science management, as well as disciplines such as mathematics.

We can only do this if we have a government committed to creating real activity in these fields by targeting more research and development and commercialisation effort at them. If we create more research institutions and properly fund our universities, even more Australians with high-level skills will stay.

The Report also calls for the creation of a national register of Australian researchers living overseas, and efforts to encourage them to return.

I note that the Government's Chief Scientist reported similar views last year when he said:

Many of our brightest researchers are pursuing their careers outside the country, as other locations, especially the United States, provide more attractive research environments. As pointed out by the Wills Report, if this trend continues, it will jeopardise Australia's innovative capacity with adverse consequences for the generation of new business opportunities based on commercialising research outcomes.


Interestingly, in a media interview late last year and in his catch-up innovation statement in January, the John Howard seemed finally to be getting the message about the need to retain Australian experts and researchers at home.

Judging from his reported remarks in Alice Springs today, Mr Howard is prepared to jettison objective analysis and the national interest in order to try to make a political point - no matter how bogus or contradictory. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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