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Abolition of external earnings: targets only a beginning.

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Senator Kim Carr Labor Senator for Victoria Shadow Minister for Science & Research

42/02 16 September 2002.


After more than six months of prevarication, the Minister for Science has finally bowed to the inevitable and released the Chief Scientist’s recommendations to abolish external earnings targets for revenue generation applied to major research agencies such as the CSIRO and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

“As welcome as this belated decision is,” said Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Science and Research, “it is only a first step in reinforcing the public benefit research role of these agencies.”

“I hold out little hope that this Government will be able to act decisively in the defence of such important and necessary research.

“A more effective approach would build on our research strength through the development of a national strategy for research commercialisation and an intellectual property regime that protects the interest of researchers but which, for the first time, provides an adequate financial return to public agencies commercialising their intellectual property.

“This Government is seeking ways to reduce its level of research agency funding.

It is disturbing that the Chief Scientist’s report flies in the face of this reality, suggesting instead that ‘the level of appropriation [for such agencies] is not associated with the level of external earnings achieved.”

Commonwealth withdrawal from funding is evident from the condition imposed on page 13 of this report: “If revenues from external earnings fall as a result of strategic decisions on research directions and priorities, there will not be any consequent need to increase appropriation funding.”

The net effect is that the Government is forcing agencies to become ever more dependent on privately generated revenue, leaving them at the mercy of contingent economic circumstances.

“We face a clear choice. Are agencies such as CSIRO or AIMS to be allowed to continue to fulfil their strategic role as providers of public interest research or are they, in line with current Government wishes, to descend to the level of consultants and research sub-contractors?

For more information contact Senator Kim Carr on 0262773730 or 0419563922 or Andrew Reeves on 0262773730.

Electoral Office: 62 Lygon St CARLTON SOUTH 3053 Ph: 03 9639 2798 Fax: 03 9639 3109 Canberra Office: Parliament house CANBERRA ACT 2600 Ph: 02 6277 3730 Fax: 02 6277 5911 Email: Toll Free Number: 1800 673 169