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Australia slipping down the ranks of knowledge nations.

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Kim Beazley - Australia Slipping Down The Ranks Of Knowledge Nations Friday, 15 June 2001

Australia Slipping Down The Ranks Of Knowledge Nations Kim Beazley - Leader of the Opposition

Media Statement - 14 June 2001

I am today launching a significant new study which shows Australia is failing to make the grade in those crucial areas which will determine our success as a nation in the 21st Century.

The report, The Comparative Performance of Australia as a Knowledge Nation, by the Monash Centre for Research in International Education, was commissioned by the Chifley Research Centre.

It details a worrying decline in Australia's investment in knowledge-related activities, particularly education and training, research and development, and information and communications technologies. Using the latest OECD figures, the report presents a new index of Australia's performance in these areas that shows:

In 1998 Australia invested only 6.15% of GDP in knowledge while the USA and 11 comparable OECD countries invested 8.73% and an average 8.22% respectively. ●

Australia's investment in knowledge creation as a percentage of GDP fell from 85% of US investment in 1985 to only 70.5% in 1998, and from 86.7% of the OECD average in 1985 to 74.8% in 1998.


The sharpest falls in investment in knowledge have occurred since the Howard Government's first Budget in 1996. ●

This investment decline has caused a sharp drop in public investment in education at all levels -government schooling, vocational education and universities.

The report details a fall in public and private sector R&D from 1.65% of GDP in 1996-97 to just 1.49% in 1998-99. It also catalogues the failure to create large-scale IT manufacturing, with Australia last out of 18 OECD countries for which data is available on the contribution of information and communications technologies industries to the national economy.

This failure to invest in knowledge has resulted in sharp declines in Australian education standards, most notably in national year-12 retention rates which are stagnating at an average 71.6%. The figure is even

lower at government schools.

It has also caused:

Dramatically increased university student: staff ratios - up from 12.8:1 in 1990 to 17.8:1 in 1999. ● Universities to neglect core disciplines, including science, engineering and technology, in favour of full-fee paying courses such as business studies. ●

Academic salaries to decline against major competitors, leading to a 'brain drain' of our top academics and researchers. ●

A blowout in the deficit in trade in knowledge-intensive goods and services, contributing to a higher current account deficit and a weaker Australian dollar. ●

The report highlights the extent of the national investment crisis that Australia is facing and the need for a major strategy to make Australia a leading Knowledge Nation. It concludes:

Australia's failure to invest in knowledge and in knowledge-based industries is directly related to the country's problems in terms of external balance, foreign debt, and the value of the Australian dollar… This constraint will worsen over time unless there is a change in operating conditions. Such a development is only likely to be brought about by a sea change in public policy.


These issues will be addressed when my Knowledge Nation task force hands down its final report in the coming weeks.

Investment in knowledge: Australia's comparative performance

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Kim Beazley Address - Sydney Institute

The Comparative Performance of Australia as a Knowledge Nation - Report to the Chifley Research Centre - Adobe Acrobat PDF file (198 Kb) Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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