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Government guts public research.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Science and Biotechnology 3 February 2004 MEDIA RELEASE 04/040

Government guts public research

Federal Government changes to the funding guidelines for the Cooperative Research Centres program will jeopardise the future of collaborative applied research into environmental and social issues, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Science and Biotechnology spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said she has grave fears that a number of CRCs that have done excellent research over the past few years could have their funding cut.

“The changes to the selection criteria and Science Minister Peter McGauran’s comments yesterday indicate that the CRC program will now be focused on research that can be rapidly converted into commercial and economic gains and that these changes will be made at the expense of research with less market driven objectives,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“As a result, public good research into the environment and other social issues such as health will be ineligible for funding, unless it can be demonstrated that the research will result in short-term economic benefits.

“The CRC for Australian Weed Management for example, conducts research into both agricultural and environmental weeds. These changes will mean that research programs that are directed towards environmental weeds could be cut because they concern ‘public good’ outcomes.

“Other CRCs such as the CRC for Aboriginal and Tropical Health, the CRC for Biological Control of Pest Animals, and the CRC for The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems could also face cuts.

“The Government’s claim that the Australian Research Council grants scheme will pick up some of the public good research programs is misleading. The ARC program has a totally different focus than the CRCs. It funds strategic research, while the CRCs are directed towards practical and applied research.

“A hole will be left in Australia’s research that will jeopardise the achievement of a number of the Government’s National Research Priorities.

“The Democrats support the role of research in economic growth, but also its role in raising living standards and solving major environmental challenges facing Australia. The Minister should understand that Australians have concerns other than the short-term economic performance of


“Where should tax-payers money go if not for the good of the public?” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

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