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Innovation strategy: a small step in the right direction.

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Senator Meg Lees Parliamentary Leader and Senator for South Australia

Press Release Dated: 29 Jan 2001

Press Release Number: 01/44 Portfolio: Science and Information Technology Related: Education

Innovation Strategy: a small step in the right direction The Australian Democrats have described today’s Innovation Statement as a small step in the right direction but say that it still fails to repair the damage of five years of funding cuts to education and research.

Democrats’ Leader, Senator Meg Lees, said, while any increase in funding for education and research should be welcomed, the Innovation Statement fell short of making the major policy changes needed for Australia to take full advantage of the opportunities of the knowledge-based economy.

“We needed to see an additional commitment of $3 billion a year just to return Australia to its pre-1995 education and research spending levels. This statement provides just a fifth of that,” Senator Lees said.

“However, we welcome the long overdue reversal of the Government’s destructive reduction in investment in higher education and research and development.

“Particularly welcome is the increased funding for the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs) and the additional commitment to research infrastructure. We view this as an important start to the repositioning of our research and innovation culture.

“However, the R&D tax concession changes are disappointing, particularly the maintenance of the base rate of 125% when this has so clearly reduced business investment in R&D.

“The value of the 175% R&D concession for additional business expenditure will be dependent on how narrowly the Government intends to redefine ‘high technical risk’ research and development activities. This is a matter that the Democrats will be watching very closely.

“Building an innovation society is fundamentally about engineering a cultural change. It is much more than a simple risky technical

exercise,” she said.

Senator Lees said the Government still had not fully addressed the funding crisis in our universities brought about by the cut of $1 billion a year since 1996. Only a part of this is refunded in this statement.

“The contingent loans scheme for postgraduate coursework students is a repudiation of Dr Kemp’s privatisation agenda and goes someway to reversing the cuts of 25,000 funded places for postgraduate coursework students between 1997 - 2000,” she said.

“Providing a HECS-like loans scheme for Australia’s 75,000 postgraduate coursework students will alleviate the barriers of up-front full fees for some students. But with full fees for postgraduates firmly in place, it is unlikely to turn around the decline substantially in student enrolments since 1996.

“Nor does this package offer a fair deal for government schools. Handing back to government schools the $130 million EBA cuts, provided it is spent on maths, science and technology skills, is no more logical nor fairer than the EBA itself.

“The much trumpeted $34 million fund for on-line curriculum, in reality, amounts to a measly $2.10 per child per year. This is a mere pittance when you consider the great need, particularly in government schools, for good computer systems and decent access to on-line education,” Senator Lees concluded.


Top | Email | Tell us what you think Authorised by: Jim Downey, 10 Brisbane Avenue, Barton ACT 2604. Copyright © 2001 Australian Democrats Last modified: Thu, 18 May 2000 13:51:26 Today: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 13:06:23