The Abbott government is threatening to cut off a vital source of funding for scientific research at a time when Australia is already falling behind its neighbours in scientific and technical expertise.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has told the Senate that he will dump the $150 million-a-year National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) unless it approves the changes to university fees and funding contained in the 2014 budget.
Those changes are essentially designed to make students bear a larger part of the costs of higher education, a policy that would lead to many being burdened with huge debts for many years.
The government policies are being opposed in the Senate by Labor, the Greens, members of the Palmer United Party and a number of independents.
Pyne’s threat, if carried out, would mean the sacking of 1700 scientists and threaten the ongoing operations of facilities used by many more. More than 30,000 researchers, including those in the corporate sector, rely on the equipment and services of facilities funded by the NCRIS.
Business Council of Australia (BCA) President and Telstra Chair Catherine Livingstone has condemned the move.
Livingstone has been prominent in calling for a greater focus on scientific and technical education and on innovation in Australia at a time when the Abbott government has been slashing funding to institutions such as the CSIRO and the Cooperative Research Centres.
The Abbott government’s policies are a recipe for national economic decline and another indication of its complete lack of any vision for Australia’s future.