House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014

Statements by Members


1:30 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the Abbott government's continuing disdain for science in Australia. I recently received an open letter from the leadership of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute addressed to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The letter expressed concern at the impact of the Abbott government's budget on science in Australia. In particular, the letter noted the impact of the government's massive hikes in university fees and student debt costs on Australian scientists, particularly research scientists. The Royal Australian Chemical Institute notes in its letter that adding interest to student debt doubly penalises research scientists:

Research Higher Degree students already make a significant financial sacrifice by committing to a further 3-to-4 years' university education beyond their undergraduate study.

… so RHD graduates are typically in their mid-20s before they have the opportunity to earn an income appropriate to their level of training and expertise.

And they go on to say that the changes as a result:

… can only further discourage prospective RHD students from following a career path towards innovation.

It would be imperative for the Minister for Science to take swift action to allay the fears of these research scientists—except that of course there is no such minister under the Abbott government.

We on this side of the House take science seriously. We do not sacrifice it for the sake of political convenience. When in government Labor increased science and research funding to new record levels. There is still more to be done, however, and that is why Bill Shorten, as Labor leader, has taken on science as his special ministerial responsibility. Labor is doing this because we want to ensure that science does not lose its place among the nation's top priorities. Unlike those opposite, we will not sell out our nation's future by letting the flat-earthers in our society, including those on the benches opposite, sideline science in Australia.