House debates

Monday, 2 May 2016

Constituency Statements

Corio Electorate: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

10:50 am

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Share this | | Hansard source

When the Turnbull Liberal government cuts funding to Australia's peak science and research body, the CSIRO, at a time when we are in a so-called ideas boom, questions need to be answered. Every day the CSIRO is undertaking invaluable research and making inroads into discoveries and inventions which shape our nation and, indeed, the world in which we live.

Earlier this year, as the world was desperately trying to stop the spread of the Zika virus, CSIRO scientists in Geelong were leading in this field and making groundbreaking discoveries. In pursuit of stopping the spread of the virus, scientists at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory were cloning mosquitoes that were immune to the deadly virus. Similar groundbreaking and life-saving work has been done by the Animal Health Laboratory in relation to the Hendra virus and many of the bird flu viruses. Carbon Nexus, the fibre and textile research facility at Deakin University—again, an inheritor of the legacy of the CSIRO—was established by the former Labor government and is a critical research facility in Geelong which is leading the way in building a carbon fibre industry for our country.

I am proud that such world-leading research is being undertaken in Geelong. There are 250 people employed at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and 150 jobs are supported by Carbon Nexus. All of these are examples of innovation and the research which leads to answers. It is the sort of innovation we need to be fully funded and see continuing success within our economy. But this Liberal government is a government which is opposed to science.

The Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, a collaboration between the Animal Health Laboratory, Barwon Health and Deakin University, was also established by the former Labor government. But, on being elected, this government put GCEID into limbo and put a cloud over its future, and it was not until months later that it eventually reversed cuts that it had planned for it. In the meantime, there was uncertainty at that facility, and it was an early warning for us about the lack of commitment that the Abbott and Turnbull governments have had to science. We have seen two prime ministers turn their backs on science and, in doing so, turn away from innovation—a concept which, in terms of their rhetoric, they boast so proudly about.

While I am pleased about the remarkable work that the CSIRO has done—and will continue to do with proper funding—we on the Labor side were all disappointed to hear about 275 jobs that will be slashed from the CSIRO. This happening in a so-called ideas boom, an age of innovation, is simply not good enough. Now is the time to be funding research, not cutting it. After the government's failure to protect jobs at Ford, Alcoa and, in recent weeks, Target, it owes the Geelong region a commitment to protect our CSIRO jobs in Geelong and to stop further losses. We need a commitment that none of these losses will occur in Geelong. It is time for Geelong to be given a fair go from this rotten Turnbull Liberal— (Time expired)