Senate debates

Monday, 16 March 2015

Matters of Public Importance

Higher Education

4:41 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training) Share this | Hansard source

True commitment to important programs like NCRIS and proof that these are not crocodile tears would have been illustrated by different behaviour when they were in government, and everyone in the sector knows it.

There is a review going on of our national research infrastructure at the moment, which is one of the reasons this funding has been extended for one year. That review is universally supported by the research sector—universally supported. The problem we have, again, is dealing with difficult budget situations because no-one on the other side of the chamber is willing to outline how all these worthy national projects can be funded. We will hear about the mythical magic pudding of multinational tax avoidance. It is important to tackle, but it will not address the unsustainable budget deficit we inherited from those opposite. At its core it is about playing the politics of grievance and avoiding the difficult decisions necessary. Whether in a household, a small business, in a big business or in the public sector, 'A dollar I spend here is not a dollar I can spend elsewhere.' There is an opportunity cost to everything. There is a trade-off to everything.

The challenge we on this side of the chamber have is that we must clean up the mess left by those opposite. Today, part of the mess in our research infrastructure was addressed by the minister when he made the announcement to guarantee an extra year's funding—a year of funding that, despite all the bleating from those opposite, was never provided for by them when they were in government.

I have visited some of the NCRIS facilities. They are fantastic. Every Australian knows about the high quality of the Australian research sector. While not trained in it, I did do a bit of work with people in health and medical research, and they are genuinely world leading. But they know that those opposite had a chance to fund this infrastructure on an ongoing basis. They know that the program was started by the Howard government. They know that those opposite did not do anything to make it a permanent program, nothing whatsoever. I am half-tempted to get all the great minds of NCRIS—the mathematicians, the biologists, those who use the fancy electron microscopes that I have seen but would never know how to use—to try and figure out if they can find the goose that lays the golden egg that those opposite seem to think we have locked somewhere in this building that can continually keep producing the resources we need to pay off our debt, to pay the interest bill and to fund worthy national programs!

You do not care about worthy national programs if you do not make the budget sustainable. You do not care about research and you do not care about our scientific infrastructure if you put the budget in a position where research is unfunded and the budget is unsustainable. Today the government addressed yet another mess left by Labor. Labor's words, as well as those of the Greens, are nothing but crocodile tears, given their performance in government, when they hatched all their secret deals.


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