Science outlook

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Matthew L James

Science and research

Federal government commitments to science and technology (S&T) involve disbursements to many agencies but totals have remained generally consistent over the past decade, (notwithstanding a rapid succession of Science Ministers, with four different occupants in 16 months.)[1] Estimated total Federal Government expenditure on science, research and innovation areas in the last budget was $8,934.7 million, down from $9,270 million in 2011–12, and $8,474 million in 2010–11.[2] The total figures for the new financial year will become available in due course in The Australian Government’s 2013–14 Science, Research and Innovation Budget Tables on the website of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

The field includes about a dozen public sector research agencies, such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) along with rural sector research agencies. The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program links researchers with industry to focus research and development (R&D) efforts on progress towards utilisation and commercialisation. The Australian Research Council (ARC) controls the allocations of Federal research funds to teams and individuals, particularly in the tertiary education sector. The higher education and medical sectors receive funds from a variety of schemes, as covered elsewhere in the Higher Education–Budget Review. The Chief Scientist provides advice on science, technology and innovation issues to the Prime Minister and Ministers, who in turn, oversee a wide spectrum of portfolios that touch on S&T.

The Government announced reduced growth to the university sector on 14 April, and the Science & Technology Australia lobby group responded:

We represent 68,000 people working in science and technology across Australia. Dr Emerson's announcement that $2.3 billion will be slashed from Universities to contribute to school reforms is profoundly disappointing. The cuts will have a direct effect on the day-to-day work of Australia's Science and Technology workforce, who fuel national productivity and innovation.[3]

In March this year, the CSIRO Staff Association said that cuts were expected as a result of the government's requirement for the agency to increase its efficiency.[4] Subsequently, in April 2013, CSIRO announced the expected loss of up to 200 staff. The PBS confirms the loss of 165 CSIRO staff this year.[5] Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark was quoted as claiming that the redundancies would reduce expenditure by 2.5%, and that a further saving of 2.5% would be achieved by cutting operational costs. [6]

The Australian Academy of Science proposed a plan for Australian science in its January 2013 Pre-budget submission to Treasury, arguing that Australia needs a scientifically literate population with high skills and ability in order to compete internationally in many areas of scientific research.[7] In April 2013, the Chief Scientist also noted the lack of a national science and technology plan.[8] As well as outlining a strategy plan, his related papers compared Australian R&D to that in overseas nations.

The 2013–14 Budget appeared to maintain the funding status quo across science sector agencies listed above, although funding for the CRC program will fall from $156.2 million in 2012–13, to $144.8 million in 2013–14, before rising again over later years.[9] On the positive side, the Australian Institute of Marine Science received additional operational funding for its activities of $30.9 million over four years, while CSIRO obtained $12.1 million for its new marine vessel.[10] CSIRO has a new Property Investment Plan said to consolidate key sites and buildings at Clayton and Black Mountain to provide new facilities.[11] The Budget gave Geoscience Australia additional funding of $154 million over four years. (The reasons are outlined in the Mining and Resources Changes – Budget Review.)

Nuclear

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) received  $8.1 million to cover costs at its new reactor, along with $28.7 million over four years to assist with nuclear waste management activity. The Budget announced that the Government allocated $35.7 million over four years to secure and study an appropriate site for a national radioactive waste management facility.[12] Changes to programs in climate change sectors are covered in the Climate Action – Budget Review.



[1].       A Bandt (Australian Greens), Labor warfare delivers 4 science & research ministers in under 16 months: Bandt, media release, 22 March 2013, accessed 9 May 2013.

[2].       Australian Government, The Australian Government’s 2012–13 Science, Research and Innovation budget tables, Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, 2012, accessed 15 May 2013.

[3].       M Holland, ‘Research funding cuts; and planets not for sale – Physics in May 2013, Science and Technology Australia, website, 14 April 2013, Australian Institute of Physics, accessed 9 May 2013.

[4].       CSIRO Staff Association (CSA), ‘CSIRO under pre$$ure’, CSA website, 15 March 2013, accessed 9 May 2013.

[5].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2013–14: budget related paper no. 1.12, Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2013, p. 46, accessed 15 May 2013.

[6].       W Ockenden, ‘CSIRO looks set to cut 200 jobs’, ABC News Online website, 17 April 2013, accessed 9 May 2013.

[7].       Australian Academy of Science (AAS), Priorities for Australian science: pre-budget submission to Treasury from the Australian Academy of Science, AAS, Canberra, January 2013, accessed 13 May 2013.

[8].       I Chubb (Chief Scientist), The case for an Australian science & technology strategy, Paper for PMSEIC April 2013, Office of the Chief Scientist of Australia, Canberra, accessed 9 May 2013.

[9].       Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2013–14: budget related paper no. 1.12, Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2013, p. 46, accessed 15 May 2013.

[10].     The budget figures have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2013, accessed 15 May 2013, pp. 209, 250.

[11].     C Emerson (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research) and D Farrell (Minister for Science and Research), Investing in Australia's world leading science, media release, 14 May 2013, accessed 15 May 2013.

[12].     Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, op. cit., p. 210, 253.

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