Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Federal Budget 2014-15

By AusSMC

Experts address how the latest announcements will impact on research, health and science.

While a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund will provide additional funding for medical research, the Budget has some grim news for science. The Australian Research Council will see funding reduced by $74.9 million over 3 years, and savings of $111.4 million will be made to the CSIRO budget over 4 years. The Budget cuts also include the Defence Science and Technology Organisation ($120 million), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation ($27.6 million, and Australian Institute of Marine Science ($7.8 million) – as well as Cooperative Research Centres program ($80 million).

-----------

Professor Suzanne Cory is President of the Australian Academy of Science

“The Academy welcomes the vision of the Medical Research Future Fund and the government’s aim to double medical research funding by 2022. But it is disappointing that this kind of long term vision has not extended to the rest of Australian science and that overall funding for science and research continues to decline. Health research is dependent on maintaining the strength of many disciplines. The cuts to CSIRO, the Australian Research Council and other key agencies means that it will be more difficult to solve Australia’s big challenges.

While the new Medical Research Future Fund provides a positive vision, the rest of Australian science is left substantially weakened.

Funding for research infrastructure is vital and we hope this is just the first stage of a longer term vision to support major infrastructure, but the introduction of tuition fees for research students in PhD programs is of great concern as these students are the engine for our nation’s research.

We need to increase our science investment now and grow it for decades to come. The commitment to medical research needs to be matched in the rest of the science sector or we will not be able to meet Australia’s big challenges.”

-----------

Michael Moore is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Health Association of Australia

“This Budget is dominated by cuts to spending in key areas that will effectively kick people while they are down and result in an increasing burden on the health system over time. Many of the funding cuts appear to be short sighted approaches that do not recognise the health and economic costs associated with the growing burden of chronic disease. Almost $8.6 billion will be cut from the Health Budget over 4 years. It has long been said that prevention is better than cure – certainly prevention is cheaper than treatment – and its false economy to cut preventive health funding to achieve short term savings. As it stands, only about 2% of the health budget is spent on prevention – if the Government wants to reduce pressure on the health budget over time, they should actually be looking to increase that figure. Instead, expenditure on prevention is reduced dramatically”

-----------

Professor Brendan Crabb is President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes

“In an obviously tough economic climate, having medical research as a centerpiece in the budget is an emphatic declaration by the Federal Government of the importance of medical research to Australia’s future health and prosperity.Creation of this $20 billion fund into perpetuity is amongst the most significant initiatives in the history of medical research in Australia.”

“This will provide the stability needed to encourage our best and brightest to go into medical research."Billions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent each year dealing with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Tonight's announcement will help medical researchers to reduce the burden of disease on the Australian community, and to make our health system more efficient."

"The medical research community acknowledges the need to account for every dollar provided by this tremendous reform package, and pledges to work with the government to deliver on better health outcomes.”

-----------

Professor Ian Olver is Cancer Council Australia CEO

On the $95.9 million, four-year plan to finalise Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in the 2014-15 budget.
“Bowel cancer is the second-largest cause of cancer death in Australia, yet most cases can be cured if detected early. Our research shows the Government’s commitment to bring the program’s full implementation date forward by 14 years will prevent at least 35,000 bowel cancer deaths over the next forty years. By filling in additional gaps in the bowel cancer screening program from July next year, the benefit in lives saved will be maximised while full roll-out occurs. Minister Dutton was always adamant that the Government would be guided by the evidence when it came to major investments in cancer care. We are seeing that tonight with the $95.9 million for bowel cancer screening.”

On the $20 billion Medical research futures fund
“Importantly, the new funding shows the Government’s preparedness to invest in programs that will realise their full health and economic potential over the longer term. We look forward to working closely with the Abbott Government on its research program to help ensure that future investments are also based on the best available evidence. The renewed commitment to medical research should put the Government in a position to collect and disseminate independent evidence to address the changing needs of an ageing population and challenges such as obesity.”

-----------

Conor King is Executive Director of Innovative Research Universities (IRU)

“The crucial test is that the new arrangements support an expanded higher education system that provides good quality education available across Australia to all Australians seeking to improve their knowledge and skills. It cannot be permitted to discourage people from education.

There is much work to be done to sort out how each major change should be implemented. There was considerable opposition to the demand driven system when first announced which have since faded. We need to learn from the experience that sensibly staged changes give providers, potential students and Government the time needed to take advantage of changes and avoid problems.

Ensuring the open charges system is introduced well, is a major challenge. The changes move more of the cost of higher education onto students, including research students. We need to ensure that this works and that students gain the education they deserve and need for the additional impost.”

-----------

Associate Professor Todd Lane is President, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS)

On the Amalgamation of the Australian Climate Change Science Program with the National Environment Research Program to form the National Environmental Science Program
“It is still too early to tell what impact this merger will have on the ongoing climate science activities funded by the Australian Climate Change Science Program (ACCSP). ACCSP has been an integral part of climate science research in Australia for 25 years, providing a mechanism to coordinate climate research at the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO. Not only has this program funded important research into climate change, it has transformed our understanding of Australian climate variability, and helped develop the current Australian climate modelling system. Many people would be unaware that these activities also have direct benefits for the ongoing development of the seasonal forecasting systems that are invaluable for the agricultural sector. These systems predict phenomena like El Nino and its impact on rainfall, providing guidance to farmers months in advance. It is important that the research currently supported by ACCSP is continued under the new National Environmental Science Program, because any reductions in activity would have flow-on effects that include reducing Australia’s capacity to improve future seasonal predictions.

-----------

Dr Michael Borgas is Acting Secretary of the CSIRO Section of the Community and Public Sector Union.

“These funding cuts to CSIRO are short-sighted and destructive. They will do lasting harm to CSIRO and the capacity to deliver new inventions and crucial research for the next generation of Australians.”

These cuts to public funding of CSIRO could not come at a worse time. These budget cuts will mean more science workers will lose their jobs and more important research will not be done. CSIRO management might be faced with terrible prospect of getting out of some areas of research altogether,” Dr Borgas said.

The Government is already struggling with a perception problem when it comes to the science of climate change – in no small part due to its policy to remove the price on carbon and decisions to scrap the Climate Commission, Climate Change Authority, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Department of Climate change.

Cutting funding to CRC’s may damage CSIRO research across the most important sectors of national priority: the environment, agriculture, information and communications technology, mining, medical science and technology and manufacturing.