Liberal MP Dr Dennis Jensen this week launched a strong attack on the Government’s proposed cuts to science and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).
Friday, 30 May 2014
Professionals Australia spoke to Dr Jensen, a former scientist at DSTO, to find out why he thinks the Government is wrong.
As soon as the conversation starts, Dr Jensen acknowledges that this was a “tough” Budget that his government “would have preferred not to have to deliver”. However, he believes strongly that “issues of Defence and science are critical to our future”.
“I believe that if we neglect these issues, or downgrade their importance, it will be to our peril.
Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton agrees too.
“There are other things we can do without, but our country needs science and innovation, to ensure we transition from the mining boom, to new technologies and new industries,” said Mr Walton.
Dr Jensen said that he spoke out in Parliament because he believes that we need to develop a “coherent approach” to science broadly, but particularly in Defence.
He believes also that given that Defence is undergoing a comprehensive restructure, it is the wrong time to cut funding from DSTO.
“This is precisely the time that DSTO’s capability should be increased – in order to save the taxpayer money.
Dr Jensen says that the best way to come up with a defence force structure is first to define strategic requirements, then the capabilities that will be required in order to achieve those requirements and then consult with industry.
“In this context, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, or DSTO, is critical.
On the Government’s decision not to have a dedicated science minister, Dr Jensen believes it is fundamental to having a “coherent science policy”.
“I have been quiet on the lack of a science minister since I first criticised it when the ministry was announced. This is the first time we have had no science minister since 1931. I am bitterly disappointed that my fears have come to pass,” Dr Jensen said.
“This is a critical portfolio, and as I stated at the time, the issue was not necessarily one of a lack of coverage by the ministers responsible for various parts of the portfolio, but the fact that there is a lack of coordination, a lack of a single chain of command, a lack of a clear line of communication not only within government, but among those working in science.
“How is it coherent policy when we have significant cuts to CSIRO, DSTO, ANSTO, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, but then are moving to create a giant medical research fund?
“In fact, the reverse would appear to be the case, and not only are we not putting in place policy to improve science, but we are putting disincentives in place to people who might consider careers in the hard sciences and maths.
“This is not just about people’s careers, important as that is (and also for the taxpayers, who have a huge interest in the money that they have spent to train this cohort of scientists).
“This is, instead, about our national interest, and how to maximise economic and other benefits to our nation.
Summing up, Dr Jensen said “Not a single G8 nation lacks a dedicated science minister, and this bodes ill for our future.”