Professionals Australia CEO Chris Walton welcomed allocations to advanced manufacturing training and research, the CRC-Ps Program and Australia’s optical astronomy capability announced in last night’s Federal Budget, but noted with concern the $2.8 billion cuts to university funding, more reductions to the CSIRO and lack of an allocation for research infrastructure.
Walton said cuts to universities ran counter to the Government’s commitment to skills and innovation and job creation. “A cut to higher education is false economy given the critical role it plays in research, job creation and economic growth.”
Walton welcomed the first funding announcements in relation to the MRFF saying it was an important milestone in providing funding certainty for the national health and medical research sector. “We were pleased that there were no cuts to NHMRC or ARC funding other than a downward revision of inflationary forecasts,” he said. “While no allocation was made to National Research Infrastructure, funding for NCRIS facilities remained in line with last year’s forecasts and a commitment was made to developing a Research Infrastructure Investment Plan which we’ll watch with interest.”
“We also want to ensure that the levy on employing foreign workers coming into Australia on particular skilled visas doesn’t impact the recruitment of high-quality international researchers. Any measure that operates as a disincentive to international engagement, collaboration and growing Australia’s research capacity would be a concern.”
Science-related funding initiatives announced last night included:
- $101.5 million to establish the Advanced Manufacturing Fund to promote research and capital development for high technology manufacturing businesses. Funds to be matched by states;
- $26.1 million ($120 million over 11 years to 2027-28) investment in Australia’s astronomy capability through a strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory;
- $7m increase in Business Research and Innovation Initiative;
- AMSI internships program as foreshadowed in MYEFO;
- MRFF starting disbursements as expected with $65.9 million over four years for preventative health, advanced health translation, clinical trials and breakthrough research investments;
- up to $68.0 million in 2017-18 toward the purchase of accelerator equipment and two treatment rooms in support of the establishment of a proton beam facility at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute precinct;
- $115 million for mental health research and services including $80 million for psychosocial services, $9.1 million in funding for rural telehealth psychological services, $15.0 million for priority mental health research and $11.1 million to address suicide hotspots;
- $49.8 million to operate and enable access to the Macquarie Island Antarctic research facility; and
- $1.4 million spending on clinical trials for childhood cancer.
The cuts/downward revisions announced in the Budget included:
- CSIRO – reduction of $13.6m over four years; and
- Higher education cuts – 2.5% efficiency dividend to universities (as foreshadowed prior to the Budget).
No significant changes to:
- ARC – inflationary funding increases are forecast to grow at a reduced rate compared to previous budget forecast, so funding but will fall behind inflation will go backwards in real terms;
- NHMRC budget – same as above – no significant change but will fall behind slightly in coming years;
- Capital expenditure on major national research infrastructure;
- The cap on R&D tax incentive – forecast expenditure remains the same as projected in the last Budget at around $2 billion per annum; and
- ANSTO funding.
For those of you who would like more in-depth information on the budget overview, we will be holding a webinar on Tuesday the 16th of May at 2pm AEST for all members.