Take cover

Global disaster & emergency medicine experts arrive in Brisbane,” QUT announcement yesterday. They must know something we don’t, unless they are there for the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Management conference.

Finally, a plan for R&D industry-uni partnerships

Tax incentives tied to research partnerships on the agenda

Labor has committed to a key call by research and development reformers and promises a 10 per cent tax premium for firms that “collaborate with researchers in universities and public research agencies to create new knowledge”.

This is half the per centage proposed in the Ferris-Finkel-Fraser review of R&D funding (CMM September 29 2016), but is still seen as a significant commitment to Labor’s objective of 3 per cent of GDP on applied research.

Labor says industry spending that could qualify includes product development with a university or CSIRO and working with new PhD graduates. Cooperative Research Centres are expected to be eligible for the programme.

The scheme seeks to kick-start R&D planning set out in the Three Fs review which has been stalled by government prevarication over changes designed to contain business maximising R&D tax concessions. The coalition proposed savings of $2bn over the forward estimates in the 2018 budget, but the legislation had not passed the Senate when the election was called.

If Labor in government proceeds with similar savings from capping refunds on tax offsets and increasing the threshold for large companies benefiting under the scheme the university- institution partnerships it proposes all but guarantees their vocal support.

Universities Australia has kicked off the congratulations with Chief Executive Catriona Jackson saying she; “welcomed the policy commitment, noting the university sector had made the case for a premium rate in recent years”.

“Since 2015, Universities Australia has advocated for a premium tax concession for businesses collaborating with our nation’s universities on research and development. A premium tax concession would boost the number of businesses that tap into the wealth of expertise inside universities and enhance innovation in Australia.”

There is such a thing as a free lunch

At least when dangerous ideas are on the menu

The UNSW tax and business law school is holding a “festival of dangerous tax ideas” on May 30. On the agenda are, a land tax, a “Robin Hood” carbon tax, doubling the GST base and using a wealth tax to fund a basic income. The  event, including lunch and papers is free. “In any national debate there are sometimes elephants in the room, ideas that are there but so “outrageous” that no-one talks about them,” organisers say. Curiously, there is no mention of a tax-credit for self-funded retirees who invest in elephants.

Science and Technology Australia compares parties

STA does not endorse a party but its friends will work out what the lobby thinks

Science and Technology Australia says the major party’s positions demonstrate “clear differences in their approach and vision.” The peak lobby surveyed the coalition, Labor and the Greens on science and technology policy to conclude;

* the coalition proposes business as usual on the basis of its 2017 science statement

* Labor is committed to 3 per cent GDP target for R&D, its system-wide research review plus a return to demand driven funding of undergraduate paces

* the Greens, “have laid out an ambitious approach to STEM,” including 4 per cent of GDP going to R&D.

STA president Emma Johnston (UNSW) urges electors, “to examine candidates’ support and vision for science and technology when casting their vote.”


Peace to prevail at Uni Canberra

Union members have backed an enterprise agreement

Management and the National Tertiary Education Union can now put a joint proposal to a staff vote, which is expected to pass. This will end a long, and at times tense campaign, reaching beyond wages to include staff conditions, including the assistant professor scheme, now being separately reviewed.

In November, management went it alone and put an offer to staff which the campus branch of the NTEU opposed. The proposal was defeated by a nearly 75 per cent margin, with 59 per cent of eligible staff voting (CMM November 13). This appeared to clear management’s mind wonderfully and when bargaining resumed in the new year discussions moved along.

Group of Eight to incoming govt: show us the money (and policy)

The Go8 has released its brief for the incoming government

Australia’s economic growth is, “underpinned by one of the world’s best higher education and research systems” according to the Go8, which sets out the three policy areas it wants addressed to ensure it can continue to perform. The Eight’s proposals include:

* restoring ARC annual funding to the 2012-13 level of $971m (in 2019 dollars) from just under $800m now. Fully capitalise the Medical Research Future Fund at $20bn by 2021-22 and create a translational research future fund for other disciplines. Restore the $3.9bn remaining in the Education Investment Fund to its original infrastructure purpose. Increase block grants by 50 cents for every research dollar, to meet indirect costs

* “ensure complementarity between policy decisions on student and staff visas and migration in consultation with the sector.” Variously restore, support and extend a range of international research and exchange programmes

* review the entire post school education sector, to “ensure Australia can deliver an equal, seamless, PSE system as quickly as possible” overseen by an independent commission. Raise financial support students. Legislate for Higher Education Participation and Partnerships funding to be $200m per annum, indexed annually.

Flinders U manufactures the future

The university used to have an innovation hub, now it’s got a district

Labor has committed $20m to Flinders Us proposed “future factory,” a “test-bed facility … to explore the application of new technologies capable of manufacturing next generation products.”

The commitment goes toward the $50m Flinders needs for the Australian Centre for Innovative Manufacturing. If established ACIM will research and teach technologies, including digital assisted manufacture assemble and collaborative robotics.

Presumably this will work with Flinders U’s Future Factory in  what was the manufacturing innovation hub, on the former Mitsubishi site at Tonsley Park (

CMM February 9 2018). The site is now upgraded to “an innovation district”.

News from Murdoch U

The university says student survey demonstrates quality experiences

Murdoch U responded to staff concerns on the academic ability of international students, expressed on Four Corners, Monday night in a statement to the ABC. Along with assurances about standards and resources it includes; “the 2018 Student Experience Survey results, ranked Murdoch University among the highest universities nationally for student support.” The survey, which is part of the excellent Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching indeed did so, however on all four student satisfaction factors combined, Murdoch U rates bang-on the national average.  But what do Murdoch U’s international students specifically think? QILT surveys all undergraduates and there are separate figures for internationals. These are not publicly provided but they do go to universities and Murdoch U could add to its case that its internationals are happy with their education by releasing them.

Restructure unsettles staff

There are other concerns  at Murdoch U. Some staff are upset as a new academic structure beds down. The university has abolished faculties and combined its nine schools in two colleges, Science, Health, Engineering and Education and Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences. Some professional staff are not all happy where they fit in the new model.

There are academics who aren’t all that impressed either, in particular with the creation of deans of academic operations, who are deputies to college PVCs. Critics say this is an extra management layer between teachers and researchers, their discipline heads and college chiefs.

Monash missed reporting IT expenditure

But it’s going to get the figure into a revised annual report

Monash U has responded to CMM’s query last Thursday on why IT expenditure was not included in its annual report to state parliament. It was an oversight which the university is correcting and will make public after submitting a revised report for tabling in parliament.

As to mcomms (CMM Monday); spending is on page 92 of the existing report – the university’s consolidated spending was $15.122m, down $140 000 on 2017.


Maria Saarela joins the SA Reseach and Development Institute as research director, food science. SARDI is based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus. Dr Saarela joins from the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland.