Budget response: appalled to optimistic

While peak bodies expected a bad outcome some usually vocal spokespeople were stunned into silence

“The Treasurer can talk about ‘skills,’ ‘jobs’ and ‘innovation’ all he likes  – in the background is a higher education sector burning; what should be the engine room of all these things burning,” Alison Barnes from the National Tertiary Education Union tweeted.

“With borders shut until mid-2022 the picture for universities will get worse – with significant flow-on effects for the nation’s research capacity and jobs, inside and outside universities. … Australia’s university sector cannot sustain these losses without serious damage to national productivity and the country’s knowledge base,” Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia wasn’t happy.

Nor was Nick Klomp (VC, CQU), chair of the Regional Universities Network, who lamented the lack of infrastructure funding for his members.

But the permanent pragmatists worked with what they had got. “The Australian Technology Network acknowledges the record investment in university research in last year’s Budget. We look forward to further announcements from the Government on research sustainability (and) research commercialisation later this year,” Executive Director Luke Sheehy said.

While Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight warned, “there is growing uncertainty in the university sector about financial challenges ahead,”  she called on the government to develop a, “long-term sustainable funding model for universities and a clear pathway for the higher education sector going forward.”

And Science and Technology Australia came close to appearing pleased, detailing a bunch of positives. “This future-focused Budget charts a path to develop the workforce Australia will need to seize opportunities in next-generation technologies,” said STA president Jeremy Brownlie.