Policy and politics in bushfire research

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is set to close mid 2021. It probably won’t

Cooperative research centres generally have a ten-year lifespan but a bushfire CRC has already existed in two formats since 2003. Labor’s Kim Carr asked about its future in Senate Estimates and officers advised him that it was set to close, as scheduled.

This does not sound like smart politics, what with the catastrophic fires of summer – but it is understandable policy.

CRCs are supposed to complete time-limited research rather than exist in perpetuity and it is said Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews is said to think this makes sense and is not for turning on policy. Until yesterday at least. “Don’t be misled by Senator Carr’s grandstanding & fear-mongering. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC has funding until mid-2021 and the government is considering future funding for its work to continue,” she tweeted.

Friends of the CRC started making its case to continue long before the fires started (CMM October 8 2019) and they will not stop now. And there is a long-established precedent for giving into vocal lobbies. A Hobart based CRC conducted Antarctic research under three different names from 1991 to last year – and its work continues via a different funding stream.

If the bushfire CRC does close there will  likely be a rebadged bucket of money for its work