Shorten’s pitch to science community

Days after the government released its national interest test for research applications, Labor has moved to position itself as the party of science. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says a government he leads will, “end the Liberals’ war on science, restore trust in scientists and put science back at the centre of government, by resetting the relationship between government and Australia’s science and research community.”

In a speech at the Academy of Science last night Mr Shorten committed to;

* commissioning former ANU VC and chief scientist Ian Chubb to lead a “once in a generation inquiry into the Commonwealth Government’s research system

* “reversing the decline in Australia’s R&D performance over the last five years”

* establishing a charter setting out government and scientists respective responsibilities

* creating a PM council for science and innovation to replace the existing government’s advisory body (which the government replaced today)

* legislating “an Australian interpretation of the Haldane principle,” – “that politicians should not pick and choose individual research projects based on political whim. Ministers will also be required to explain to parliament a rejection of an ARC funding recommendation”.

This is a strategy for Labor to engage with the research establishment. Professor Chubb will be assisted by, Christobel Saunders (UWA) Emma Johnston (UNSW), Karen Hussey (UoQ), Glyn Davis (ex UniMelbourne VC) and Phil Clark (JP Morgan Advisory Council and leader of the 2015 research infrastructure review).

Mr Shorten also shares some commitments with the Academy of Science. On Sunday, it called for an increase in R&D spending to 3 per cent of GDP over ten years and a science-government charter, “built on trust, respect, and mutual obligation.”


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