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“Shame on us”: business scathing on science cuts, govt divided over NCRIS “ransom”

There is reportedly division among senior ministers on whether the NCRIS
should be cut, as promised, if higher education reforms don’t pass the Senate, and
the Business Council of Australia has added to the chorus of disgust at the

The Australian Financial Review reports that unnamed senior government
ministers have backed the threat of $150 million in lost funding being made to
the National Collaborative
Research Infrastructure Strategy. 

The ministers do not, however, support the dumping of
the decade-old program, which includes 27 state-of-the-art research facilities and 1,700 staff.

Education minister Christopher Pyne has withheld an annual $150 million
in funding to the NCRIS until the Higher Education Reform Amendment Bill is passed. The current funding will run out in June.

The NCRIS was announced by then-education minister Julie Bishop from the
then-Coalition government in 2004, and has since had $2.5 billion invested in
it by both sides of politics.

Among its case studies is BlueScope Steel, which refined the emissions-reduced Castrip steelmaking process with assistance from the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility’s expertise.

The Business Council of Australia’s Catherine Livingstone was scathing
of the threatened cuts to the NCRIS, saying that business must also accept some
responsibility for not explaining how important science programs were.

“We might blame the Government but actually shame on
us. Shame on us,” the ABC reports her as saying earlier this week.

“We have to see this as a failing on the part of the
research sector, including universities, and on the part of business.”

Other critics of the threatened cuts include the Nattional Research Alliance – including the Group of
Eight universities and the Cooperative Research Centres Association, which
signed an open letter to the government earlier this week – and 2011 Australian Nobel Prize winner for physics, Professor Brian Schmidt.

Image: ABC

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