The government and their business backers are constantly telling us that we must support and promote entrepreneurs.
Both our Prime Minister and his deputy have handed over government funds to very dubious entrepreneurs in their ministerial capacities – Malcolm as Environment Minister with his rain-making scheme and Julie as Science Minister with her magic little blue pill scam to cut fuel consumption and reduce emissions.
Julie was also instrumental in firstly employing Bjorn Lomberg, and then in giving him $4 million to set up a ‘research’ centre. Last I heard, he was still looking for a research body who was willing to be associated with him.
Entrepreneurs need investors and some are so adept at selling themselves that we believe their idea without questioning too closely its viability. But one thing is always true – the motive for any entrepreneur is profit. They use marketing to sell their pitch.
One thing that this government fails to realise is that we have the smartest, most innovative entrepreneurs in the world in our scientists who are motivated not by personal financial gain, but by success in discovery.
An independent assessment by Acil Allen Consulting published in December 2014 concluded that “the whole of CSIRO portfolio is delivering an expected return that supports an expected benefit-cost ratio of at least 5:1, and arguably substantially more.”
The CSIRO invented wi-fi, plastic banknotes, the Hendra virus vaccine, extended wear contact lenses, Aerogard, and a host of other things that have enhanced our lives and the government’s coffers as well as helping industries’ productivity.
This government has cut at least $420 million from five key science and research agencies:
- The Australian Research Council (ARC) ($74.9m)
- CSIRO ($114.8m)
- The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) ($120m)
- Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ($27.6m)
- Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8m)
- Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program ($80m)
$845.6m of Industry support and innovation programs that link business with scientific research will be cut over 5 years including:
- Australian Industry Participation
- Commercialisation Australia
- Enterprise Solutions
- Innovation Investment Fund
- Enterprise Connect
- Industry Innovation Precincts
- Textile, Clothing and Footwear Small Business and Building Innovative Capability
- Clean Technology Innovation Program
- Green Car Innovation Fund
- Establishment of an ICT-enabled research laboratory
- Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund
- National Low Emission Coal Initiative.
Whilst the government has aspirations to build a $20 billion medical research fund, scientists are justifiably concerned about how it will be administered and who grants will go to if there are no scientists left here by the time they hatch this nest egg.
Research is a major driver of economic growth. Advanced physical and mathematical sciences are responsible for 11% of Australia’s economic activity, underpinning 760,000 jobs. Future prosperity will rely on the decisions made now.
In Monday night’s press conference, Turnbull promised to “[Lay] out what the issues are, [get] the facts straight […] and [make] the case for that path forward”.
Imagine if the money given in fossil fuel subsidies was instead given to our students and teachers and to our researchers and scientists. We might actually have a chance of becoming the smart country we could be.
Our scientists are the real entrepreneurs, the real productivity drivers, the ones who can cut the health budget and grow the economy in a sustainable way, and we should be investing in them rather than tinkering about giving business subsidies and tax breaks and cutting penalty rates and the minimum wage.
But you won’t hear that from the industry lobby groups.
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