Labor science policy has little new for life sciences

By Staff Writers
Wednesday, 11 August, 2010

The federal Labor party reached out for the science vote today with the announcement of its Science for Australia’s Future policy, although there’s little there explicitly for life sciences or the biotechnology industry.

The policy builds on Labor’s Powering Ideas strategy, and includes a boost to public science outreach, an emphasis on international collaboration and reinforces the government’s commitment to the proposed multi-billion dollar Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

Overall, the policy makes few changes to Labor’s existing approach to science, and overall expenditure remains the same.

One new feature to the policy is the comittment to “science engagement”, with Labor pledging $21 million to its Inspiring Australia programme, because “Australia’s future prosperity and wellbeing depend on our ability to create and apply science,” according to the announcement.

Inspiring Australia includes a continuation of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and National Science Week, along with support for science events in cities and regional areas, and an emphasis on improving science communication.

The $21 million is offset by a similar cut in programmes run by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, including $6 million from Enterprise Connect , $7.5 million from the Cooperative Research Centres Program and $7.5 million from the Collaborative Research Networks Scheme.

Response to the announcement from the scientific community has been positive, particularly towards the Inspiring Australia programme.

“Good news regarding Inspiring Australia – promoting the benefits of scientific effort to the community in this way should help increase enthusiasm in government for further investment in the science itself!” said Professor Ian Frazer, Director of the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland. He is also a member of the Expert Working Group on Science and the Media, an initiative of Inspiring Australia.

President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Suzanne Cory also supports the science outreach initiatives.

“Australia must continue to increase its investment in science, mathematics, technology and engineering to provide the science capability that will drive our nation’s future. We need leaders and policy-makers who are scientifically well-informed. We need a scientifically literate community,” she said.

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