About thirty scientists, engineers, mathematicians, PhD students and science advocates took to the steps of Sydney Town Hall on May 3 in defence of Australia’s research sector.
The “Rally for Research” was organised by the Future Party to oppose the Coalition government’s plans to reduce the Australian Research Council’s funding by $133 million as well as cut up to 700 jobs from the CSIRO and 100 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The rally also called for the government to reinstate the position of science minister.
Future Party leader James Jansson said: “In addition to defunding scientific programs, the [Tony] Abbott government failed to appoint a science minister. We believe that this shows that the cuts to science are not simply about tight budgets. Rather, it shows an ideological position that government shouldn't be paying for scientific research.
“We believe that this is a mistake, because there are many types of research that are Australia specific, or don’t have a clear monetisation strategy. Patents don't protect basic science. If the government doesn't spend the money to pay for this basic science, the ultimate result is that this basic science simply won't be done.
“The CSIRO developed WiFi, which is now used daily by billions of people around the world, improving our quality of life and our productivity. Imagine if Abbott is cutting the next WiFi, the next big breakthrough.”
The predicted direct job losses in the public research sector conflict with the promise made by Abbott when he was Opposition Leader on August 25 last year, that if his party was elected, reductions in the number of public servants would come only from natural attrition.
The full extent of cuts to science and research were set to be revealed on May 13 with the rest of the federal budget.