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Go8 Media Release: Mixed message from Government on research infrastructure funding

The Go8, which represents Australia’s leading research universities, has called upon the Australian Senate to block a third attempt by Government to shut down the Education Investment fund (EIF).

The $4 billion EIF is slated to be reallocated to support costs associate with the establishment of the Emergency Response Fund.

Go8 Chief Executive, Vicki Thomson said the EIF supported some of the nation’s most critical impact research programs and discoveries.

“First it was an attempted use of EIF funds to establish the Asset Recycling Fund. Then it was to boost insufficient NDIS funding. Now it is there apparently to assist fund the Emergency Response Bill.

“While the Go8 fully supports each of these programs and understands the competing priorities for Government funds, the fact remains that it is short sighted policy not to fund such vital programs as they should be and deserve to be.

“To instead attempt to utilise EIF monies to fill a funding gap is an error – especially when EIF is the very fund that assists conduct the essential research that can assist such programs,” she said.

“For instance, EIF investments have been essential to developing wheat varieties more resilient to weather variations and salt tolerant chickpea crops as well as developing tools that can guide how land use can optimally occur.”

It is also contradictory to shut down the very fund that will support the research infrastructure which will, in turn, support our emerging Space Industry.

“It is less than a week ago that the Prime Minister announced from Washington he would commit $150 million to the Australian Space Agency to develop technologies to be used in the US mission to land on the moon again in 2024,” she said. “The best results from that $150 million could be at risk if the EIF cannot support that research as it should.

“The Go8 has managed to halt the first two attempted plans to shut down the EIF fund and we are calling on the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee (which is inquiring into this issue) to exclude the abolition of the EIF from the current Emergency Response Legislation,” Ms Thomson said.

“While the Government’s latest investments in research infrastructure are welcome, they do not provide a clear avenue to fund urgent, unforeseen but necessary, and even major research infrastructure needs arising from the Government’s other decisions – such as the Space Industry.”

“It should also be noted that the plan to shut down EIF is directly contrary to the Government’s own commissioned independent advice from the Review of Research Infrastructure which placed the EIF – and its leveraging power to attract co-investment – at the centrepiece of a long-term, sustainable and well-premised funding solution for national research infrastructure.”

Contact:               Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 417 808 472