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Media release: 2022 Federal Budget – nothing yet absolutely everything to do with quality universities

March 29, 2022

The successful delivery of major initiatives in the 2022 Federal Budget can only be underscored by the contribution that will be needed from the nation’s research-intensive universities. Government ignores that at their peril.

Group of Eight (Go8) universities undertake 70 per cent of Australian university research activity and graduate 110,000 students each year. This includes more than 60 per cent of medical and 42 per cent of engineering graduates.

Go8 Chief executive Vicki Thomson said almost all the major initiatives announced in the Budget will require robust and well-funded universities to educate the graduates required.

“Change is critical and required at speed. It is our gradates and our research and innovation which will, for example, ensure the Hells Gate dam is delivered for Queensland, or that AUKUS becomes a reality.”

Ms Thomson said that in many ways, while it can superficially appear this Budget overlooks universities, it will rely on the quality of Australia’s universities (and our education partners in TAFE).   

“The Go8 is core to Australian capacity and sovereign capability now and into the future because the services they provide underpin the professional workforce and knowledge needs of a prosperous 21st century economy. There is no point announcing key infrastructure and defence projects without adequate consideration being given to who and what mix of skills is required so they can be delivered.

“We will not be building new opportunities and productivity without world class research and innovation.

“The Go8 is therefore proposing that an incoming Government adopt a Sovereign Capability Charter to ensure essential current and future skills, supply chains and research capacity are all accounted for before public announcement, within the financial and timeline parameters for major infrastructure projects from future   Governments.

“As Industry well knows, Australia is already facing skills shortages in a number of areas central to the Government’s growth agenda: engineering, professional services, health, AI, cybersecurity, logistics and procurement. 

Supporting high-quality, research-intensive universities means supporting Australia’s engineering workforce, its medical workforce, its technology workforce, its research capability and its capacity to engage with emerging and developing industries.”

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155


Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has estimated that labour workforce needs will be at 140 per cent of current levels by the end of 2023 for rail; 195 per cent of current levels by the end of 2024 for social infrastructure; 150 per cent by the end of 2024 for roads; and a staggering 260 per cent of current levels by the end of 2023 for general infrastructure if it is to deliver on major projects already in the pipeline.[1]

The Go8 estimates that the successful delivery of proposed significant infrastructure projects* will require, at a minimum:

  • Double the current numbers of domestic engineering graduates to meet industry needs. Securing the Future of Australia’s Engineering Workforce report and recommendations (here)
  •  Significant increase in domestically trained medical graduates, equipped in the latest developments such as in emergency medicine and the use of mRNA vaccines;
  • Graduates in fields allied to the development of nuclear submarine capability, such as technicians, engineers, specialist regulators, specialist health and safety officers to ensure the safety and efficiency of the new industry and facilities;
  • Specialist workers able to drive development and uptake in the digital economy, such as AI experts, data analysts, data scientists and cyber security experts; and
  • High quality researchers, to ensure the Australian workforce at the cutting edge of industry developments., whether developed here or overseas.

The adoption of a Sovereign Capability Charter will ensure Australia can meet the workforce requirements necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex, technology-driven and rapidly moving international environment.

NOTE* Significant upcoming infrastructure projects:

  • Hells Gate Dam: $5.4 billion over 12 years to build a dam in North Queensland to deliver water security to the region.
  • Urannah Dam: $483 million towards the construction of the proposed Urannah Dam in Queensland.
  • Large-Vessel Dry Berth: $4.3 billion to enable the construction and sustainment of large naval vessels in Western Australia.
  • Natural Gas: $50.3 million for seven priority natural gas projects for early works support.
  • Future Navy Submarine Base: Over $10 billion to support the Future Navy Submarine Base to be built on the east coast of Australia to support the new nuclear-powered submarines.
  • Upgrade of ADF bases: $875 million over the next financial year to upgrade bases including ports, barracks and training areas and airfields.
  • mRNA Manufacturing Facility: Agreement with Moderna to secure the manufacture of up to 100 million Australian made mRNA doses each year and hundreds of manufacturing jobs. It will also make Australia a critical regional hub for mRNA technology development and production, bolstering our local biotechnology sector.

[1] https://infrastructure.org.au/chart_centre/pipeline-forecast-by-labour-demand/