Go8 Submission on the Nation-Building Funds Repeal (National Disability Insurance Scheme) Bill 2017

14 Sep 2017
The Group of Eight (Go8) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Committee on behalf of its members who may also make individual submissions.

The Go8 represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, accounting for over two-thirds of Australian university research activity, spending around $6 billion per year on research with the Go8 investing $3.2 billion annually in applied research and experimental development. Go8 research has resulted in significant innovations with social, commercial and health applications including the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, the Cochlear implant to assist the hearing impaired, SNAP technology vital to anti-terrorism airport surveillance and the Nanopatch to painlessly deliver and efficiently store vaccine doses.

The Nation-Building Funds Repeal (National Disability Insurance Scheme) Bill 2017 seeks to repeal the Nation-Building Funds Act 2008, and thereby abolishes the Education Investment Fund (EIF).

Importantly and upfront, it should be noted that the Go8 unambiguously supports the creation of the landmark National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), however proposals to part fund the Scheme by using funds earmarked for critical research infrastructure are short-sighted.

The EIF has been deliberately positioned by successive governments to assist research, something the government claims is at the heart of our economic future and, whilst we absolutely agree that the NDIS should be funded adequately, using EIF monies is not appropriate.

The fact is that if you damage research, you damage not only the research-driven medical and other advances that could prevent or alleviate permanent impairment but indeed the economy which sustains many of the critical services we wish to have available in the long term.

Recommendations
  1. That the Committee recommend that the Nation-building Funds Repeal (National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding) Bill 2017 be amended to exclude the abolition of the EIF and to include provision for new legislation that quarantines the EIF monies to fund both capital and operational costs of national research infrastructure over the long-term. 
  2. That the Committee note the significant contribution the EIF has made to Australian research and discovery, to changing the lives of Australians including through driving novel and ground-breaking solutions and enabling economic recovery and growth.
  3. That the Committee find that the intent of the Nation-building Funds Repeal (National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding) Bill 2017 to close the EIF and pave the way to redivert its funds is counterproductive and contrary to the intent of budget savings and long term insurance for the nation. 

Key points

  1. The Go8 considers the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) if effectively implemented to be an important step change in how future governments, and indeed we as a society, can improve the services to and facility of life for those of our community adversely affected by disability and permanent impairment. The Go8 strongly supports the appropriate and effective funding of the NDIS.
  2. However, Governments have choices in how to fund such landmark schemes. The Go8 contends that the Government can exercise its option not to use the remaining EIF funds for this purpose, in view of the devastating impact the loss of the EIF will have on the nation’s research capability. The use of EIF, conversely, to alleviate the cost of the NDIS can only have a temporary, short-term and relatively insignificant impact on the scheme’s budget.
  3. While recognising the EIF was originally purposed for and has also supported significant infrastructure projects for higher education and vocational education and training, the Go8’s primary concern is with the proposed loss of EIF monies as a future funding source for urgent renewal of vital, enabling research infrastructure .
  4. The Government’s intentions are in direct opposition to independent advice it commissioned, but has not yet formally responded to. That advice, from the Review of Research Infrastructure, places 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.
  5. Arguments are for the utility and benefits to the nation of the EIF in funding research infrastructure. The EIF has enabled research that has saved lives, enhanced lifestyles and ensured the survival of key economic sectors by modernising and making them more productive. It has created jobs and its benefits have flowed through local economies.
  6. Our international competitiveness and reputation in higher education provision and as a research nation will be placed at risk. Benefits to industry, the Government’s Industry portfolio and innovation agenda, and other functions and priorities of government will be compromised.
  7. The loss of the EIF will significantly further compromise the higher education sector if compounded by the cuts to university funding proposed under the Government’s Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017.
To read whole submission, please download PDF version below.