Labor to launch 'root and branch' review of research

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Labor says it will establish a comprehensive 'root and branch' review of research in Australia if it wins the next federal election.

In a joint statement, leader Bill Shorten and shadow innovation and industry minister Senator Kim Carr said an elected Labor government will aim to "put science back at the centre of government, by resetting the relationship between government and Australia’s science and research community."

They committed to develop a charter with the science and research community "to establish the reciprocal roles, responsibilities and expectations of government and researchers."

They also committed to lifting Australian spending on R&D from 1.8 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent. 

Mr Shorten and Senator Carr said an elected Labor government would establish a "once in a generation, root-and-branch inquiry into strengthening our research capabilities across the whole of government."

"Australia needs a new direction for science and research that brings scientists together instead of dividing their efforts," they said, adding the names of leading Australian scientists already committed to being part of the review.

It will be led by the former chief scientist and former vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Chubb AC.

Professor Chubb is a member of the Medicines Australia advisory council.

The advisory council, comprised of industry and non-industry members, was announced in 2016 following a review initiated by the association's Board with the purpose of providing advice on long-term issues facing the sector.

Labor said other members of its review panel will include:

  • Professor Christobel Saunders AO FRCS FRACS FAAHMS;
  • Professor Emma Johnston AO FRSN;
  • Professor Andrew Holmes AC FRS FAA FTSE;
  • Professor Karen Hussey;
  • Mr Phil Clark AM; and,
  • Professor Glyn Davis AC FASSA FIIPA.

It said additional members will be announced in due course.

Labor also committed to creating a Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Innovation.

"Under Labor, the Council will be responsible for providing advice to the Prime Minister and other Ministers on the implications of science, research, engineering and technology issues in the Australian context," says a fact sheet on the policy.

"It will advise a Shorten Labor Government on a strategic and whole-of-government approach to all aspects of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and innovation.

"Membership of the Council will be the Prime Minister (Chair), a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for Science (deputy Chair), the Minister for Education and Training, the Minister for Health, Australia's Chief Scientist (Executive Officer), five eminent and practicing scientists, social scientists or science educators (including at least one with a humanities or social sciences background), and four eminent business representatives."