[ASC-media] Media Release: A Nation Worth Defending

Control Publications science at control.com.au
Mon Mar 24 11:57:39 EST 2003

Monday 24 March

For Immediate Relase

A Nation Worth Defending

The Australian government is focusing on war at a time when Australia's
knowledge infrastructure is being allowed to decay. Writing in the April
edition of Australasian Science magazine, Dr Alex Reisner says the
³continuing neglect of our knowledge infrastructure will cost our children,
and theirs in turn, dearly².

Dr Reisner, a former CSIRO molecular biologist who founded the Australian
National Genomic Information Service (ANGIS), says that the decay began when
the states handed over financial responsibility for higher education to the
Commonwealth 30 years ago. ³The de facto repudiation of state responsibility
removes competition between them to cultivate the best,² he writes.

³The current government has exacerbated the decline in the quality of higher
education, and with it the relative standard of Australian science, by
reducing public support for universities in absolute terms.²

He says that while total national expenditure on R&D in Australia and Canada
was approximately 1.75% of GDP in the mid-1990s, by 2001 it was 1.54% and
1.93%, respectively. ³Canada¹s Chrétien government has set a target of 3% of
GDP to support R&D by 2010,² Dr Reisner says, while ³support for Australia¹s
R&D sector will decline to 1.39% of GDP by 2005­06².

³The most serious concern,² Dr Reisner says, ³is what appears to be
self-delusion on the part not only of the Minister for Education, Science &
Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, but the Cabinet as a whole over what
constitutes an outstanding national system of higher education and the nexus
between basic and applied research, teaching and the welfare of the nation.

³Between 1995 and 2001 the government grant to higher education relative to
average weekly earnings decreased by $535 million per annum.²

Dr Reisner¹s comments are published in conScience, the newsmaking column in
Australasian Science magazine in which scientists express forthright views
on national issues.

Please cite AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE as the source of this story.

Dr Reisner can be contacted on (02) 9909 8305.
For the full text and for permission to reproduce the entire article (700
words), call the Editor, Guy Nolch, on (03) 9500 0015. A recent colour
photograph of Dr Reisner is available.

Guy Nolch
Editor, Australasian Science
Control Publications Pty Ltd
PO Box 2155
Wattletree Rd PO  VIC 3145

Phone (03) 9500 0015
Fax (03) 9500 0255
Web: control.com.au
ABN 46 006 591 304

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