blog Remember how as Communications Minister, in May 2014 Malcolm Turnbull completely chopped the funding for Australia’s peak ICT research agency, National ICT Australia (NICTA)? Remember how the Victorian Government did the same? Remember how the cuts forced NICTA to merge with the CSIRO, forming a new agency named Data61? Remember how Turnbull and then-Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane hailed that as a great result for everybody? Yeah, good times.
Well, maybe not such good times, considering that the moves — along with further cuts that chopped the CSIRO “to the bone” (according to its chairman) are still slated to result in several hundred jobs. It hasn’t precisely been a great time in Australia to be conducting foundational ICT research.
However, according to Financial Review correspondent Phillip Coorey — currently travelling with now Prime Minister Turnbull on an extensive overseas trip stopping off at Germany — Turnbull is set to reinstate the funding. Coorey reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“The decision to restore funding to National Information Communications Technology Australia, which has been renamed Data61 and merged with the CSIRO, has been driven by the Turnbull government’s emphasis on innovation and a commitment to be unveiled this weekend in Berlin to boost collaboration with Germany’s prestigious Fraunhofer Institute.”
There’s a few things to be noted here. Firstly … it is just not possible for Australian research to be carried out on this kind of basis. Research requires long-term funding stability. You cannot simply delete an organisation’s funding and replace it the next year, and expect to get a good outcome. The reality is that kind of instability is what kills good research projects. This kind of thing is why researchers and scientists have such a strong level of cynicism about politics.
And secondly … I note that, if Coorey is correct, Turnbull is not planning to replace all of NICTA’s funding — only about half of it, with the rationale being that the CSIRO is now covering NICTA’s admin costs. Well, I would guess that NICTA was not previously spending half of its budget on administration. So the pie is still not going to be the size it was prior to the 2014 Budget. This isn’t as good a story as we will be led to believe.
Image credit: Office of Malcolm Turnbull