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More than half of Australian universities and colleges are under threat of losing funding, with the Commonwealth government promising to slash funding for science and technology over the next three years.
But there’s hope for some research in some of the most marginalised areas of the country.
As we prepare to hit the holidays, we spoke to some of those on the frontline of the science crisis, and asked them how the future is looking.
What’s the science?
The science in Australia is a mess.
It’s the world’s most developed economy, but we’re also one of the least developed.
We have the most advanced technology in the world, yet our research is not recognised by the industry.
The reality is that our science is being left behind.
The current budget of $30 billion over three years is the biggest ever cut in Australia’s science budget, and that’s only for basic science, such as climate change, astronomy and geography.
What does the budget mean for universities?
We are losing money at the moment.
There’s no doubt that the budget cuts are hurting universities, particularly the quality of research that’s happening, because the money that’s going into university is not going into anything like the quality research that needs to happen in order to make us competitive in a global market.
But universities have to survive and compete.
It is in our best interest to make sure that we continue to invest in research.
It means funding research in areas where it’s needed, and in the areas where we are already performing well.
What does the science mean to you?
We spend a lot of money on science education, and we need to make it as easy as possible for students to access the information that’s in front of them.
But we’re not doing enough to educate our students in the right way.
And when you do that, it means that they don’t have the opportunity to engage with the world.
What’s the next big question?
Is science an art form?
Science is an artform, but is it a profession?
There is some art to science, but the fact that the arts are not the focus of science is a huge impediment to it.
We need to ensure that science is seen as a profession and that people are able to get the training that they need to get a job as a scientist.
But in terms of science itself, I think it’s very much an art.
It can be very technical, but there’s a very powerful emotional component to it, as well.
What are some of your concerns about science funding?
There’s a lot that goes into funding science, and I think that we need some of it put into something more meaningful, because there’s no question that it is going to be a challenge in the future to do anything that we’re doing with the money we have.
But it’s important to remember that this is an era where Australia has been able to compete on a global scale.
Where we’ve had to develop and make our own technologies and innovations.
We’ve had more than a century of scientific innovation, and if we don’t invest in science and innovation, we’re just going to have more of the same.
What do you think is the most pressing issue for Australia?
We’ve got a lot to do in the next four years.
I think the biggest challenge is climate change.
But we need a lot more science investment to address this problem, and then to have a sustainable economy that’s resilient to climate change is going be really important.
What is the Australian public saying about climate change?
The current climate is very, very, pretty.
We’re going to get into a period where we have to really start thinking about the way we live, the way that we work, the ways that we feed ourselves, and the way in which we live together.
But that’s the reality of the climate we live in.
We’ve been doing a lot in the last couple of years on climate change mitigation, but it’s not going to solve the problem.
We’ll still be here.
The problem is going into another century.
What would you do to address climate change if elected?
We need to act.
I’m a strong believer in climate change action.
We should be looking at climate change as a major problem, because it is a serious threat to our future.
But also because it’s a problem that is very much going to impact on our own lives and our futures.
What role do you see Australia playing in the international community?
Australia’s not in the same place as other countries.
We don’t participate in international negotiations.
We haven’t got the capacity to lead on climate policy.
We’re not the only people that are getting climate change right now.
We were one of only three countries to sign the Paris agreement in 2020.
We did sign the Clean Development Mechanism in 2021, and now we’re moving forward with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Australia has a very big voice in the global