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Liberal MP Dennis Jensen fires broadside at his government's medical research fund

A Liberal MP has blasted the Abbott government's defence and science policies – including the budget centrepiece of a $20 billion medical research fund.

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In a speech delivered in Parliament on Tuesday night, West Australian MP Dennis Jensen described the government's science policies as "foolish" and incoherent.

Dr Jensen, a former research scientist and defence analyst, criticised the government for cutting funding to the CSIRO and Australian Research Council while creating a medical research fund.

''There appears to be a lack of understanding of how science works,'' Dr Jensen said.

''Where is the coherent, co-ordinated approach to science policy?''


Dr Jensen said he had serious doubts about the details of the medical research fund.

''Is this funding to medical research going to be general, or specifically targeted at cancer, Alzheimer's and the like? How are we going to source those researchers?

''They don't grow on trees, and the training required is long and arduous, and very long lead times are required.

''What is this saying to those who might want to become mathematicians, physicists or chemists, hard sciences that are already in crisis?''

Dr Jensen said it was ''foolish to have such a policy disincentive, while at the same time massively incentivising medical research''.

Dr Jensen said the ''crisis'' in Australian science had been compounded by the lack of a dedicated science minister.

There appears to be a lack of understanding of how science works.

''I have been quiet on the lack of a science minister since I first criticised it when the ministry was announced, the first time we have had no science minister since 1931.

''I am bitterly disappointed that my fears have come to pass . . . No G8 nation has no dedicated science minister, and this bodes ill for our future.''

Dr Jensen also criticised cuts to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and lashed the government for spending $12 billion on 58 Joint Strike Fighters – a decision he had previously described as a "dud".

Dr Jensen said Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked him to provide a list of recommendations on improving Australia's science policies.

One of his recommendations, published on his website, include pushing back research into politically "hot" issues such as climate change.

''I know of researchers who are sceptical on the 'consensus' position [on climate change], but still use the 'key phrases' to enhance the probability of winning a research grant,'' he says.

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