Election 2016: Labor pledges $1.2b to repair Australia's science
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Election 2016: Labor pledges $1.2b to repair Australia's science

A Shorten government would spend an additional $1.2 billion over four years on science and research to restore part of the $3 billion taken out by the Abbott-Turnbull governments, says Kim Carr, the opposition's science spokesman.

The funding, which includes an already announced promise to invest $250 million to reverse cuts to the CSIRO, would also include $76.9 million for a new biosecurity institute to bolster research programs that are about to run out of funding.

While the Turnbull government had promised to spend $1 billion more on innovation, that doesn't counter the "wrecking ball" put through the nation's key science programs since 2013, Senator Carr said.

The Labor plan would make biosecurity an urgent priority with the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre due to close at the end of the 2016-17 financial year. The centre with its 27 members is currently ineligible to apply for more funds. The Plant Biosecurity CRC is also due to wind up a year later.

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Labor has promised to set up a new biosecurity research centre.

Labor has promised to set up a new biosecurity research centre.Credit: Phil Doyle/Fairfax Media

Plant and animal production in Australia is worth more than $53 billion a year with 280,000 people employed. Invasive weeds and animals cost the sector about $5 billion annually, Labor said.

Labor would also aim to invest $180 million over 10 years to deliver two more rounds of CRC funding, including $39 million for the coming four years.

The funds would support six new CRCs each for 10 years, with a restoration of the public-good criteria that has been ditched as part of $107 million stripped from CRCs. Non-commercial applications could include national security and public health agencies, Labor said.

"Labor will reverse the savage cuts to university research funding that were part of [Science Minister] Christopher Pyne's infamous "fix" – restoring block grant funding and reducing the pressure to use student fees to pay for research," the ALP said.

Hillary Cherry, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service weeds management officer, rewards her weed detection dog Sally, at Namadgi National Park.

Hillary Cherry, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service weeds management officer, rewards her weed detection dog Sally, at Namadgi National Park.Credit:Jay Cronan

The Industrial Transformation Research Program, introduced by the previous Labor government, would get also funding for at least four additional research hubs, Senator Carr said.

Labor on Sunday announced the CSIRO would be a major beneficiary of extra funds in a bid to restore $115 million stripped in the 2014 Abbott budget.

Senator Kim Carr says the Abbott-Turnbull governments had taken a 'wrecking ball' to Australian science.

Senator Kim Carr says the Abbott-Turnbull governments had taken a 'wrecking ball' to Australian science.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The opposition wants to pour $50 million more into the agency to help it study how to address the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as $250 million to reverse the cuts of at least 275 CSIRO staff.

Other investments include $60.4 million for a new research vessel for the Australian Institute of Marine Science to be built in an Australian shipyard and $31.7 million to help establish an Australian Tropical Marine and Aquaculture Centre in North Queensland.

John Church, a senior climate scientist specialising in sea-level change, was among those told his research was no longer needed at the CSIRO.

John Church, a senior climate scientist specialising in sea-level change, was among those told his research was no longer needed at the CSIRO.

Peter Hannam is Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He covers broad environmental issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy for Fairfax Media.

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