The current government has slashed funding for major research initiatives in both the scientific and medical fields. Australia was once regarded as a nation of innovators and inventors, but an ill-judged change in priorities has seen many of our finest minds heading overseas. We have to take a long-term view when it comes to R&D, rather than seeing budgets in this area as targets of opportunity for times when public belt-tightening is politically fashionable.
Pure and applied research may often seem impractical, but the constant progress of scientific and medical discovery is an essential part of being ready for an uncertain and unpredictable future. Besides the many known problems that innovation and research has solved or is in the process of solving, it has been demonstrated again and again that a nation that invests in knowledge and discovery is a nation that is better defended against the unknown and unknowable problems of the future.
As for the known problems, it would be the height of silliness to choke off funding to alternative energy research given the current concerns about the environment, as well as the geostrategic configuration of the world in which we live.
Health and medical funding have also become casualties of short-sighted fiscal policies, which is especially sad in an area where we were once world pioneers.
Our slow and moribund attitude to technological development has alienated some of our best and brightest technology innovators. Faced with a lack of funding and an institutionalised lack of understanding, we have seen an increasing number of tech startups seeking friendlier conditions offshore.
Technological research and development should be focused into areas that have direct benefits for Australia, and the fruits of that research is best placed to benefit Australia when it is home-grown.
We need to start putting money back into Australian brain power so that we become one of the best environments in which to create. This will mean that we will be exporting great ideas, resources and innovative design to the whole world, and to the direct advantage of Australia and its people.