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Science In Australia

The Cause Of Science

This one came in from Pleiades, and I’d meant to post it up but I’ve been mightily distracted. It’s basically a rebuttal to all the people who run around with economic rationalist notions that science budgets should be cut.

There is a view in this country that too much thinking about the sort of Australia we want gets in the way of the “market signals” – the invisible rays that persuade 15 year olds to study physics, or not, that attract graduates into science teaching, or not; and convince the market to wear the risk of bold new ideas, or not.

It adds up to the message that she’ll be right. And it would be an easy message for a chief scientist to sell – if it wasn’t contradicted by the evidence.

Yes, logic says Australian businesses have an incentive to innovate. Three in five of them still say they don’t, while just one in five say that they have introduced new or significantly improved goods or services. Yes, all the research demonstrates that industry and researchers benefit from working together. Our record on collaboration is now one of the poorest in the OECD.

Yes, it makes sense to study a science at senior levels. Australian schools show a decline in the rates of participation in “science” subjects to close to the lowest level in 20 years.

If you really want an in-depth look, here is the actual recommendation tabled. I’ve spent most of my working career in the arts, and it still incenses me that this government has made very little provision to keep R&D going or for the CSIRO to continue doing the important things it does. I know the government wants to cut everything, but it’s clear they have been much too cavalier about the cuts they’ve made to science and technology. Starting from the disavowal of the NBN down, this government has been a disaster when it comes to developing anything cerebral as a future direction for this country. Instead they’ve fixated upon more roads.  That, and doing he bidding of whoever lobbies with the most dollars.

 

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Everybody Hates This Budget

Everybody Except Ballerinas

Who decided that out of all the arts practitioners that ballerinas in particular were the most hard done by and could not be cut any more? Who’s daughter or niece is studying to be a ballerina? Didn’t they think we’d notice that everybody in the sciences, arts and manufacturing gets funding cuts but the ballerinas are going to get a special scholarship fund for their boarding needs? Has there been a bigger joke and probable cause for investigating a conflict of interest than this item in this year’s budget?

But no, there won’t be a federal equivalent of an ICAC, so we may never know. I sure hope the findings in the NSW ICAC about this North Sydney Forum brings down Joe Hockey. Screw him and the tutu and shoes he came dancing into town with.

How Do The Nats Cope?
It struck me that the budget would hurt the rural base of the national Party as much, if not more than people in urban areas. Consider youth unemployment is higher in rural areas, so these cuts to the dole and changes in arrangements would affect more rural families than city ones. Making tertiary education more expensive adds a burden on to families that have to send their university student children to cities to board and study. If at the same time the Federal government is pulling 80billion from healthcare and education from the states, then clearly they’re more likely to feel the pinch when the State governments cut health and education in far flung rural areas before they cut in urban areas.

Which ever way you dice this, this budget is not good for the bush at all, and even if they built all these roads, it’s the sort of spending that is one-and-done with nothing to follow up. There’s really nothing in it that helps the bush at all, and so you wonder what exactly keeps the Nationals in the fold with the Liberals except for an extreme kind of social conservatism. Even then you wonder how much the bush can take of this before they say, “bugger the principles, we’re not going along with this crap”; It may already be happening because the amount of support given to a rogue national party member like Bob Katter teaming up with mining magnate Clive Palmer suggests the rural vote is already looking away from the Coalition in search of a better choice

I spoke to Pleiades today who tells me people on the backbench on the government side are hopping mad at Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott is putting it on the MPs to go and sell this to their electorates, but the MPs weren’t consulted about any of these radical changes. If it’s not a fiasco, it sure is a looming disaster.

OMG, A Medical Research Fund?

It’s pretty clear the current Libs have attitudes that date back to when Galileo started moving the earth and Darwin conjured humanity from monkeys. The thing that has Pleaides incensed is that this mob have come to power and shut down the environmental agencies, cutback the CSIRO, and research areas an starved science of funding in the name of budget surplus. They say it’s about the budget surplus, but actually they just don’t like science for embarrassing the church. Pretty soon they’ll be ramming (un)’Intelligent Design’ into the classroom and wanting to support the church through public funds – in fact they’re already paying for chaplains to be in schools.

These people don’t really believe in science. Think about that for a moment. They don’t even have a minister for science. Their vision for the future revolves around building roads and presumably keeping driving fossil fuel vehicles as if the world does not change. Not only are they in denial about Climate Change, they’re in denial that anything changes at all. so how much credibility is there when the very same people who have taken an axe to science turn around and say they are going to have a medical research fund?

It immediately begs the question qui bono  – who benefits? It’s no conspiracy. It has got to be the pharmaceutical companies who have been lobbying the government to keep their entitlements under the current medical entitlements even if the Australian people lose theirs. Oh that, and maybe Joe Hockey doesn’t want to die of an obscure cancer.

It will be too late to reach for your torches and pitchforks when they start giving out textbooks with humans and dinosaurs cavorting together. You heard it from me right here.

Captive To Idiocy

I know name-calling doesn’t help but it’s worth calling things by their proper name: The Liberal Party in Australia has transformed itself into the Conservative party and are decidedly Tory in their bearings. Just as with their overseas conservative counterparts, there’s nothing terribly liberal about this Liberal Party at all. It’s no coincidence that Tony Abbott wanted to bring back Knights and Dames. However when it comes to economic policy the only textbook they had to go on was the austerity practiced by the UK Conservatives and the sort of belt tightening imposed on Greece.

Of course, austrity has not worked at all, and Greece saw its economy shrink to such an extent that it ended up owning more money as against their GDP. The experience in the UK has been such that they couldn’t run austerity program enough to sustain infrastructure so they only half implemented it and mostly talked about doing it. The very notion that austerity would lead the economy back to health is built on the simple assumption that if government debt is reduced to zero and goes to surplus, the economy would once again be free to make capital investments.

It’s a lie. It’s stupid. And quite frankly it’s so wrong and stupid, it’s evil and a danger to society. And yet that’s our federal government

The problem with our economy and what has hindered our recovery is that people have not been able to deleverage their private debt from their peak in 2007. That’s it. Even if the Australian government went back to zero debt, as long as Australian households are in debt up to their eyeballs and Australian industry is in debt up to their eyeballs, there won’t be any more big capital expenditures in the wake of the mining boom subsiding. That’s really it in a nutshell.

But the desire of industry is always to privatise profits and socialise losses so to this end they lobby  governments for special treatment. In the current government we have a bunch of idiots who want to do exactly as the lobbyists ask, believing this is the remedy to a problem that does not actually exist, when in fact it utterly fails to address the problems that do exist. And if that’s not captive to idiocy it’s hard to imagine a better example.

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