Friday, 13 March 2015

Pyne goes feral and threatens scientists

The education minister, Christopher Pyne, has denied it was a mistake to tie a crucial $150m research funding extension to the fate of the government’s controversial higher education package.
Pyne said the Senate would debate the proposed deregulation of university fees from Monday to Wednesday next week and then vote on the package.
“We will get a decision one way or the other next week about whether the Senate is prepared to allow universities to be deregulated, provide more opportunity for tens of thousands of more students, make our universities the best higher education system in the world with some of the best universities in the world or not,” he said.
But the government is facing mounting criticism over its decision to insist that senators must pass the bill to enable to government to provide a one year-funding extension to the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).
Australia’s chief scientist, Ian Chubb, said this week that it was “a pity” the government had linked the two issues, while the Group of Eight universities warned that the imminent expiry of NCRIS programs “would cripple breakthrough research”.
The treasurer, Joe Hockey, appeared to hint on Wednesday that the government could consider shifting its stance, when he was asked directly about comments by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt that NCRIS facilities would have to start letting staff go within weeks.
“Well, it has been raised with myself, with my colleagues, by the minister for education,” Hockey told the ABC on Wednesday.
NCRIS is not specifically mentioned in the contentious higher education bill that the Senate will debate next week. The passage of the bill remains uncertain, but calculations have been complicated by the fracturing of the Palmer United party (PUP).
The PUP’s Senate leader, Glenn Lazarus, who had been a vocal critic of the deregulation bill and associated cuts to course subsidies, announced on Friday he was quitting the party to serve out the rest of his term as an independent.
The government requires support from six of the eight crossbench senators to pass the bill.

Labor’s higher education spokesman, Kim Carr, called on the government “to quit bullying the research sector and the Senate crossbench”.
“The science community and the business community are telling the government loud and clear that their reckless blackmail is putting at risk the very basis of Australia’s future as an innovation economy,” Senator Carr said.

Extract from The Guardian

Since writing this post the cross bench members of the senate have come out swinging! 

Newly independent senator Glenn Lazarus labelled it "blackmail".

"Australians should be angry that the Abbott Government is threatening to hurt people by cutting more jobs, including research and scientific positions, in order to try and blackmail the Senate into supporting deregulation," he said in a statement.

"This is disgusting behaviour and demonstrates the appalling ethics of this Government."

Another independent senator, Jacqui Lambie, who is in hospital, said she would "move heaven and earth to be in the chamber ... to vote against Pyne's vile legislation, even if it means being hooked up to a drip".

"Mr Pyne will need more than just a Kleenex I offered him at the start of this debate for the political pain I'm about to cause him," she said.

"He may need a dose of the intravenous antibiotic I've been on."

Another key crossbencher Nick Xenophon said scientific research cuts would turn Australia into a "dumb country" and send some of the nation's best scientists overseas.

"I just can't believe that Christopher Pyne is holding 1,700 scientists hostage to this policy," he said.

"This is not the way to negotiate with the Senate, it is reckless, it is irresponsible."

But Mr Pyne said he was confident of a breakthrough.-we'll see later this week.


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