Our comments are made in relation to the clauses of the Emergency Response Fund Bill 2019 and the Emergency Response Fund (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019 that give effect to the closure of the Education Investment Fund.
Australians are resilient. Our communities battle bushfire, drought, cyclones and other natural disasters with courage, and Australians rally to help those communities recover from emergencies and disasters with compassion and generosity. Government plays a crucial role, standing with communities and providing support as they respond and recover from emergencies. Universities Australia supports this role of Government.
However, Universities Australia argues that a mature country such as Australia can and does support multiple priorities. Ensuring Australia has the infrastructure to enable quality research and education is amongst those priorities.
As an advanced nation we should be able to invest in both research infrastructure that helps us understand and address emergencies, as well as an emergency response fund. The world-leading research supported by EIF infrastructure includes work on climate change, natural disasters and human behaviour — all of which are vital to successful emergency responses. University research can help Australia tackle the cause of natural disasters.
Closure of the Education Investment Fund (EIF) would abolish the last remaining program to fund the development and refurbishment of critical research and teaching infrastructure in the tertiary education sector.
Australia needs a long-term, strategic fund for investing in education and research. While ad hoc allocations have been welcome while the EIF has been frozen, they are not a reliable basis on which to build and maintain infrastructure for the world-class post-secondary system Australians deserve.