What do the Australian elections mean for science?


With the overthrow of a government and the election of around a dozen climate-focused MPs to Parliament, it would appear that climate change is front and center for voters in the voting booths.

Due to the counting of the ballots, it is still unclear whether Labor will be able to form a majority to govern on its own, or whether it must rely on the cross bench for support.

Anyway, what can we expect from the new government for climate and science? Here are the highlights.

Climate change

Labor presented a 2030 emissions target at the election that was significantly more ambitious than the Liberal-National Coalition: a 43% reduction in emissions, compared to a 26-28% reduction.

Such a reduction, however, is still incompatible with keeping global temperatures 1.5°C above pre-industrial averages, as widely agreed under the Paris Agreement. It should be at least 57%, depending on how emissions are counted. If the Labor Party target were to be embraced universally, temperatures would likely rise by 2°C.

The so-called “teal” independents associated with Climate Group 200, but also the Greens, have adopted reduction targets for 2030 of 60% and 75%, respectively. These two objectives are aligned with Paris, and the two group and the to party said they would push Labor to increase their ambition for 2030 if the PLA needed their support in the event of a hung parliament. The (expected) strong presence of the Greens in the Senate may also have an influence on this point.

Much of Labor’s emissions cuts will come from its Powering Australia plan, which includes $20 billion to upgrade and largely decarbonize the power grid. Ahead of the election, it committed $500 million for electric vehicle infrastructure and plans to lower electric vehicle costs with new subsidies.

“Australia has a window of opportunity to become a world leader in renewable energy generation, low and negative emissions technologies – but that window is fast closing,” said Hugh Bradlow, President of the Australian Academy. technology and engineering, in a statement. statement.

“We urge Australia’s new government to act now and not squander our renewable technology advantage, by implementing a comprehensive plan that moves to a net-zero emissions economy backed by regulation and incentives.”

Like its predecessor in government, the Labor Party has no intention of reducing the overseas export of mined fossil fuels.

Research funding

Labor backed research funding commitments from the former federal government, including a $1.6 billion research commercialization fund aimed at bringing university research into the industrial sphere.

“Ahead of the election, Labor pledged to pass legislation for the new $1.6 billion research commercialization fund, adopt a fixed timetable for research grant announcements and work with industry. and universities to boost Australia’s investment in research and development closer to 3% of GDP,” Science & Technology Australia chief executive Misha Schubert said in a statement.

“These are important commitments to strengthen Australia’s economy and society through science and technology capabilities.”

An Australian Universities Accord is also proposed to centralize and stabilize university funding and management policy.

Careers in STEM

work Made in Australiaand National Reconstruction Fund the plans both have important implications for STEM professionals in Australia.

The party aims to create 1.2 million jobs in tech sectors by 2030, including jobs in local manufacturing, and more apprenticeships and internships. The party also wants to provide 465,000 free TAFE places over the next decade and increase the number of university places.

Bradlow said: “Applied science, technology and engineering continue to help Australia through the pandemic, but we need a comprehensive plan that secures Australia’s sovereign capabilities and secures the future. economy of Australia.

“We will need 100,000 more digitally skilled workers by 2024 and 40,000 more engineers by 2025.”


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