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Labour science policy: pillar of knowledge economy

Labour
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Labour's science policy, released today, is a pillar of the party's plans for developing the knowledge economy, says Labour science spokesperson Mark Peck.

"Labour in government will set out to strengthen New Zealand science in five key ways," Mr Peck says.

"Labour will tackle the problem of science funding. We will act to boost the status and morale of the profession. We will encourage school leavers to enter the science sector. We will encourage a greater private sector commitment to research and development, and we will remind those getting public funding for science of their responsibility to conduct research for the public good.

"Labour's key commitment is to raise public funding of science to 0.8% of gross domestic product by 2010. This is the target National set for itself in 1996 but then abandoned, much to the dismay of the scientific community. Recent Budgets have fallen well short of the funding levels that would see New Zealand reach that target. Labour's commitment is a substantial one that the science sector will welcome.

"To boost morale in the sciences and their public status, Labour will establish a Science and Innovation Council reporting directly to the Prime Minister. This will give a clear indication to the sector that Labour takes science and scientists seriously. With the help of the council we will tackle any infrastructural changes necessary to rebuild the scientific intellectual capital New Zealand needs for an economy based on added-value processing and advanced technologies.

"Labour has a mix of policy initiatives to encourage school leavers to enter science. They include attracting more quality teachers, which is part of our schools policy, ensuring that technology is used more in primary and secondary education, and presenting science as an attractive option for young people through support for science centres, roadshows and competitions.

"Labour expects its stronger public contribution to science funding, along with its industry policy commitment to a friendlier tax regime for research and development, to provide the incentive for increased private sector investment in research and development. New Zealand lags behind most of the world's developed nations in this respect, even when one acknowledges the lack of a New Zealand defence research industry and pharmaceutical industry.

"Finally, while accepting the need for Crown Research Institutes to maximise their commercial opportunities, Labour's policy reminds CRIs of their core obligation to serve the public interest. We are not interested in the re-naming and re-branding exercises some want to embark on. Labour is more interested in seeing government science funding used to add economic value and develop new technologies."

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