The comments by Craig Kelly highlight how badly informed and myopic some politicians are. Firstly, he repeated refers to making Australia more competitive. What does this mean? It is an ill-defined concept. Funding research will attract the best researchers to your universities, which in turn will attract the best students and companies, tv documentary crews... the list goes on from the knock-on effects of funding research. If he thinks that only funding research into biomedical fields will work then he is putting all of his eggs in one basket. There is no guarantee that funding medical research will create new drugs that will cure cancer or any such 'important' disease. Granted, there is never a guarantee that any research will provide the expected or anticipated results, but by funding research in the pursuit of knowledge so many world changing discoveries have been made. For example, one of the guys who invented the laser at Bell Laboratories came home from work and told his wife that what he had invented had no useful purpose, but it has changed the world (there are a plethora of other examples).
He also lists multiple studies that he deems pointless. But many of these have immediate application to the modern world and the problems we are currently facing. This highlights the fact that more trained scientists need to become involved in politics. We all love our ivory towers, but when such poorly informed people are holding the purse strings and influencing policy our ability to build our beloved ivory towers diminishes. More scientist need to become involved in policy and help fund research that may not provide direct benefits now but may do in the future.
Link to comments by Craig Kelly