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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1502

Mrs MIRABELLA (12:41 PM) —I rise to speak about the government’s callous disregard for innovation, industry and science policy. I do so after being given another extraordinary insight into the embattled minister’s approach—or, should I say, lack of approach—in Senate estimates yesterday. We heard that a chief scientist who was appointed specifically to advise the Prime Minister has apparently never even met her and that she had only ever met the previous Prime Minister once. We found out that a science minister, who used to be a school teacher, no less, does not know or care about the impending axing of two critical school science education programs. We also learnt that Senator Carr has not had a single conversation with the administrator of REDgroup Retail and has not even bothered to appropriately inform himself about the potential closure of 195 Borders and Angus and Robertson stores nationwide—and with them of course thousands of jobs of hardworking Australians. He thinks these issues have, in his own words ‘bugger-all’ to do with him. It was also confirmed yesterday that the government broke a whole series of promises and signed commitments to the car industry and has serious holes in its figures on the Green Car Innovation Fund—and all of this is before we even get to the woeful record on manufacturing policy and the highly misguided attempts to make massive cuts to support for Australian research and development.

On Senator Carr’s dizzying succession of contradictions in his time in the job, quite a poor record is there for all to see. But he slipped under the radar a bit. He has boasted about increasing spending on his portfolio, but he ripped out billions of dollars in January, admitting that he will be hauling a whole lot more out of his portfolio in this year’s budget. He said he was not interested in giving money to projects that would have occurred without government support anyway. But almost before the words had left his lips, he gave $35 million to Toyota, who admitted they had no idea how to use it, and sank another $120 million into a program called the Green Building Fund, which operates almost entirely on that basis. He also tried to fool Australians that his ridiculous, absolutely absurd cash-for-clunkers scheme would ‘change the way Australians lived, worked and travelled’—what a joke!—and then he set his department on the futile task of figuring out how it would work, before ultimately clambering away from the wreckage of it altogether, six months down the track.

And how about the minister’s railing against the coalition’s proposal to reduce money from the Green Car Innovation Fund by saying that it showed Tony Abbott was unworthy to be and supposedly did not have the judgment to be PM. He was shown up as the ineffective minister that he is—and the government too for its hypocrisy—when the Labor Party finally acknowledged that this was a wasteful fund and doubled the cuts to this program. So by Senator Carr’s own analysis, Ms Gillard should be twice as unworthy to be Prime Minister. It is very rich for the minister to go out there and try to bully industries and those who try to highlight these deficiencies. Also, it is really to his own side that he should look, because it appears the executive and the Prime Minister are making decisions without regard for the minister and that is causing a lot of embarrassment and contradictions in the portfolio.

This minister is so bad that he has even been the subject of stinging public criticism from his own expert adviser—Terry Cutler. Indeed, the belligerent incoherence he brings to the portfolio area is something that we on this side of the House do not support. To adopt a backwards, defensive, interventionist philosophy when it comes to innovation is not what the coalition is all about, and I want to make it clear that business and science should expect from us not central dictates from a belligerent, bullying minister but sensible policy that recognises they know best how to direct policy in their field. Unfortunately, there are more holes in Labor’s policy on innovation, industry and science than in a block of Swiss cheese. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—I would mention to the honourable member for Indi the provisions of standing order 64, which would require her to refer to the Prime Minister by her title.