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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10197


Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (11:04): As a primary school child in the early 1980s I lived in Waterfall, 15 minutes down the road from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. It was the time of the Cold War, and anything with the word 'nuclear' in the name sent chills down the spine of the typical child, but my father was always at pains to emphasise to me that Lucas Heights was doing the kind of nuclear production that was important for building a civilised and healthy society. As Senator Carr pointed out in the other place, some of those who criticise nuclear research fail to acknowledge its presence in smoke detectors and in dials that we use in our clocks.

Every week ANSTO delivers 10,000 patient doses of potentially life-saving nuclear medicines to over 250 hospitals and medical facilities across Australia. As Senator Carr puts it, ANSTO is 'one of the jewels in the crown of the Australian innovation system'. The Sydney campus, the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, the Melbourne campus and the Australian Synchrotron are vitally important research facilities. ANSTO has been expanding activities in the Sydney campus by including a nuclear medicine plant, which has tripled the production of molybdenum-99, of which there is a world-wide shortage. The aim is to develop the campus into a major national innovation precinct. The notion of innovation precincts was announced in 2011 under Labor. It was then formalised as part of the 2012 Australian jobs plan. Labor is pleased to see the government continuing this principle of innovation precincts.

This Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Amendment Bill 2017 is necessary because the legislation governing ANSTO currently unduly restricts the scope and potential of the precinct. The bill overcomes this by allowing ANSTO to share its knowledge, expertise, facilities and property with other entities. Those entities don't need to have a direct involvement in nuclear science or technology, and the bill broadens the definition of 'scientific research, innovation and training' in the ANSTO act so they are not restricted to nuclear science and technology. The precinct will include a graduate institute that will provide research training for up to 400 post-graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in Sydney and Melbourne. ANSTO will be better able to collaborate with industry, universities and other publicly funded research agencies. That kind of collaboration was promoted by Labor in government and, accordingly, Labor supports this bill.

When one looks at international rankings of innovation and commercialisation, Australia is about on par with other OECD countries for our public expenditure on research. But where we often fall down is on public/private collaboration. The extent to which Australian businesses create new-to-the-world innovations and engage with research institutes is short of that in many other countries, and this initiative is one way in which we might continue to encourage that cooperation. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.