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Thursday, 6 March 2003
Page: 9494


Senator Brown asked the Ministers representing the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 7 January 2003:

With reference to the priority goals for research announced by the Prime Minister:

(1) (a) Which technologies are included in the goal of `reducing and capturing emissions in transport and energy generation'; (b) specifically, are the following renewable energy technologies included: photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, hydrogen; and (c) are any renewable energy technologies excluded, in particular, those which do not result in the generation of power but replace power generation.

(2) (a) What range of activities is included in `capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide'; and (b) does it include biological sequestration such as in old-growth forests and geological sequestration.

(3) What was the recommendation of the expert advisory committee chaired by Dr Jim Peacock.

(4) Why is it that `capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide' is specifically mentioned but renewable energy and energy efficiency are not.

(5) (a) What decisions have so far been influenced by the national research priorities; and (b) what guidelines or other information were given to the decision-makers in interpreting the priorities.


Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question on behalf of the Prime Minister and other ministers:

(1) (a) (b) (c); (2) (a) (b); and (4)

The Government has avoided an overly prescriptive approach to implementing national research priorities, and has not specified narrow areas of research that may be addressed through the priorities initiative. Designating narrow fields of research endeavour would be an attempt to “pick winners” and could constrain research in promising areas in the longer term. Instead, the Government has provided Commonwealth research and research funding agencies with considerable flexibility to respond to the priorities initiative, in accordance with their specific mandate or mission. The agencies will be expected, however, to explore ways to achieve a significant increase in research effort in priority areas, including by way of enhanced collaboration, and to describe how these strategies will add value to existing activities. Agencies will identify performance measures to enable the impact of the national research priorities initiative to be assessed.

The Government's national research priority of An environmentally sustainable Australia has six accompanying `priority goals'. The fourth of these, Reducing and capturing emissions in transport and energy generation, is about performing research which will enable Australia to develop cleaner and more efficient fuels and energy sources.

(3) The committee recommended a range of thematic priorities and priority goals based on assessment of submissions received from the public consultation process.

(5) (a) No Commonwealth government funding decisions have been influenced to date by the priorities initiative. Individual Commonwealth agencies are required to take into account the research priorities and have been tasked to develop implementation plans by May 2003.

(b) Information about the priority areas and implementation arrangements was published on the website of the Department of Education, Science and Training, at the time of the announcement, at http://www.dest.gov.au/priorities/guidance_implementation.htm. Related information was also forwarded to relevant Ministers and to the management boards of the research agencies in the portfolio of the Minister for Science.