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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1463

Senator RONALDSON (2:04 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr, and I will go through it slowly so he can find his brief. Does the minister recall, when announcing the government’s Review of the National Innovation System by an expert panel in January 2008, saying:

… to fulfil our potential we must embrace innovation.

Does he also recall saying that the panel chair, CSIRO director Dr Terry Cutler, is:

… a highly regarded expert on innovation and industry policy.

Further, does he also recall saying on releasing an innovation review paper in September 2008—that is over two years ago:

I want to thank Dr Cutler … The report provides clear direction for action.

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I do recall saying those things, and I also recall that the government brought down a white paper entitled Powering ideas: an innovation agenda for the 21st century, which outlined the largest increase in expenditure in science and research on record. I recall that we brought down a program of measures which actually made up for the extraordinary neglect that we had seen under the Howard government in regard to innovation, science research and industry policy. Dr Cutler, along with a panel of experts, produced a report for us that was able to provide advice to us on a range of matters, including support for the research and development taxation credit, a measure which I understand is to be discussed in the House of Representatives if not today, very shortly. It is a measure which will produce results that will double the level of support for small business and increase by one-third the level of support for large business for research and development, a measure which the opposition is opposing. Like so many other parts of our innovation agenda, the opposition has opposed it because the opposition is essentially made up of people who do not want to support an innovative Australia and who do not want to support the substantive transformational change that is required if we are to bring forward this country, to ensure that we are to maintain living standards and to ensure that Australia remains at the top of the game rather than at the bottom. Our approach is essentially all about that—making sure that Australia is able to go to the top in terms of value adding rather than going to the bottom as occurred under the coalition’s policies. (Time expired)

Senator RONALDSON —I thank the minister for the spin. We might get back to the substance. Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister now tell me how he responds to Dr Cutler’s scathing assessment that a ‘dismal silence’ now surrounds the Gillard government’s approach and ‘dust accumulates’ on his review report; that ‘good policy design has remained more observed in the preaching than the practice’; that the government’s attitude to R&D policy resembles ‘disembodied theory’— (Time expired)

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —There was no question there, but I understand the intent of the senator’s remarks. It goes to the issue of the disembowelment of research and development in this country. The only people who are in the business of disembowelling research and development in this country are those in the coalition. It is the coalition that is opposing our research and development tax initiatives. It is the coalition that is opposing the measures we are taking to actually double the level of support for small and medium sized business in this country. It is the coalition that has rejected, sight unseen, legislation that would ensure that large businesses had increases of one-third in their support. It is the coalition that has not offered one constructive suggestion about how we can improve our innovation efforts in this country. In fact, what we have seen is a coalition determined to oppose for opposition’s sake. (Time expired)

Senator RONALDSON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is it the case that, while Dr Cutler’s 2008 report provided ‘clear direction for action’, you, Minister, and your government have completely and utterly lost your way, you have no agenda and you have completely lost the plot in relation to good policy?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —The government’s white paper Powering ideas: an innovation agenda for the 21st century—a paper which, I would suggest to you, Senator, it would also be helpful that, if you ask a question like this, you actually read—outlined quite an extraordinary array of measures: the largest innovation agenda this country has seen since records began. We have of course seen no action from the opposition on these things. We have an opposition spokesperson on innovation who does not understand the meaning of the word and has made no effort whatsoever to get her head around the issues involved with this portfolio. In fact, what we see from the opposition is opposition for opposition’s sake—a Leader of the Opposition who has opposed everything, supports nothing and is in a state of despair since he lost the last election.