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Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Page: 5159

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaDeputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (12:32): I rise to comment briefly on the government amendment relating to quarterly payments. This came up in the roundtable and the Greens were able to negotiate with the government on finding a way to overcome a lot of the difficulties with this legislation. As I indicated in my speech on the second reading, I think the roundtable was extremely effective and successful because it enabled a number of stakeholders who had been arguing over this for many years to come together around the table with represen­tatives from the minister's office and repre­sen­­tatives from a number of different gov­ernment departments. They could sit down and try and work through the outstanding issues and how we could move them forward.

In the course of that, one of the representatives at the roundtable, Anna Lavelle from AusBiotech, mentioned that the main impediment or difficulty for small business and one thing which they would really appreciate being addressed is cash flow. If they could get quarterly payments, that would make an enormous difference to the operation of those particular companies. Of course, AusBiotech has something like 3,000 small- to medium-sized enterprises as members. After many follow-on discussions with the government we were able to reach a point where this could be implemented. I am very pleased to see this government amendment, which we are supporting. I am sure it will be extremely welcome to small businesses throughout the country. As I have indicated in this debate, if we are to be a country in which imagination is the resource of the century—where productivity and innovation drive the productivity gains we must have—it is going to be the result of some of those incredibly innovative small businesses that at this point are quite strapped for cash. In a lot of cases they just manage to get by. We need those enterprises to be able to access R&D funding.

So I thank the government for the cooperation it has shown in working through this particular measure. I am sure it is going to be a critical component of the legislation for small business. I look forward to the review in a couple of years time to see whether it has delivered in the way we hope it will over that time frame. Again, I think this amendment will be critical to the success of the bill in making sure we get the R&D funding going where it is needed—to those small enterprises—in a way that assists them in doing business. I think they will really welcome the quarterly cash payments.