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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2143


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (16:32): I would also like to speak to the motion to take note of answers to questions during question time from Senator Carr and Senator Wong.

The CSIRO and science in general have no greater friend then the National Party and, indeed, the Turnbull government. The CSIRO was set up by the National Party in 1926—by the minister at the time, Earl Page. It was set up specifically to grow and develop the agricultural industry and to increase ag productivity at the time by focusing on eradication of pests and improving our stock here in Australia. So the CSIRO has always, from its very inception, had a very close relationship with industry and scientists coming together to solve real-world problems on the ground.

I think that our commitment to science as the heart of our economic agenda going forward is unequivocal. This government is unequivocal about its backing of our scientists and the national infrastructure program—and I will get to that. Senator Carr and the former government oversaw the funding cliff that essential national scientific infrastructure program had under their government. They were full of bright ideas and very ready and quick with the press releases, but not so good on the implementation or the follow through.

When we go to our government's commitment to science we go to the $1.1 billion innovation agenda, where we are increasing the relationship between science and industry and where we want to increase the number of people not only working in STEM areas but also the number of students studying it. That requires a range of strategies to actually improve and increase turning young people on to the fabulous world of science. As a person who studied mathematics, I get excited about this stuff. The future is in the science, technology and mathematics subjects. The 21st century is going to be full of opportunity and potential, so get on board!

We are actually going to address the culture that exists in this country, where industry does not naturally go to universities to help solve their issues within their businesses, and nor do universities naturally seek out partnerships with small to medium enterprises. So we have incentivised those relationships. We want to increase the collaboration and cooperation between industry and universities, and also between universities. I think we have seen in other areas how Australia's university sector, when it collaborates, can come up with some really exciting results.

One of the things that I am quite excited about is increasing the access to data, because by making government data public to all researchers—not just to those in the CSIRO, but all the researchers in all our universities and our centres of excellence will have access to that data—that will actually drive innovation policy outcomes that we have not even thought about yet because that data has been locked away. As I have said, and as the Prime Minister has said many times, science is at the heart of our economic agenda.

If you listened to those on the other side you might think that we do not actually appreciate science or the CSIRO. But this government is providing the CSIRO with a record $3.1 billion worth of funding in the 2015 budget over the forward estimates. As I said, when we actually look at the Labor Party's vision for science, it does not extend beyond the front page. I particularly want to point to the NCRIS program. It is significant national infrastructure that is shared amongst our scientists, our leading universities and, indeed, academics across the world who are coming to Australia and doing their research in a collaborative fashion. Labor only funded that infrastructure and then said, 'No, it's not an ongoing program.' So we had a crisis that they did not solve over the forward estimates; we had to come in and solve it.

Senator Carol Brown: You're not listening to them; that's not what they're saying!

Senator McKENZIE: So do not come bleating to us now about a lack of commitment to science and scientists in this country, because it is our government that is backing them—backing them not only with new ways to address the challenges of the 21st century but supporting the work in very real and tangible ways by supporting their infrastructure. Those opposite are very good at the bright ideas but they lack the courage, conviction and diligence to actually see the implementation.

When we go to the issue around climate change research, the CSIRO has assured that Australia will have actual climate change models that will be relevant to us and assist us to deal with the challenges going forward in the 21st century around that.

I will go to the tax issues. When I looked at the Labor Party's tax policies they were taxing the poor with the cigarette tax, they were taxing housing with the negative gearing, they were taxing jobs with the good old carbon tax, and the classic tax was the mining tax, which did not get any revenue at all. So let's not look— (Time expired)