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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13561

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (11:16): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is a statutory authority within the Australian Government's Innovation portfolio. Its mission is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community.

In seeking to achieve its mission, the ARC provides advice to the government on research matters and manages the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP), a significant component of Australia's investment in research and development.

Through the NCGP, the ARC supports the highest-quality fundamental and applied research and research training through competitive selection processes across all disciplines, with the exception of clinical medicine and dentistry.

This is an appropriation bill to support the ongoing operations of the Australian Research Council. It will fund the high-quality research we need to address the great challenges of our time, to improve the quality of people's lives, to support the development of new industries and to remain competitive in the global knowledge economy.

Bills to amend the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to receive administered funding occur each year. The bills are generated to apply indexation to existing appropriation amounts, create an additional forward estimate and may also contain new funding for new initiatives.

The amendments proposed in this bill change only the administered special appropriation; they do not alter the substance of the act or increase departmental funds.

The ARC is the major source of funding for the innovative, investigator-driven research that has underpinned inventions ranging from the bionic ear to the Jameson Flotation Cell, which saves the coal industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

ARC funded research has and continues to play an important role in improving the lives of Australians and addressing the big issues of our time. This includes, for example, our need to transform our manufacturing industries to create greener, healthier and more resilient processes and products. The government is proud that stronger steel and cleaner, safer cars could soon be manufactured in Australia thanks to research made possible with funding from the ARC.

Ongoing funding for the ARC is essential to the vitality of the Australian higher education system and our commitment to strengthen Australia's research workforce. Excellent researchers across all areas of the university system must be able to compete for funding if we are to keep world-class academics in Australia, working in our universities and teaching the next generation.

It is important to note the key role the ARC has been and is playing in attracting more Indigenous Australians to academia and keeping more women in research careers. This includes through the Discovery Indigenous scheme, the addition of two new Australian Laureate Fellowships specifically for women and the introduction of Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) to enable assessors to take into account any career interruptions, including those for childbirth and caring responsibilities.

Through these initiatives and through the whole NCGP, the ARC is helping us to reduce research career barriers and ensure the nation reaps the benefit of all of its research talent.

And the ARC is not only supporting quality research and research careers, it is helping the government measure our research investment and assure taxpayers that their money is being invested wisely.

In January 2011, the government announced the outcomes of the first full Excellence in Research for Australia evaluations. Developed and implemented by the ARC, ERA allowed us, for the first time, to see exactly how our country's research efforts compare to the rest of the world. This is giving the government a clear idea of the research areas we need to focus on for improvement and continued excellence.

ERA is a key element of the government's 10-year innovation agenda, Powering Ideas.

Through this important legislation, the ARC will continue to advance our efforts to build a fairer and more prosperous Australia through innovation and education.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.