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Wednesday, 2 December 1998
Page: 1148

Mrs HULL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Minister, what plans does the government have for the funding of research infrastructure? Is the minister aware of any alternative funding proposals?

Dr KEMP (Education, Training and Youth Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Riverina for her question. The Commonwealth government is committed to improving and advancing Australia's basic research and its research infrastructure. In the last election campaign, the coalition committed itself to an extra $148.6 million over three years to maintain investment in research and research infrastructure, including $90.5 million for research infrastructure.

That funding fully dealt with the projected fall in the forward estimates for research and research infrastructure. The Labor Party's education policy did not do so. The Labor Party's education policy committed only $57 million extra, with the result being that Australian research was left some $91.6 million short. There was a massive, gaping hole in the Labor Party education policy. It was quite clear from the reaction of the Leader of the Opposition in the House yesterday that he had not even read the policy. He did not know about the gap in the policy.

The little red Indian on the back bench at least read the policy from the launch to the airport. He actually read the policy. The Leader of the Opposition, the big chief in the opposition, never got around to reading the policy at all. It appears that he was not briefed on the issue of the forward estimates. As we know, the Leader of the Opposition has a continuing problem with the forward estimates. During the 1996 election he informed the electorate that the budget was in surplus. But, as we know, it was in deficit to $10.6 billion.

What this demonstrates is that the member for Werriwa has correctly identified the massive intellectual vacuum which exists on the part of the Labor Party. I see that the member for Werriwa is currently out of the chamber, presumably working on that most valuable book which he is preparing to fill the gaping intellectual hole that exists on the other side of the chamber.

Mr Beazley —Nobody believes you, David.

Mr Howard —Oh, yes, they do.

Dr KEMP —Well, challenge it. Go on; get up and challenge it.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister will stop interjecting, particularly when the Speaker is on his feet.