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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 21920


Mr NAIRN (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. How are the innovation measures in the government's Backing Australia's Ability package helping Australian businesses to boost their research and development efforts and activities? How does this benefit the Australian economy? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?


Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) —I thank the member for Eden-Monaro for his question and for his keen interest in innovation. He chairs the parliamentary committee which recently released the Riding the innovation wave report. The Howard government remains committed to Backing Australia's Ability and assisting businesses and individuals in turning good ideas into great products. The business community have responded to that by boosting their investment in R&D by 13 per cent in the last 12 months. That means that spending by businesses on R&D is now at record levels, at some $5.5 billion. This government continues to support those businesses through a range of programs. This year alone I have awarded over $150 million to 800 companies in Australia.

Other companies have drawn on the R&D tax concession. This is to help companies and individuals with good ideas to turn out great products. There is no better example of that than the company I visited last week in Perth called Almos Systems, a company that started some 15 years ago with three people in a garage and these days employs almost 50 people, turning over millions of dollars. That company has made significant advances in the area of weather forecasting, particularly as it relates to airfields and airports, and has done that to some degree with significant assistance from the federal government through programs that we administer.

I was asked if I am aware of alternative policies. We know that Labor's approach to health is to cut the private health insurance rebate. We know that their approach to child care is to cut the baby bonus. We also know that Labor's approach to regional Australia is to cut the diesel fuel rebate. It is therefore no surprise that Labor's response to innovation is to cut the R&D tax concession.



Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I hear the groan from the opposite side, so perhaps for the member for Rankin I need to quote Senator Kim Carr, who said:

I'm going to look at whether the research-and-development tax concession is in fact effective.

If that is not enough of an alarm bell for Australian industry, that statement was further endorsed by the member for Werriwa—


Mr Martin Ferguson —Does it produce the goods or not?


The SPEAKER —The member for Batman is warned!


Mr IAN MACFARLANE —who said that the R&D tax concession `is not a good outlay, not a good policy and not an efficient strategy'. I table both those statements. The member for Werriwa and the Labor Party can explain to those businesses—some 4,700 of them—who use the tax concession why they are going to cut it. They can also explain to the small businesses who use the tax offset why they are going to cut that. Really, what we see here is further proof that the Labor Party are anti-business, anti-economic growth and anti-jobs growth.


Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.