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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 414

Mr CLARE (Parliamentary Secretary for Employment) (9:35 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This is an appropriation bill to support:

  • the ongoing operations of the Australian Research Council
  • and three specific initiatives.

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.

The bill updates the special appropriation amount administered by the Australian Research Council to include:

  • new funding for research in bionic vision science and technology
  • new funding for the Super Science Fellowships scheme
  • continued funding for National ICT Australia
  • an additional outyear
  • and indexation of existing appropriation amounts in the Australian Research Council Act 2001.

Inventing a bionic eye was one of the big ideas proposed by the Australia 2020 Summit in 2008.

The government has embraced this idea, which promises not only to give and restore sight to tens of thousands of people around the world, but also to generate know-how that can be applied in many other areas.

Australia is already a global leader in bionics. This new investment will reinforce our leadership in one of the most demanding and inspiring fields of scientific research.

The Super Science Fellowships scheme is an integral part of the $1.1 billion Super Science Initiative announced in the 2009 budget.

The Super Science Initiative furthers the objectives of the government’s innovation strategy, Powering Ideas, by building on Australia’s strengths in space science and astronomy, marine and climate science, and the sciences that will underpin the industries of the future, including biotechnology and nanotechnology.

While the Super Science Initiative is primarily about building the infrastructure needed to support cutting-edge research, it is also about nurturing the talented individuals who will perform that research.

The Super Science Fellowships scheme will offer 100 three-year fellowships to early-career researchers working in fields targeted by the initiative.

This is one of several measures the government has introduced to give the best local and international researchers a real chance to build a career in Australia.

Super Science Fellowships are designed to encourage and support the next generation of researchers. They complement our Australian Laureate Fellowships for established researchers and Future Fellowships for researchers in mid-career.

National ICT Australia—better known as NICTA—is the largest information and communication technology research organisation in Australia.

As well as undertaking user-inspired basic research, it also plays a vital part in research training and commercialising research outcomes through spin-out companies and technology licensing.

NICTA is funded jointly by the communications portfolio and by the innovation portfolio through the Australian Research Council.

The 2009 budget extended NICTA’s funding for another four years from 2011-12 so that it can continue its vital work. This bill gives effect to that decision.

In addition to providing for these specific measures, the bill also adjusts the Australian Research Council’s funding cap for the financial years beginning on 1 July 2009, 2010 and 2011 in line with indexation, and sets the funding cap for the financial year beginning on 1 July 2012.

The bill will increase spending by approximately $889.6 million over these four financial years.

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

This is routine but important legislation that will advance our efforts to build a fairer and more prosperous Australia through innovation.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Coulton) adjourned.