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Wednesday, 3 December 1986
Page: 3250

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. From time to time small business people complain about the lack of support for inventions and innovations, many of which arise in small rather than large enterprises. What is the Government doing to encourage the development of inventions and innovative ideas? Are small business people given the fullest opportunity to obtain the advice and information they need to test, develop and market their inventions?

Senator Archer —Could we have a ministerial statement, please?

Senator BUTTON —I know this is a relatively dull subject for members of the Opposition who are not interested in these issues, but it is an important question and that is what the Government has to be concerned with-important questions, not trivia. I am sorry if it is boring for them, but I will give them an answer. Somebody over there invited me to make a ministerial statement. I will not; I will be quite brief. The Government has established a new network of centres for the innovation and development of enterprises. There is now one in each State. That initiative was launched last night. This national network of innovation centres will help to accelerate the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia. It is an important component of the National Industry Extension Service which was launched earlier this year. It is not purely a Commonwealth Government initiative; it is a joint Commonwealth and State initiative. There is very close co-operation, and it is designed to help ensure that Australia develops world-class businesses. The innovation centres are non-profit making and designed to draw together the raw materials of invention, innovative ideas and new concepts. The centres will provide the specialised technical, managerial and entrepreneurial assistance needed to achieve profitable commercial reality, a flow of innovative products and processes to Australian industry and assistance to newly established firms. Those things are important. The manufacturing sector, particularly the small business sector, was neglected by governments throughout the 1960s and 1970s, no more so than by the Fraser Government. It is important that in the process of strengthening the manufacturing sector, making it more viable, we give particular attention to the needs of small firms in the ways in which I have indicated.

I thank Senator Cook for his question about this issue because the policies of the present Government in that area are reflected in a variety of ways, mostly ways which help with the financial arrangements of small business, with innovation support and with increased support for research and development and so on.