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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1197

Senator BURNS —Is the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy aware of recent claims of a decline in agricultural research funding? Can he advise the Senate of the true state of affairs for agricultural research?

  Opposition senators interjecting

Senator COLLINS —I suggest those opposite should have a little listen. It would be useful in this debate to have a few of the facts placed on the record. The facts are that currently rural funding for rural research and development is running at all time record levels.

Senator Vanstone —Where is the money coming from?

Senator COLLINS —I will tell Senator Vanstone where the money is coming from. Over half of it is coming from the Commonwealth. The recent scaremongering by those opposite—and in a moment I will compare it with the sorry record of those opposite—about the level for support for agricultural R&D does not accord with the facts.

  The level of Commonwealth funding alone for rural research and development is substantial: more than half of the total community investment in rural research and development in 1993-94, which was around $700 million. The Commonwealth this year contributed $126 million to rural research and development corporations under the matching dollar for dollar arrangements, which I recently confirmed would continue.

  Other Commonwealth funding specifically of rural research and development included $85 million on top of that $126 million directly paid to Australian universities, $20 million for rural research to the relevant cooperative research centres and $140 million on top of that in direct allocation to the CSIRO, making up 40 per cent of the research effort of that organisation.

  In the same year the state governments invested $200 million in rural research and development in the current financial year, that is 1993-94, and industry made up the remainder through compulsory levies totalling $100 million, with private research adding a further $25 million.

  The facts are that these are record levels of research and development into rural Australia, with the Commonwealth contributing over half the entire effort. To give an example of how right I am, the Commonwealth contribution under the matching arrangements has doubled in real terms since 1984-85.

  One of the things that this government has done, which I have said before was an outstanding contribution to rural Australia, was to establish that network of research and development corporations that we put into place. Given the parlous state of agricultural research that we inherited from the predecessors of those opposite, we hardly had any choice. The rural industry research that then existed was riddled with complacency and maladministration.

  CSIRO was also treated with total disdain by the previous conservative administration, and the then chairman of CSIRO, Dr Wild, pointed out in a speech in 1984 that over the previous seven years CSIRO's operating allocations had declined by 35 per cent in real terms. Those opposite will no doubt argue that that is a thing of the past. Well, it is not. The policies the opposition took to the electorate at the last election, whilst making absolutely no mention at all of science policy, which those opposite did not, only promised one thing for science—a cut of $20 million in the base level funding for Commonwealth scientific research organisations.

  The facts are that currently rural research in Australia is running at $700 million and over half of that total effort, which is a record effort for Australia, is being contributed by the Commonwealth government.