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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 246


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (12:43): Less than 25? Okay. Then, of course, you say that you cannot tell how many consolidated groups would be affected. I put it to you, for instance, that Wesfarmers would be one business; it is made up of a number of firms. There are many manufacturing businesses associated with the consolidated group around Wesfarmers. Is that part of the 25? There are a number of others. Rio Tinto has a whole series of firms associated with it. Is that part of the 25 or is that one firm?

You see, that is the point here. We would like to know precisely how your amendment will work. We want to know the number of firms and, of course, from that we will be able to tell how many employees this involves and the firms' investment in R&D, to make some judgement as to whether or not the Treasury advice that you are relying upon is a reasonable basis on which we should make a judgement.

I say to you, Minister: while you are on the topic, you can perhaps tell me: in the last 20 years, pick one year in which the Treasury advice on expenditure on R&D has actually been correct and accurate. Just pick one year and tell me which year that is—because this is the basis on which you are now asking us to make a judgement. You say it is fewer than 25 firms, yet you cannot tell us who they are. Naturally enough, you will tell me, 'Oh, it's confidential.' I put to you that the sorts of companies we are talking about—BHP Billiton, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Rio Tinto, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, Telstra, AustralianSuper, Caltex, BP, Shell, Xstrata and QBE—are firms that undertake major investments in R&D in this country. There are considerably more than 25 firms tied up in that list that I have read to you.

So, Minister, how many firms is it really? Are we talking about firms or consolidated groups? What is the level of investment that those firms would claim for collectively?