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Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Page: 247


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:49): I think we have just seen from the minister the kind of performance that is the reason that the Australian community is so fed up with the Abbott government. Minister, you can stand in here and go on with your ill-considered ideological rhetoric and what you think are effective pre-formulated attacks on Labor and the Greens, but you are not answering the questions and this Senate is absolutely being treated with contempt. To stand there and say that these are the PUP amendments is a joke. The senator who moved this amendment is not even in the chamber, because he cannot explain it; he has no idea whatsoever what he is putting to the Senate. Why? Because you wrote it for him—Treasury wrote it for him; you gave it to him; you gave it to the Palmer United Party. They stood up and moved it; they could not answer a single question on it. If you stood Senator Wang in here, he would not be able to answer a single question about which companies he is excluding or why he is taking $1 billion out. If he can, he should be in here.

Senator O'Sullivan: On a point of order, Mr Chairman, the rules are clear in terms of casting aspersions upon other members in this place. I do not think you could make a graver allegation against another member in this place than the one that has been presented by the senator.

The CHAIRMAN: I do not think there is a point of order, Senator O'Sullivan.

Senator MILNE: I would challenge Senator Wang to come in here and explain his amendment and defend it, instead of leaving it to the minister, who wrote it and who gave it to him, to now be explaining it.

I want to come back to the essential thing here, and that is that the Greens never supported the change. One of the reasons they did not legislate it is that we would not have supported it—and we do not. I do not want to see $1.1 billion taken out of supporting research and development in this country. Let me put that firmly on the record. We want to see more targeted research and development, but we do not want to see you ripping $1 billion out of research and development in this country, and that is precisely what Senator Cormann, the minister, stands for. Ripping up money going into the CSIRO, taking money out of our universities, taking money out of research and development and handing it back as fossil fuel subsidies—that is what we have from the government.

Everybody knows, if you are going to get away from being an economy which is 'dig it up, cut it down and ship it away', you have to invest in education and research and development. You have to make sure that that happens. That is what the Greens want to see, and that is why I moved last night to make sure that small businesses, those drivers of real innovation, of cutting edge innovation, can benefit in the way that they sought to—and the government just showed absolute contempt for that. And what we are seeing from you, Minister, is very much the vandals coming over the wall—but this time they are coming over the wall with cigars in their mouths and in sedan chairs. And that is what the community does not like. They are sick of it, and they want to see some equity.

I would like to get back to a serious question—Senator Carr asked it, and I am asking it now: who are these 25 companies that are going to be affected? Is Telstra one of them? I want to read you what Telstra had to say. They said:

As a proud Australian company and one with an increasing global footprint, the R&D tax incentive has been one of the reasons behind Telstra's commitment to undertake the majority of our R&D work onshore.

R&D investment, according to the submissions to the committee—not Telstra submissions but general submissions to the committee—highlighted that not only will R&D investment go offshore, hurting our economy; it will mean that estimated savings will not actually materialise because of the impact on longer term growth to the economy. The focus on removing incentives for larger companies makes this very likely because they are most able to offshore research. That is the first thing. So if you take this money out of here, you will see the research, the innovation, the intellectual property develop offshore. That is the last thing you want if you are transitioning your economy. Secondly, smaller and medium enterprises and public institutions such as CSIRO and universities will be hurt by the changes because of the flow-on impact—as I said in my second reading speech. The University of New South Wales, for example, gave evidence at the inquiry that 30 per cent of its research effort is backed by companies directly affected by this bill.

So let's hear from the minister what the difference is between what the government put up and what, supposedly, Senator Wang put up. He said last night that there were marginal differences in the number of companies and only marginal differences in the amount they are expected to receive. Well, let's hear it. I want to know exactly the differences. Which companies will now be captured that were not captured before and vice versa? I want to know exactly about the money. You have supposedly done the modelling, so let's hear it. Give us some specifics instead of just standing there pontificating and protecting people who cannot even be interested enough to turn up to the debate in the Senate.