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Minister for Science and Technology introduces the Bounty (Citric Acid) Bill

JENNY HUTCHISON: Superannuation is one focus in Parliament next week - four Bills, including those to establish the replacement for the DFRDB for Australian Defence Personnel. There's a Sales Tax Bill which will implement last year's Budget announcement on quarterly, rather than monthly, payments of sales tax by small businesses. By the way, one much heralded reform for the benefit of small business has yet to be implemented. That's the 1989 Close Corporations Act which is still awaiting proclamation. When it is in effect, a lot of the red tape relating to small companies will be removed.

And remember the Albury-Wodonga Development Scheme? Well, there's a Bill to rejig it as a land development organisation. And next week, Senators will be debating the new plain English Social Security Bill, and the more controversial ACT elections proposal.

There's another interesting Bill which has raised some eyebrows - it's reminiscent of the bailout of Kodak. It's a rescue operation for an Australian company which has already benefited from $1.3 million in Government research grants. The company is called Sirius Biotechnology Ltd. It was established in 1984, and it virtually closed down late last year. Its majority shareholder is an overseas company. The Minister for Science and Technology, Simon Crean, introduced the Bounty (Citric Acid) Bill in the House.

SIMON CREAN: The Government is firmly committed to realising opportunities to apply Australia's scientific and research skills to the development of new industries in this country. Few areas offer better opportunities than technologies which add value to Australia's intrinsic strengths in agricultural production, particularly in the food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics sectors.

The Bounty, which is the subject of this legislation, is aimed at ensuring that the opportunity to capitalise on Australian developed technology for citric acid production, as well as to build a substantial chemical fermentation industry in Australia, is not lost overseas. In addition, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bounty will position Australia to develop a strong internationally competitive base upon which to achieve significant nett export growth across a number of sectors. The Bounty is not a protection measure, but it's a support mechanism aimed at offsetting the distortions which prevent the intrinsic competitiveness of the Sirius technology being realised, enabling the company to achieve commercial viability in citric acid production. This will provide a vehicle for the continued development and commercialisation of the technology in new areas and the maintenance of a unique production facility in Australia.

Mr Deputy Speaker, in reaching a decision to provide support for this high technology production process, the Government considers it appropriate to make the Bounty assistance contingent on a number of conditions. This will be achieved by requiring Bounty recipients to be registered under the Act, with registration subject to: first, that the Bounty recipients continue to research, develop, and apply the technology to the commercialisation of citric acid in Australia; second, that the Bounty recipient contribute to research in new product development arising from, or associated with, the fermentation technology - the subject of the Bounty, with a view to the commercialisation of those new products in Australia; third, that the Bounty recipients explore international market opportunities for the technology and the product; and finally, that the Bounty recipient take all reasonable steps to ensure maximum advantage is taken from the expertise and know-how associated with the development and production of citric acid and other new products in Australia by suitable licensing, franchise or other arrangements.

JENNY HUTCHISON: That was the Minister for Science and Technology, Simon Crean, explaining the reasons for the Government Bounty for Sirius Biotechnology Ltd. It will be on a reducing basis over five years, with a total cost of $7.27 million.