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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1945

Research and Development


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:46): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister update the Senate about the Australian government's support for leading research projects undertaken by our world-class universities?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:47): I thank Senator McKenzie for her question about our important commitment to research and research investment, which, of course, is consistent with the government's strong commitment to innovation and science as a driver in our economy. Last week I was pleased to announce the Australian Research Council's major grants which included some $416.6 million in funding for 989 research projects that I would have thought all those in the chamber would welcome and support—research projects occurring in our world-class universities right across Australia.

The funding schemes supported by the Australian government as part of this announcement includes: the Discovery Projects for funding commencing in 2017, supporting some 630 different research projects to be funded for up to five years with $234.7 million in support; the Discovery Indigenous funding round, supporting 11 projects with $4.6 million in support; the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, funding of $71.7 million, supporting some 200 projects over three years; the Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grants, supporting some 48 different projects of $28.6 million investment; and, finally, the Future Fellowships funding, commencing in 2017, providing some $77 million in support for 100 projects.

These five crucial research grant schemes represent significant and important investment in Australian research. Their investment across a wide variety of both basic and applied research projects is undertaken by outstanding individual researchers in our world-class institutions that, of course, enjoy reputations that attract both students and researchers from around the world. This investment helps to drive Australia's innovative capacity and from that, of course, our future economic growth and job creation as part of a National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Minister. Senator McKenzie, your supplementary question.



Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:49): Would the minister inform the Senate how this funding will enable our regions' best researchers to make exciting and critical discoveries that will have flow-on effects for our local communities and the nation?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:49): The type of projects that are being supported as part of this research are wide and varied and will have impacts across all different ways of life and walks of life in terms of their results. For example, the University of South Australia will be researching particularly how it is we can improve attendance and learning outcomes in middle-school environments. The Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia is looking at how technology can be used to improve access for Australians with disability. Macquarie University in New South Wales will provide insights into speech and language problems and, in particular, their impact on health and quality of life. The Queensland University of Technology will develop best practice solutions to improve the living environment in retirement villages—in particular, enhancing the quality of life for ageing Australians. The University of Tasmania will investigate approaches for suppressing invasive prey in predators to conserve native wildlife. Across all areas of the economy and lifestyle, you can see the wide benefits from these types of research projects. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator McKenzie.



Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:50): Can the minister please explain to the Senate how these projects will help keep our leading researchers here, working in Australia?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:50): Of course, all of these different grant schemes help to cement the place of researchers and high-quality research in Australia, but, in particular, the Future Fellowships scheme, in which we are supporting some 100 research projects with $77 million of investment, is a key investment in building the individual research capability in Australia. Of the 100 new future fellows awarded, we have retained around 79 outstanding Australian researchers, attracted some 15 outstanding international researchers, and enabled six outstanding Australian researchers to return to Australia from overseas as part of this investment.

The aim of Future Fellowships is to attract and retain the best and brightest midcareer researchers in Australia, knowing that as they build their careers and they do so here in Australia, we will manage to maximise the benefits to Australia in terms of the ultimate economic and societal impacts of their research and the job creation that will come from that.