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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1338


Senator McKIM (Tasmania) (17:19): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

It is with pleasure that I rise to speak on this document. I acknowledge that, since the ascension of Prime Minister Turnbull to that position, there has been a lot of talk in this place around innovation, and it needs to be acknowledged that some action has been taken here by the government.

Senator Conroy: What? They stole our policies!

Senator McKIM: Senator Conroy, I will take that interjection.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): No, ignore the interjection and address your comments through the chair. Senator Conroy, the interjection is disorderly.

Senator McKIM: Senator Conroy has not categorised the situation entirely accurately. There were elements of Labor's innovation policy—which was scrambled together and released the day before the government's policy—that were also in the government's policy, but both policies had common areas of weakness. One of the big areas of weakness was around innovation in education and encouraging a culture of innovation through the curriculum and our education sector. I will speak a little bit more about that later.

Unfortunately, a lot of what passes for innovation in this country is an economy that ought to be a 21st century economy still being powered by 19th century fossil fuels. Just last week, on 24 February, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, announced that the government was investing $15.4 million over four years into National Energy Resources Australia. On the face of it, that sounds quite encouraging. But, when you drill down into what the government is actually doing, you see that it wants to focus that money and any innovation associated with that money on oil, gas, coal and uranium—fossil fuels, and a very dangerous way of generating electricity, about which there are a range of matters that are yet to be addressed, including where we dispose of the waste. At the same time, the government is refusing to end speculation that it will abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which are two bodies that are driving Australia's 21st century energy innovation.

It is important to note here that the Australian Greens policy, Renew Australia, is a road map to reaching a target of 90 per cent renewable energy in this country by 2030—a road map for prosperity and innovation with no people or community left behind in the necessary transition this country needs to become world leaders in renewable energy and to show the rest of the world how to move forward around renewable energy to address global warming.

Unfortunately, we have also seen from this government an announcement that some of the world's leading climate scientists at CSIRO will lose their jobs due to budget cuts—a matter that will significantly impact on the economy of my home state of Tasmania. I remind senators that this is the same CSIRO which has had its staff cut by 20 per cent over the last two years, thanks to this government and the Abbott government. There is also currently legislation before the Senate, the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2015 Measures) Bills 2015, which would reduce the rates of tax offsets available under the Research and Development Tax Incentive—something that this very report, the annual report 2014-15 of Innovation Australia, lauds for driving extra investment into research and development and innovation in our country.

The Global Innovation Index has currently listed Australia at No. 17—nowhere near good enough—but, when it comes to turning research into commercial outcomes, Australia drops to 72nd place. A 2015 OECD report on entrepreneurship revealed barriers to entrepreneurship in Australia, which included complexity of regulation, administrative burdens, lack of venture capital investment and government support for big business over small business—which is why we need an effects test, which is opposed by both the Labor and Liberal Parties. Of course, we need to address these issues, but, if we are serious about innovation in Australia, we need cultural change. If we are serious about long-term, sustained cultural change around innovation, we need a culture of innovation in our schools and we need to encourage our students to take more risks, to be less afraid of failure and to embrace innovation culture.

Question agreed to.