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Thursday, 20 June 2002
Page: 4080

Dr SOUTHCOTT (3:27 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Could the minister advise the House of the government's ongoing commitment to key technology and research areas? Is the minister aware of other policies in these areas?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —This government is very much aware and committed to building a modern Australia and appreciates, as does the member for Boothby, that for the 21st century, information, education, knowledge, innovation and the commercialising of ideas are absolutely critical to our future. In fact, within the $3 billion program—the Backing Australia's Ability statement—are a number of critically important initiatives in relation to excellence. The fact that the Australian Labor Party has absolutely no interest in innovation or Australia's future should be noted by those who are listening to this broadcast.

For example, this year I have announced funding of $19 million for the Cooperative Research Centre for the Australian Sheep Industry at the University of New England in Armidale to look specifically at wool and meat and to add value to important traditional commodities. Perhaps more importantly for the member for Boothby, when I was in Adelaide the South Australian minister, Jane Lomax-Smith, and I announced the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics—a $20 million commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth—which is a collaborative project with Melbourne University and the University of Queensland to look specifically at disease and salt resistance in grains. This is, of course, an $8 billion industry, as the Deputy Prime Minister would be well aware. Tasmanians benefited from the bioinformatics centre of excellence—computers, mathematics, statistics, information technology, and specifically applying those things to biology and medicine.

Last month, with Senator Alston, I had the privilege of announcing a $129 million project, a national centre for excellence in information and communication technology. We expect to leverage another $100 million from that project from the universities and the private sector. As I said at the time, at the former Eveleigh railway yards, new technologies are the railway lines for the 21st century, and this government in particular is totally committed to seeing that Australians have a bright and confident future. With $3 billion of specific investment in innovation, in new research and ideas, we expect to leverage another $6 billion from the private sector over a five-year period. Whilst the Australian Labor Party had been talking about noodle nation and the member for Brand has committed every working minute of every working day to it, this government is actually on with the business of delivering a modern Australia and giving hopeful confidence to all Australians.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.