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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3642


Mrs ANDREWS (McPhersonAssistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills) (10:11): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I am introducing the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2018 (the bill) which amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (ARC Act) to ensure that the Australian Research Council (ARC) can continue to support Australia's best researchers to undertake the highest quality fundamental and applied research and research training.

The ARC's purpose is to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community through funding the highest-quality research, assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research and providing advice on research matters.

ARC-funded research is delivering cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians. For example:

Researchers at the ARC Industrial Research Hub for Transforming Waste Directly in Cost-effective Green Manufacturing, at the University of New South Wales, have custom designed a small-scale microfactory that uses breakthrough technology to recycle common waste plastics into new green materials;

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, at The University of Adelaide, have developed a revolutionary new 'smart needle' that lets surgeons see at-risk blood vessels to make neurosurgery safer.

ARC funding is awarded on the basis of a competitive peer-review process.

The ARC administers the National Competitive Grants Programs. The NCGP comprises two programs—Discovery and Linkage—under which the ARC funds a range of complementary schemes that provide funding for basic and applied research, research training, research collaboration and infrastructure.

The amendments through this bill are required because the ARC Act is the legislative basis that supports the financial operations of these grant programs. This bill will amend the ARC Act to update the existing funding caps and insert two new funding caps through until 30 June 2022 to allow continued funding of quality research in Australia.

The increase to the ARC's funding caps in this bill is in line with inflation and ensures that the government can continue to support thousands of research projects to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community.

The government is making a significant investment in science, research and innovation—it spent approximately $10 billion across all portfolios in 2017-18 alone.

Demonstrating its commitment to supporting outstanding Australian research, on 10 November 2017 the government announced $333.5 million in funding to some of Australia's best and brightest researchers through the ARC's grant programs. The funding, provided to 859 new research projects, will increase Australia's research capacity by supporting groundbreaking research projects, expanding our research infrastructure and facilities, and supporting Australian researchers, including our early-career and Indigenous researchers.

In addition to this latest funding, in June last year, the government announced $170.6 million in new research funding to support 120 research projects that will grow new industry-research collaborations and support the training and upskilling of our next generation of researchers—including 17 new Australian Laureate Fellowships, 91 new Future Fellowships and 12 new industrial transformation research hubs and training centres.

In 2017, the government announced 117 new collaborative research projects under the ARC's Linkage Projects program. The projects total $46.5 million and support collaborations with 274 partner organisations, which, in addition to the government's funding, have pledged to provide $79.7 million to support those research projects.

The new linkage projects were selected under the new continuous application process introduced as part of the government's National Innovation and Science Agenda. Now in its second year, this measure is ensuring that researchers and businesses can collaborate as opportunities arise, improving the time line for translating research into broader outcomes for businesses and the community.

Australia must ensure we attract and retain world-class researchers and entrepreneurs and that is why we bring this bill to the House to ensure the Australian Research Council can play its role in supporting and expanding Australia's research strengths and support the many thousands of direct and indirect jobs that our research and scientific capabilities sustain.

I commend the bill.

Debate adjourned.