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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 198

Mr REYNOLDS (BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Secondary Industry. It relates to a statement by the Treasurer in the Budget Speech that a review will be made of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Scheme and that firms will be assisted to commence research and development and thereafter will be required to finance such activities themselves. Will the Minister clarify whether this means that assistance will cease to all firms with industrial research and development facilities already established and employing trained and experienced research personnel? Will the Minister also explain what is the position of firms currently seeking assistance under the existing Industrial Research and Development Grants Scheme and whether there will be an opportunity afforded to them to adjust their research and development expenditures and programs in line with any change in policy in this area?

Dr S F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - This question relating to industrial research and development grants and the scheme of the Australian Government in this respect relates .to a very significant and important activity in secondary industry. Today we need a very rapid rate of technological advance and we need to be very much concerned with research in Australia so that our technological advance is not delayed and so that we are not any more dependent than is necessary upon research by multi-national corporations or upon research in other countries. However the scheme that has been used in this country has had a good deal of waste in it. It was too narrow in a number of respects. The reassessment that the Government has undertaken - which was given effect to in the decision made by the Treasurer last night - extends the scheme in 2 directions. First, it makes the scheme available when research is undertaken by persons with an appreciable level of practical experience, even though such persons may not possess the for mal academic qualifications, whereas previously it was a requirement that university graduates be associated with the research. Secondly, there is an improvement in the amount of eligible expenditure in relation to the grant. Some emphasis was given to the suggestion that we were not concerned with encouraging research at its commencement. This is an important area of research, but commencement is a matter of time and assistance will be given over whatever time is necessary for the development of the research program.

In addition, the review has taken into account that there may be cases where firms have already commenced research and development programs which are of particular merit and where it would be in the national interest for these to be continued and encouraged. In those cases where such programs have commenced they will be allowed to continue under the previous arrangement. The honourable member can therefore rest assured that the review will not be carried out under any narrow or restrictive interpretation of commencement nor will it exclude those that have already commenced a worthwhile program of research. We want to eliminate a good deal of the waste that has taken place. A lot of money has been paid for research that was not research at all. A lot has been paid to very large corporations which could well afford to undertake research. I would imagine that the Leader of the Country Party is a spokesman for those organisations and I can therefore understand his concern, but we are not going to subsidise wealthy corporations which in some cases, are not doing research at all. Each case will be considered on its merits and a better result in research in Australia will be obtained in this way.

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