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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3404

Dr HARRY EDWARDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Science.

Mr Donald Cameron —None of those rude words again.

Dr HARRY EDWARDS —There will be none of those rude words. This Minister is not having himself on like the Treasurer to whom I was previously addressing my question. I ask: Is it not the case that in respect of university research the Australian Science and Technology Council recommended to the Government some months back that an Australian Research Council should be formed by a rationalisation of the existing research granting schemes, including that administered by the Australian Research Grants Committee? Is the Government going to get around to a response on this important issue this session-which I doubt with the onset of election preparation--

Mr Braithwaite —A long session!

Dr HARRY EDWARDS —It depends on how long the session is. It may not be very long.

Madam SPEAKER —I might say the question is very long.

Dr HARRY EDWARDS —Which should result in administrative economies which would have thus obviated the need for the mini-Budget cuts in this important and vital area?

Mr BARRY JONES —I thank the honourable member for Berowra for his question. It is absolutely correct that ASTEC, in its recent report on the funding of higher education research, adopted substantially a submission from the Department of Science that an Australian Research Council should be created to absorb existing schemes such as the Australian research grants scheme on the Committee of which the honourable member for Berowra once served. The national research fellowships and the marine science and technologies grant scheme refer only to granting schemes from within my portfolio. The aim, as suggested by ASTEC, was that ARC would help to determine national priorities in research with a heavier emphasis on areas that come up suddenly and where it is highly desirable to be able to allocate money to some new project coming up. An obvious example, which will be at the tip of honourable members' tongues, is superconductivity and access to supercomputing, both of which are very important and which could not in the normal Budget process be anticipated, say, one year or two or three years in advance.

Naturally, any decision about the creation of an Australian Research Council will have to be made by Cabinet at some time within the next few weeks, months, or however long we have to go. The size of its operation, its funding and the extent to which the ARC would cover other schemes would naturally have to be determined first of all by Cabinet, and the quantum of money available would be determined in a Budget context.