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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 2693

Mr GARRETT (Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (9:24 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian Research Council, the ARC, is a statutory authority within the Australian government’s Innovation, Industry, Science and Research portfolio. Its mission is to deliver policy and programs that advance Australian research and innovation globally and benefit the community.

In seeking to achieve its mission, the ARC provides advice to the government on research matters and manages the National Competitive Grants Program, a significant component of Australia’s investment in research and development.

Through the National Competitive Grants Program, the ARC supports the highest quality fundamental and applied research and research training through competitive selection processes across all disciplines, with the exception of clinical medicine and dentistry.

This is an appropriation bill to support the ongoing operations of the ARC. It will fund the high-quality research we need to address the great challenges of our time, to improve the quality of people’s lives, to support the development of new industries, and to remain competitive in the global knowledge economy.

Bills to amend the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to receive administered funding occur each year; this is to apply indexation to existing appropriation amounts, create a additional forward estimate and may also contain new funding for new initiatives.

The current bill updates the special appropriation funding cap amounts administered by the Australian Research Council to include indexation adjustments to three existing financial year appropriation amounts, and adds a forward estimate year in the Australian Research Council Act 2001. The bill adjusts the Australian Research Council’s funding cap for the financial years beginning on 1 July 2010, 2011 and 2012 in line with indexation, and sets the funding cap for the financial year beginning on 1 July 2013. Indexation adjustments and adding an additional forward estimate are part of the standard budget process and are administrative in nature.

The proposed amendments change only the administered special appropriation; they do not alter the substance of the act or increase departmental funds.

The ARC is the major source of funding for the innovative, investigator-driven research that has underpinned inventions ranging from the bionic ear to the Jameson flotation cell, which saves the coal industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. ARC centres of excellence provide key science and policy advice on the management of coral reefs, are developing automated control systems for the mining industry and agricultural sector and are taking some big challenges in medicine such as applying nanobionics to regenerate spinal cord injuries. ARC funding has enabled regional centres such as the Cairns campus of James Cook University to attract Australian and international leaders in tropical rainforest ecology to build world class teams of researchers and postgraduate students.

Ongoing funding for the Australian Research Council is essential to the vitality of the Australian higher education system. Excellent researchers across all areas of the university system must be able to compete for funding if we are to keep world class academics in Australia working in our universities and teaching our next generation.

Since 2007 the Australian Research Council has delivered on the 2007 election commitment for 1,000 Future Fellowships. The Australian government will provide over five years up to $844 million and will award up to 1,000 of these midcareer research fellowships. The inaugural 200 Future Fellows were announced in September 2009 and the next 200 will be announced this week.

In January 2008 we announced the establishment of the ARC Advisory Council and a range of other measures to enhance the independence of the ARC.

In February 2008 we announced the ARC will deliver the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). This is a world leading research evaluation framework reflecting the Australian government’s commitment to a transparent, streamlined evaluation of the quality of research undertaken in Australia’s universities. The Australian government has provided $35.8 million over four years.

In March 2008 the government announced the opening of all ARC grant schemes to international competition, and in July 2008 the government announced the opening of the ARC schemes to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The ARC continues to work closely with Indigenous researchers on a range of new initiatives for Indigenous researchers.

In September 2008 the ARC introduced the Australian Laureate Fellowships Scheme. This was a new fellowship scheme to build strong teams around our very best research leaders. The Australian government will provide over five years up to $239 million and will award up to 75 fellowships. The inaugural 15 Laureate Fellows were announced in June 2009.

In June 2009 the National Centre of Excellence in Groundwater Research and Training was established as a joint initiative of the ARC and the National Water Commission with Australian government support of $29.5 million for five years from 2009.

Other joint initiatives include $92 million through the ARC to the National ICT Centre and $21 million in support of stem cell science research through the ARC’s Special Research Initiative announced in May 2010.

In September 2009, 100 Super Science Fellowships (worth $27.8 million) were announced as part of the Australian government’s $1.1 billion Super Science initiative. The successful recipients were announced in April 2010.

In December 2009—bionic vision research—the Australian government provided $50 million for research into bionic vision science and technology which came about as a priority from the 2020 summit.

In July 2010, 13 new centres of excellence were announced with total Australian government support of $255.9 million over seven years. This was in addition to the Australian government’s announcement in February 2009 of an additional $82.25 million to extend the funding of 11 existing centres of excellence.

Through this important legislation, the ARC will continue to advance our efforts to build a fairer and more prosperous Australia through innovation and education.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.