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Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Page: 8289

Research and Development


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:54): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Today's Australian Financial Review quotes the President of the Business Council, Catherine Livingstone, warning that the debate on innovation has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Does the minister agree with Mr Livingstone's proposition that innovation is about transforming the economy rather than sloganeering and political gamesmanship such as we have seen over the funding of NCRIS?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:55): I absolutely agree that innovation is about transforming the economy. That is precisely what the Turnbull government intends to do and has set about doing in its early days with conspicuous success. Senator Carr, let me refer you to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment which was published only this morning. It tells us that consumer sentiment rose by 3.9 per cent in November, from 97.8 in October. This is one of the most significant monthly increases in consumer sentiment. And Westpac's Chief Economist, Mr Bill Evans, said 'this is a cracking result'. Apart from the brief surge we saw following last May's budget this is the highest point for the index since January. The index is now 8.3 per cent higher than in September immediately preceding the change leadership in the government. It marks only the third month out of the last 21 that optimists have outnumbered pessimists.

So of course we believe in the transformation of the economy. That is why we are encouraging the kinds of debates about growth, jobs, innovation and the tax system which have been criticised only by the Australian Labor Party. They have been well received by every serious economic commentator in Australia. They have been well received by every serious editorial writer in Australia—whether News Limited, Fairfax or other publications. They have been well received by the Australian people. Senator Carr, unlike you people in the Labor Party, we have confidence in the creativity and enterprise of the Australian people.


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that answer, in its forthcoming innovation statement will the government restore the more than $3 billion it has cut from science, research and innovation over the last two years?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:57): In 2015-16 this government will be investing some $9.7 billion in science, research and innovation. The reason we are spending so much money on science, research and innovation, and also the reason we have put science research and innovation at the very centre of the government's priorities, is that we agree with Catherine Livingstone that innovation is at the heart of the transformation of the Australian economy that we are bringing about. I think most Australians would have a lot more confidence in a man like Malcolm Turnbull to achieve the transformation of the Australian economy than in a preacher of the trade union movement like Bill Shorten.


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:58): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If the minister agrees with Catherine Livingstone, in its forthcoming innovation statement will the government acknowledge its mistake in cutting $1.1 billion from R&D tax incentives? Will the government withdraw its bill that is currently on the Notice Paper which would further cut R&D tax incentives by $620 million?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:59): Senator Carr, with all due respect, it is a bit rich being lectured by you on this when the Labor government, of which you were a member and in an area for which you had portfolio responsibility, announced cuts of $6.6 billion from higher education and research between 2011 and 2013. So don't come into this chamber and lecture us about cuts to the innovation budget when this is a government that has invested $9.7 billion this year in innovation, science and research and, just as importantly, has put innovation front and centre of the economic transformation of the country. I think the Australian people will understand that that transformation can be driven by Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison but it would never be driven by Bill Shorten or you. (Time expired)