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Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Page: 1761


Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (18:29): I want to thank all of the speakers in this debate on the Industry Research and Development Amendment (Innovation and Science Australia) Bill and make some brief observations. Firstly, the member for Ryan pointed out the role of the University of Queensland in her own electorate. I know that the vice-chancellor and I have had discussions, and I intend to visit them and talk about the innovation and start-up approach going forward with his university and the work that they are doing.

Secondly, we heard some Walter Mitty-like comments from a series of opposition speakers, where they seemed to fantasise that they had somehow been responsible for the work of the government in creating the National Innovation and Science Agenda. I would actually rather give credit to my predecessor, who is in the chamber at this moment, as something which was created on his watch and is being delivered on ours. I will give credit where credit is due to my predecessor.

Let me give the House a brief update on progress because, since this bill itself has been introduced, we have made extraordinary progress. Over the last three months, since 1 July, the National Innovation and Science Agenda has been going forward at, potentially, the fastest pace in Australian history. In particular, let me run through what we are doing about culture and capital, investment and collaboration in big science by bringing talent—young women as well as young men—into the science, technology, engineering and maths space before looking at where we are going, in the future, and then just concluding on the bill itself.

In terms of investment, just in the last few weeks we have achieved a series of things. We have launched the Biomedical Translation Fund—a $500 million fund—to take science from the lab and commercialise it, whether it is through start-ups or existing firms. Already, we have seen a huge response with more than triple the capital sought by the federal government being offered by the private sector. That is a stunning success. It lays the foundation for a national innovation fund on a broader scale, which I have outlined as an agenda item since coming into the portfolio, as part of a second wave of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The Biomedical Translation Fund is already far exceeding our best possible expectations, and that was launched on 3 August. Similarly, the tax incentives for early-stage investors—the 'angel investors' program—is in place and up and running. It has already received considerable support from within the venture capital community, through my discussions, the start-up community and through the financial sector.

The new arrangements for Venture Capital Limited Partnerships have come into effect. The CSIRO accelerator program has already been announced. I launched the incubator support program at Stone & Chalk only a few weeks ago. Whilst I was there I met with numerous different start-ups and had discussions with them, and it has been a real privilege to work with that sector. So far, meetings have included the Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association; StartupAUS; Stone & Chalk; a variety of firms at the University of Wollongong in their incubator; the Australian Information Industry Association and a huge network of firms that we met, with them, in an extended discussion about the needs of the sector; AusBiotech; and the University of Newcastle, where we launched only last week Australia's first—and the Australian government's first—medical precinct task force. The university precinct task force created a hub, a cluster or a precinct built around the new medical school—the Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute, which the member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, fought for and is now delivering. So they will not just stop at the construction jobs or the 750 jobs associated with the medical school once it is up and running. They will create a whole additional wave of employment through an incubator and start-up program built around it, and we announced that only last week.

To go on, we worked with Tyro, Seatfrog and other start-ups within the Tyro network. We had discussions with people such as Daniel Petri and Bill Ferris, Blackbird Ventures and many others that are slated to come forward. I have been fortunate enough in my life, prior to coming into this place, to work with McKinsey & Company in this space. It is one of those long and abiding personal passions of my career to have been associated with the foundation of one of Australia's great start-up firms, Aconex, which is now worth more than $1 billion, and I had the fortune of being involved right at the commencement of their operations. As a foundation investor I have seen and lived this journey, and it remains one of my great passions. To be in this space now is a tremendous honour.

In collaboration we have handed over the synchrotron and the Commonwealth now has title and responsibility. We have launched the Global Innovation Strategy, in terms of the Global Connections Fund—the Priming Grants. We have launched the Global Innovation Strategy landing pads. We have completed the contract for quantum computing, in terms of what we have done with the University of New South Wales. We have launched the ARC linkage grants. In terms of women in STEM, on 19 August we announced the women in STEM program initiative, which we twinned with the entrepreneurs visa. We have more to come, in relation to the 'inspiring a nation of scientists', with the PM's prize for science, so we could not be moving faster in this space.

Having said that, there is a whole second and third wave of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The second wave is about private sector investment—driving forward the space with which I have had the fortune to work on, on an almost daily basis, since coming into this role and driving forward the accumulation of private capital and funds into this area. A national innovation fund is an idea which I have proposed, which is gaining considerable traction and which I am very hopeful we will be able to deliver in the first quarter of next year. At the same time we are looking, as part of the second wave of the innovation agenda, additional support for critical science infrastructure, which will come in response to the Chief Scientist's, Alan Finkel's, road map on critical science infrastructure.

The third wave of what we are seeking to do in 2018 is we have already commenced the process of a National Business Simplification Initiative. Dramatically—

Mr Laundy: Hear, hear!

Mr HUNT: Oh! the assistant minister is in the chamber. The member for Reid, Craig Laundy, is driving this forward. To give you an example, take registration of a cafe in Western Sydney from seven months down to two months—that is the sort of real-world practical outcome which we want to achieve, because very few things will have more impact on creating new businesses than reducing bureaucracy and red tape. But we are not just going to do it ourselves; we are engaging the states and the councils on this.

The other element of the third wave is a national strategy for university precincts. This has never been done in Australian history. We have never had a national strategy for university precincts, driven from the top, working with each of the 39 public universities in Australia. I am happy to work with the private ones as well. That is where we will see 2¼ times the rate of growth in jobs formation as opposed to the general economy.

The United States and Germany are arguably university driven economies. Australia has had great success on the university front, but we have not been a university driven economy. In my time and my term, that is one thing which I wish to see and to which, as a government, we want to move towards.

That then brings me finally to the bill itself. This bill, as has been discussed, establishes Innovation and Science Australia. It lays out the pathway for the audit. It lays out the pathway for the 2030 plan for innovation and science. We had first, second and third waves of innovation and science. This is about planning right out to 2030. It is taking the long view but twinning it with practical action now. Ultimately, under Bill Ferris and Alan Finkel, Innovation and Science Australia will bring some of the best minds in the country together to attract investment, to drive long-term planning and to help drive government's role as an exemplar.

For those reasons, I want to thank all involved and commend my predecessor and the Prime Minister, who has made this a strong, personal passion. As we drive jobs and prepare for the future, this agenda will be the pathway for assisting the nation to do it and to do it effectively. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.