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Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Page: 8954


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:33): My question is to the Cabinet Secretary, Senator Sinodinos, representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Will the Cabinet Secretary advise the Senate what action the government is already taking to place innovation and science at the centre of economic growth and the creation of jobs?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:33): Thank you to Senator Reynolds for this question, and I recognise her passion for all things to do with innovation. She, I think, with Senator Dio Wang cohosted today an important function with the chief scientist of Israel.

You are right: the government is committed to showing economic leadership that will create the jobs and growth that are necessary to provide wealth in our economy and jobs for Australians. We are doing this through a number of measures to drive economic leadership in this country. Most recently we passed the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement as well as the Korea and Japan free trade agreements and have reached agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The government has introduced or reformed a range of programs that specifically support development and commercialisation of innovative goods and services. As the Prime Minister has said, we have to work more agilely, more innovatively. We have to become more nimble in the way we seize opportunities that are presented to us: the $255 million Industry Growth Centres program, which takes a sector based approach, to drive innovation by concentrating our investment on key sectors with strong growth potential; the Cooperative Research Centre program, which has $584 million in funding this year—the CRC program, which was an initiative of Labor many moons ago when Labor used to have ideas—will give considerable support to the growth centres and supports industry-led collaboration between researchers, business and the community; the R&D tax incentive, which is the government's single-largest investment in business innovation, a targeted, generous and market driven program to help businesses offset some of the costs of research; and the $482 million Entrepreneurs' Program, our flagship firm level initiative, which directly assists Australian businesses to take advantage— (Time expired)

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:35): I thank the Cabinet Secretary for that previous response—although I think I missed some of it listening to the noise from the other side; however, I do have a supplementary question. How will the next Chief Scientist further assist this government in placing science at the centre of the agenda?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:35): The government recently announced the appointment of Dr Alan Finkel AO as Australia's next Chief Scientist. This appointment has been well received. Dr Finkel is a classic example of a person who is an academic, philanthropist and businessman, who will lead the government in the national innovation and science agenda as he replaces former Professor Ian Chubb AC, who has for five years been a distinguished Australian Chief Scientist.

Senator Kim Carr: Not former; he still is.

Senator SINODINOS: Who will replace, I said. Dr Finkel's experience in science and the commercial sector means he is uniquely qualified to act as one of the government's key advisers on science and innovation, and on ways to translate our great scientific research into real, tangible outcomes for Australians and the economy. His will be a vital role in shaping our economic future and leading our national conversation on science, innovation and the commercialisation across research, industry and education sectors and the wider community.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the Cabinet Secretary also apprise the Senate of any other upcoming developments in the innovation and science area?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:37): The government acknowledges that more work needs to be done on getting the settings right for innovation and science policy. Our aspiration is to create an innovation ecosystem which can survive through the ups and downs of various levels of government—and various returns of a Labor government at some stage as well. The Prime Minister has directed the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science to release his inner revolutionary. Together we are pushing ahead with the Prime Minister's vision to transform our innovation ecosystem into one of the world's best. At the recent innovation roundtable hosted by the Prime Minister, I joined him and others in an open, frank and free-flowing discussion about the future of our system with leading stakeholders. We will examine measures around a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, more investment in start-ups, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering and maths. (Time expired)