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A knowledge nation: enhancing Australia's innovation capabilities.



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A Knowledge Nation - Enhancing Australia's Innovation Capabilities Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition, and Carmen Lawrence, Shadow Minister for Industry, Innovation and Technology

Joint Media Statement - 6 September 2000

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It is time for the Howard Government to act to reverse the terrible damage it is doing to Australia's chances of becoming a Knowledge Nation in years to come.

As we outlined in contributions to the Matter of Public Importance (MPI) debate in the Parliament today, the Government has now received five reports in the last 15 months detailing the urgent need for improved investment in the Knowledge Nation.

The Government has received a green paper on research last June; a white paper on research last December; a discussion paper from the Chief Scientist last February; another discussion paper from the Chief Scientist last month; and now we have this week's report from the Innovation Summit Implementation Group warning that Australia is about to become a "branch office economy".

These reports have contained several concrete proposals for addressing these vital issues, including:

Options for restoring appropriate incentives for business expenditure on research and development; ●

Recommendations for addressing serious skills shortages in high priority areas such as maths and information technology; ●

Improved funding for the Australian Research Council; and ● The establishment of Innovation Centres and a pre-seed fund for universities and other research organisations to commercialise research. ●

These reports have been excellent, but the time for more reports has passed. We now need action from this government.

We can only echo the words of the Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham, in his recent report:

The windows of opportunity to benefit from the current revolution in information technology and biotechnology are at a maximum over the next few years. There are big opportunities based on these technologies, other technologies and telecommunications, where explosive growth creates niches for Australia not only as market opportunities in themselves, but also as a means for greatly enhancing the existing industry base. It is likely that entering the field at a later time will take greater investment and the available rates of return and benefits will be diminished.

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Unfortunately, this sense of urgency is completely missing among the government's ranks. Consider the response this week to the ISIG Report by the Minister for Industry:

This report presents the Government with a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing Australia's innovation capabilities. ●

We can read, Minister. We know what the Report says. The question is what you are going to do about it?

It is worth noting that among the major recommendations of both the Batterham and the Miles reports are many that the Labor Party have already proposed.

These include the doubling of research grants, and doing more to improve teachers' skills particularly in science, maths and information technology.

We have also given our commitment to reach the OECD average of Business Expenditure on Research and Development as a percentage of GDP (currently 1.27 per cent) by 2010.

We issue our challenge again to the government to double the number of postgraduate research fellowships at our universities, and to introduce a new set of fellowships, such as those we have proposed worth $200,000 per year, to keep our best and brightest onshore.

As we said in today's MPI debate, the issues of the Knowledge Nation must now be elevated in public debate. Labor has concrete proposals in place to begin to do so.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.