Thursday, 20 March 2014
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
I wanted to speak very briefly to this report because, as Australia's peak scientific research body, the work of the CSIRO is critically important to the future of Australian industry and to the wider Australian community, as I think all senators would acknowledge. As do all the CSIRO annual reports, this report provides a very valuable insight into the work of an organisation that I think could very much be described as indispensable. The annual report for 2012-13 highlights a record 15 areas of science where the CSIRO is in the top one per cent of quality globally. I think that is quite an extraordinary statistic. In plant and animal sciences, environmental science and agricultural science, the CSIRO ranks inside the top 10 research institutions in the world. In 2012-13, the report records that the CSIRO had a record 254 licences for its innovation.
Previous governments—I think I can say, as a member of the Australian Labor Party, they were Labor governments—have had a proud record of supporting the vital work of the CSIRO. In fact, the previous government invested a record $3 billion in the organisation. But I was disappointed to read the recent reports of the CSIRO's workforce being under threat because of the current government's freeze on recruitment and the renewal of staff on temporary contracts. I think we have to remember that cutting the capacity of the CSIRO's research teams is a very false saving, as it will ultimately cut the ability of our nation to research, develop and commercialise our really brilliant ideas in agriculture, in energy, in textiles and in medicine.
I will continue to argue—as I have consistently—that science and innovation must be a national priority. Other countries, like China, India and Brazil, are very dramatically increasing their investment in science and research, and this is something that we need to take account of in Australia. I believe that Australia also should be increasing its investment in science and research. But I just wanted to state again, as the Senate looked at this annual report for 2012, how important practical science and industrial research are for Australia, and how investing in scientific research and innovation can give Australia a long-term competitive advantage. I commend the report to the Senate, and I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.