Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Questions without Notice
National Science Week
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Senator Ronaldson. I note that applications for grants for National Science Week 2014 closed on 24 October 2013, and I refer the minister to the notice on the Department of Industry's website saying the successful recipients will be announced in early 2014. Given that applications closed more than five months ago, can the minister advise when the government will get around to announcing these grants?
I will take that on notice. I am a bit surprised that you would use question time for that, frankly. I would have thought that, if you had any sense, you would have picked up the phone to call the minister's office. Anyway, I am happy to talk about this government's view of the importance of science. But before that I owe Senator Carr an apology. I have over the last month accused him of being the science minister for all of six years. That is actually incorrect and I hope the he will accept my apology. It has come to my attention that Senator Carr was not the science minister for six years. Indeed, in the space of three months last year there were four Labor ministers responsible for science. So regrettably—
Mr President, on relevance: the specific question was about the grants and when they will be announced. The minister has taken the question on notice. We do not need a history of the process.
It is a pretty tough school when you give an apology and you get a point of order taken on you! To finish off my answer: Chris Evans was the minister responsible, then there was Chris Bowen, then there was Craig Emerson, and then no less than Senator Farrell had some responsibility.
I said to Senator Carr that I would take that specific question on notice. He did ask me about science and I was attempting to answer. I note in relation to this government's commitment to science and research that the minister announced recently the latest round of funding— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It is true that the government has much to apologise for when it comes to its approach to science—but no science minister. I note that the department registered only one 2014 National Science Week grant, totalling $4,400, for a children's science project—and that has been provided to date. Where is the remaining $495,600 in grants and why is the government delaying its announcement?
I have already indicated to the honourable senator that I will take his specific question on notice. Talking about funding, I do note that a number of budget decisions taken by the previous government which will result in savings across the science, innovation and research sector are yet to be reflected in the budget tables. They will be reflected in the next release of the budget tables due after the 2014-15 budget. Remarkably, based on the 2013-14 budget papers, funding in 2012-13 fell by $140.5 million compared to the previous financial year.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Following the delay in announcing the Cooperative Research Centres 16th round recipients, this is now the second science grants program in as many months to be significantly held up by this government. Is this yet another example of the failure of this government to have a serious and credible science policy?
In 2013-14, funding fell by $329.3 million compared to the previous financial year. I find it remarkable that a former science minister has the gall to stand up here and talk about budgets and funding.
Through you, Mr President: Senator Carr, you are undoubtedly the worst science minister this nation has ever had. You have overseen a dramatic reduction in funding for science and, quite frankly, we have no intention of getting lectured by you in relation to these matters.