BILLS - Industry Research and Development Amendment (Industry Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2021 - Second Reading

BILLS - Industry Research and Development Amendment (Industry Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2021 - Second Reading Main Image

I rise today to speak on the Industry Research and Development Amendment (Industry, Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2021. Like the previous speaker said, it's really too little, too late for this government. Like the bill that was before the House earlier on today, the Industry Research and Development Amendment (Industry Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2021 is pretty mundane, but in fact it is very important. It has taken this government over six years to get anything to the parliament about it. It's a real indictment of the government. It also goes with their changes earlier this year to the patent laws, making severe changes to the innovation patents, which have severely affected Australian innovative companies, particularly some in my electorate.

I have been writing to several ministers—at present, Minister Porter, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology—about these changes and the damage they're doing to some very innovative companies in my electorate of Macarthur, particularly DECO Group, which is a very innovative company using incredibly modern and new technology to provide coatings on metals that we are now used to seeing—in particular, things like writing and wood coatings on metal that we see at train stations and on new buildings. They produce non-flammable cladding for buildings that are all around our capital cities. Unfortunately, they're being targeted by overseas companies—in particular, Chinese companies—that are dumping things in Australia that are not as good as our technology but at much cheaper prices. They are really damaging our very innovative companies.

I'm pleased that I have the opportunity to speak on this bill. It's a critical piece of legislation because it is also legislation that will help our companies better target their research and development budgets. It's very important for new companies that are springing up around my electorate of Macarthur, which is in the south-west reaches of Sydney. We've clearly been severely impacted by the pandemic. Our new businesses have really been keeping us going in this very difficult time. We've had to deal with the bushfires, floods and the pandemic, as I mentioned. We've had a really challenging few years.

I commenced my local campaign, kickstart Macarthur, last year, petitioning the government to invest in our region, particularly in our innovative companies, to support jobs and support innovation. Some people may not be aware of this, but my electorate is home to some really amazing new businesses. Our manufacturing industry is one sector of Macarthur's local economy that I'm exceptionally proud of. I'm proud of the people who work in these companies. You may not be aware, but a large part of our defence manufacturing comes from Macarthur. There are companies that produce weapons and weapons mountings in my electorate.

There are manufacturers that use advanced and very sought-after technology to produce, as I've mentioned, aluminium cladding, other metal cladding and products for medical industries. I should mention that Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the bionic ear, came from my electorate of Macarthur. That's where he grew up. We're very, very proud of that. We have other industries that have followed him in medical technology. We have wonderful, wonderful new companies. Our industries greatly contribute to our local employment and interact very effectively with our high school educators to try and get young Australians coming in to the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is certainly not dead in Australia and neither is science, with a very active university and university medical school as well.

In spite of the significant hurdles local employers have had to overcome in recent years, they continue to provide employment and incomes to Macarthur families. Unfortunately, they continue to be let down by this government. I've long been petitioning the government to invest heavily in my region, and those opposite have consistently turned a blind eye to the needs of my rapidly growing community by refusing to invest in basic infrastructure and services that we need in Macarthur. I've spoken many a time about the desperately needed rail line that will link my community to the new Western Sydney airport. The Western Sydney airport will not only take passengers to and from Australia; it will also take freight—particularly from our burgeoning agricultural sector, from our small businesses and from our manufacturing industry—to the rest of the world. I look forward to the day when we can have great transport infrastructure that links Macarthur to the rest of the world, because I have no doubt that we have products they want. Many a time I have spoken about the desperately needed railway line that will link my community to the airport and to the world; but there are too many other projects that this government is funding in other areas and not in my electorate, despite it being one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic electorates in the country.

I will come to the content of the bill shortly, but one clear way those opposite could support the growing industries of Macarthur is to actually begin investing in it. Those opposite would prefer to fund millions of dollars to provide parks in affluent areas like Hornsby. They are spending over $70 million for a park in North Sydney. What a joke! And they give grants to lucrative sporting clubs, golf clubs and sailing clubs, without investing in the basics for my rapidly growing community. I'm a big believer in science and I'm a big believer in the social determinants of health as well, and these are being ignored in my electorate. These are all interrelated, and the government must be held to account for their failure to invest in my region and, ultimately, its people and future.

This legislation is more of the same from this tired, eight-year-old government that doesn't really know what to do. Those opposite would have you believe, through their spin, that this is a government heavily investing in science and supporting industry. Alas, this legislation does nothing of the sort. What we are debating is essentially a single word to change the name of a government board. We are adding the word 'industry' to Innovation and Science Australia, but those opposite have little time or care for innovation. If they cared for innovation, and cared for industry and jobs, they would be supporting the many local industries not just in my electorate but in other outer suburban electorates and elsewhere, and they would support those firms and those employers that reside in growth areas such as Macarthur.

The bill before the House does nothing to advance the interests of industry, increase innovation or prioritise scientific research. And that is what they should be doing. There is a pattern here. From their changes to the innovation patents, which occurred without proper consultation and without a proper understanding of the effects, to the changes they've brought in with the industry research and development amendment, they show a basic lack of understanding of what is important here: innovation, research and science to help our local companies, our very innovative companies, to provide research and to provide jobs for our future Australians, for our young Australians. It's all spin and slogans from that side, and very little substance. They don't understand the basics of science innovation.

Science is something the government lacks any real policy on. Australia is home to some of the best universities in the world, ranking sixth overall for the quality of our universities. However, according to the Global Innovation Index, Australia is ranked 23rd among the 49 high-income economies and we have gone back three positions since 2018. On this index, Australia scores at well below average for knowledge and technology outputs. Since the coalition entered office, Australia has lost over 90,000 jobs in Australian manufacturing. There are 140,000 fewer people doing an apprenticeship or traineeship than there were seven years ago.

Labor agrees that the government needs to think more about the links between industry, innovation and science. The facts are quite clear: we're falling behind. This is a real problem for young Australians—that includes my children and my grandchildren—and we must do better. If the Morrison government spent as much time addressing the problems they've created as they do on marketing slogans and focus groups, Australia would not be falling behind in areas where we should have a comparative advantage.

Labor has a plan for building Australian industry, innovation and science that is more than just spin. We understand and value the critical role science and innovation play in preparing our economy and our industry for the future. It's not just things like the bionic ear that Australia has done so well on in the past. In medicine, we were part of the story of the invention of antibiotics, of penicillin, with Howard Florey. There was the cochlear implant, which I've mentioned. We talk about things like the black box flight recorder, polymer banknotes, and Gardasil HPV immunisation for the prevention of cervical cancer. We've had many, many innovative companies and many, many great scientists that we need to support, and this needs to go to the future. We can't just stop where we are; we have to push ahead and we have to do better.

Australian scientists and innovators deserve better than being told by the Prime Minister: 'We've got the best plan. Take it on board.' We haven't got the best plan. We need to do better for the future. We need to import ideas and invest in ideas. We need to invest in research and development, and just focusing on trivial name changes is a very poor strategy. This bill does very little other than focus our attention on how poor this government has been in innovation and on science.

We need to do better with our outcomes and we need to focus on every innovative Australian company that we can find in each electorate around Australia and provide them with the support and encouragement to do better, to develop their ideas, to provide employment and to get our young people investing in sciences and doing what they can to move Australia forward. We can't rest on our laurels. We're not just a country that digs things out of the ground and plants things and grows them; we are a country that grows ideas and uses science to advance us towards the future. We support this bill, but much, much more needs to be done. I thank the House.