ALS Exclusive: Senator Kim Carr blasts opposition on science and innovation

By David Binning
Friday, 20 August, 2010

In an exclusive interview with Australian Life Scientist federal minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Senator Kim Carr has launched a scathing attack on the federal opposition’s lack of vision on science and innovation warning that a victory for Tony Abbott tomorrow would represent a huge backward step for the nation.

“The coalition would slow the modernisation of the Australian economy,” Carr said. “Their ignorance is scandalous and they are fundamentally lazy”.

In particular, Carr cited the opposition’s filibustering on the proposed R&D Tax Credits legislation, which he said would represent the single biggest R&D program in Australia’s history, replacing an outmoded system which discriminates against smaller companies.

The opposition succeeded in blocking the bill’s passing in the senate earlier in the year, however the government remains committed to pushing it through and having it apply retrospectively should it manage to get re-elected tomorrow.

“We will reintroduce the bill at the first opportunity,” said, adding that the government has already increased overall R&D spending in Australia by 34 percent since it came to office in 2007, a trend it intends to continue.

Labor is the only major party to make any significant announcements on science and innovation throughout the election campaign. Shadow science and innovation minister Sophie Mirabella did not respond to initiations for an interview with ALS.

Last week the government announced a number of new initiatives including a $21 million Inspiring Australia Policy, designed to foster a deeper understanding of science and innovation at the community level. It also voiced a commitment to supporting greater international collaboration for Australian science.

Carr stressed that the government recognises Australia’s life sciences and biotech industries as fundamental for the country’s future health and prosperity, citing a number of recent government initiatives including $52 million towards DNA sequencing as well as $35 million to fund pre-clinical testing facilities. He added that the government has made significant investments in biotech and nanotechnology through the Super Science Initiative. “We all know how important these areas are,” he said.

In contrast, Carr said that the opposition has proposed a “grab-bag of slogans”, behind which lie plans to systemically curb spending on Australian science and innovation which would lead to an immediate loss of jobs and momentum for crucial Australian industries while damaging the country’s long-term future.

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