Howard denies claims innovation plan just bid to lift Govt pre-election

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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001

Prime Minister John Howard Monday denied his Innovation Action Plan was an attempt to promote a tired government in the leadup to the next federal election.

Howard will today launch his innovation statement, expected to amount to $3 billion, in Sydney as part of a Centenary of Federation speech.

The plan will include $34 million to develop online curriculum for schools and 21,000 additional university places in science, information technology and communications.

A new HECS-style loans scheme will be set up to encourage students into science, maths and IT studies, with less fees and interest.

"We've been planning it for about a year," Howard told the John Laws radio program.

Howard said the government would double grants for research, as recommended by Chief Scientist Robin Batterham in his Chance to Change report handed to the government last year.

"As we did with health and medical research grants we're going to double the public provision," he said.

He said business should also take responsibility for the so-called brain-drain of science experts relocating overseas for better opportunities.

Figures in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Year Book 2001 released last week show the science sector continues to lag behind the industrialised world in research and development (R&D).

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