Investment in science and research at lowest levels under Abbott Government
Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (19:57): The Australian Greens have spoken to this bill at length in the House, so I will make here a few brief comments in support of our position. Under the Abbott government, investment in science, research and innovation is at its lowest level since records began in the 1970s. This bill has to be seen as part of a package of legislation that is about attacking the research, innovation and development system in this country. Added to that is the horror budget that people all across the country have turned their backs on because they know it attacks not only the young, the old, the sick and the poor, but also the smart. Through the budget, the government cut $111 million of funding from the CSIRO, causing hundreds and hundreds of jobs to be lost from the CSIRO.
As the Greens have made clear when dealing with this bill in the House, the health and medical research sector is not only vital to the health and welfare of the Australian people, it is a key part of our economy. The Greens have repeatedly put forward costed plans to grow research and business in this vital sector, but are yet to get support from the government or the opposition. We also believe, though, that we must make sure new discoveries and cures are made available to the population. It is incredibly disappointing that this bill, which comes in the context of an attack on the innovation system generally, fails to grapple with the important question of how we make sure the cures, research and technology are available to everyone.
The Greens moved amendments in the House in an attempt to strike a balance between growing research and making new cures available to everyone. It is our view that, unless we deal with this issue, we will see ever more litigation, as we are seeing over breast cancer treatments. Our amendments also addressed both the issue that patients have raised about the difficulty of addressing Crown use provisions and getting ministers to make decisions, and the issue that companies have raised about how they sometimes feel that the capacity for Crown use provisions to be exercised can work against them commercially.
It is disappointing that the amendments did not receive support from either the government or the opposition.
We will support this bill but note that it is a missed opportunity and that the Greens will continue to press for changes. I place on record, again, the Greens desire that parliament work out how to strike the right balance to ensure that Australia becomes an innovation powerhouse and continues to lead the world in areas like health and medical research but that, as we lift our discoveries and the economy, we also lift the standard of public health.