Doorstop, Parliament House


SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s plan to commercialise research; Higher Education Bill before the Senate; Stance of the PUP; Senator Nova Peris; ASIO comments on banning the burqa; Labor’s support for the security legislation.

KIM CARR: I draw your attention to statements the Government has made overnight – an unscrupulous device whereby they release a report, which is a general public report, to a few journalists – concerning the commercialisation of research. The Government that parrots the very worthy aspiration that we should have greater cooperation between our business community and our university community, and says that they’re going to launch a review of their $9.2 billion program and have it all concluded, basically by Christmas time. They've got a month for consultation and then they’ll take three weeks to come forward with deliberations.

This is in the context where they have removed $9 billion from the higher education, research and innovation budgets – where they have stripped away the very instruments that you need to ensure that there is a high level of cooperation between our university system and our research communities and, of course, our business community.

So we’ve seen Budget cuts to the CSIRO, budget cuts to the other science agencies, the removal of Commercialisation Australia, the removal of Enterprise Connect, the removal of Researchers in Business, $620 million taken out of the R&D Budget – the R&D Tax Incentive. This Government claims to be interested in these matters but all its actions belie its interest. This is a Minister who has said that they should be judged not by what they call themselves but by what they actually do. Well what this Budget has done is to strip away the support for investment in science and research in this country.

On the other matter of the university Bill that is before the Parliament today, we have no intention whatsoever of making any concessions on this matter, because this Bill is so fundamentally unfair. The prospect of $100,000 degrees is real, the prospect of students being crippled by debt, and of teachers and nurses being required to take up to 25 years to pay off their debts is a proposition the Labor Party can never accept. This Government is creating a funding crisis within our university system by cutting the Budget by 20 per cent and then says that students have to pay colossal new fees for a university degree. This is a Government that is stripping away the fundamentals of the fair go in this country when it comes to securing a quality education.

JOURNALIST: Does Senator Nova Peris have any questions to answer?

CARR: I read the reports this morning. These are private matters. We’ll wait to hear what Senator Peris has to say.

JOURNALIST: How do you think she would feel this morning, reading them?

CARR: I can’t see how anyone could possibly welcome the sort of report that you saw this morning. But I have not heard what she has had to say. These are clearly issues that News Ltd wishes to pursue. We’ll wait to hear what Senator Peris has to say.

JOURNALIST: Is it grubby journalism?

CARR: I don’t want to say anything further till we know more about it.

JOURNALIST: How confident are you of the Palmer United Party’s resolve in blocking the higher ed [inaudible]?

CARR: All I can say to you is that in all my conversations with Clive Palmer and the Senators associated with PUP their resolve has grown stronger every time I speak to them. Their hostility to these bills seems to grow.

The Government wants to play this drop the hanky routine, where they run around and suggest that this one or that one is about to defect, or that this one or that one is going to be the mover of the Trojan horse that gets these shocking propositions through the Senate. Every time I speak to these senators directly, they say to me privately what they say in public. The only difference is that their resolve is growing, not weakening, and so it should be.

This is a proposition that the Australian people have rejected. Overwhelmingly the Australian people know that this is a rotten deal, that this is a rotten bill, and it will undermine the basic principles of fairness in this country. It is a proposition that this Senate should reject, and we’ll be doing all that we can to see that that happens.

There’ll be a proper discussion in the Senate about the details of the legislation, but I am confident that a majority of Australian senators will tell this Government to go back to the drawing board on these matters.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the ASIO report this morning that any ban on the burqa would be counter-productive, in fact would increase the security risk?

CARR: The Labor Party is very concerned that we preserve national security, that we preserve the protection of the Australian people. But we do say that in the context that we want to preserve the Australian way of life. That’s the point: to preserve the freedoms, the ways of life that we value so highly. And it doesn’t surprise me that that report has revealed the views of ASIO in that light.

JOURNALIST: In view of the bipartisan support for the security legislation overnight, should you be reconsidering your support?

CARR: The Labor Party has considered the security bills in very close detail. Very, very substantial amendments have been agreed to by the Government as a direct result of the discussions with the Labor Party. We have a proper parliamentary process to examine those measures that our members of that Joint House Committtee got it right, and that we will be supporting these measures – as amended – to secure the security of this country.


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