In this month’s federal budget $1.35 billion budget cuts were announced to the R&D scheme, taking the total to over $4 billion cut under the Coalition government.

“We’ve got to ensure that there is the maintenance of the integrity of the program, but we also want to make sure that people aren’t treated unjustly,” Senator Carr said.

“In particular that means seeing if agents have been deployed improperly or that departmental officials aren’t overstepping the mark in the way in which they’ve implemented the government’s savings policies.

“You can only do that with the resources of government, but my intention is that we can find mechanisms to exempt the smaller companies from these reductions.”

While the idea of making it easier for smaller companies to claim R&D incentives will play well among the tech start-up community, Senator Carr said it was vital that innovation policy looked beyond this cohort to incorporate large organisations that could create more jobs through innovative work.

“Tech experts saying what people ‘need to hear’ is a fundamentally contemptuous attitude. This was not about enlightenment it was about indoctrination.”

Kim Carr, Shadow Innovation Minister

Describing Malcolm Turnbull as a “shocking politician,” he said the Coalition had bungled Innovation policy by making it  about only the tech sector of the economy.

Snuffing out any hopes the start-up sector may have of a return to the “Ideas Boom” era rhetoric, Senator Carr said innovation policy would focus on broader industry and science.

“If you frighten people rather than engage people, then it’s counterproductive, and that’s why Turnbull made a terrible error. He talked as if this was a marketing exercise for an insiders’ group, rather than being a matter of such critical importance to the future of the country,” he said.

“If you’re not talking to people in the suburbs or provincial cities you’re failing … tech experts saying what people ‘need to hear’ is a fundamentally contemptuous attitude. This was not about enlightenment it was about indoctrination.

“People are not interested in a proposition to fundamentally disrupt their lives without engaging with them. That’s why there has got to be a role for the trade unions and the people on the job.”

Professor Ian Chubb will be a part of a six-month post election review that will look to raise expenditure on R&D. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Taking a leaf out of former Coalition innovation minister Greg Hunt’s book, Senator Carr said it was important to look to major manufacturers like Dulux when planning innovation and science policy.

He said the paint company employed more chemists than any other enterprise in the country, and needed to be further encouraged to bring more manufacturing back to Australia.

While declining to disclose any new signature innovation investment policy to take to the election, Senator Carr has previously announced a plan to create a $1 billion “Australian manufacturing future fund”, which takes equity or provides loans to manufacturers investing in innovative work.

He said this would be part of a policy portfolio that would “end the war on science” that had seen the current government take a dismissive attitude towards experts .

Former Australian government chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb would be named on a panel looking to conduct a six month review under Labor, looking at how to raise national R&D spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030.

“The three-per-cent target is the first time a political party in Australia has done that. Currently we’re at 1.8 per cent and we declined from 2.1 per cent in 2013, but we have had a 30 per cent drop in business R&D,” Senator Carr said.

“We have the fact that over a thousand scientists have lost their jobs under this government, so ending the war on science is a priority.

“It’s about rebuilding that relationship with the science community, but we can’t get around the fact that we require substantial new investments, both public and private, in basic research capacity.”


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