Bills Digest no. 117 2009–10
Australian Research Council Amendment Bill
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the
Contact officer & copyright details
Research Council Amendment Bill 2010
Date introduced: 4
House: House of
Portfolio: Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
Act commences on the day of Royal Assent.
relevant links to the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and second
reading speech can be accessed via BillsNet, which is at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/.
When Bills have been passed they can be found at ComLaw, which is
The purpose of this Bill is to make funding
adjustments to the Australian Research Council Act 2001
(the Act) to facilitate the ongoing operations of the Australian
Research Council (ARC) and implementation of three initiatives:
research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology; the Super Science
Fellowships Scheme; and National Information and Communication
Technology Australia (NICTA).
The ARC is a statutory authority within the Innovation,
Industry, Science and Research portfolio. It advises the Government
on research matters and manages the National Competitive Grants
Program (NCGP) which it describes as ‘a significant component
of Australia’s investment in research and
development’. According to its website, the NCGP program enables the
ARC to support ‘the highest-quality fundamental and applied
research and research training through national competition across
all disciplines with the exception of clinical medicine and
In addition, the ARC administers the Excellence in Research for
Australia Initiative (ERA) which assesses the research quality
within Australia’s higher education institutions.
The Research in Bionic Science and Technology Initiative was
developed in response to the 2020 Summit which was held in
2008. The summit
comprised 1000 Australians invited by the Prime Minister to:
…shape a vision for the nation’s
future and explore new ideas and ways to meet the major challenges
that lie ahead. Government does not have the monopoly on
ideas–we need the contribution of all Australians to build a
strong and successful future for our country…
The idea that sprang from discussions at the Summit was to
‘promote better commercialisation of intellectual property,
by taking the lead in developing innovative health technologies,
such as inventing a ‘bionic eye’ by
response to this idea, the Government stated:
The Government is committed to supporting
research where Australia is on the leading edge of innovation as a
crucial investment in our nation’s future. One such area is
research into the bionic eye, which is a critical advancement for
millions of vision impaired Australians and promises the
development of technologies to translate into other areas of need.
Australia is already a world leader in bionics based on our
expertise in the bionic ear. The Government is committed to
conducting a competitive grants process to fund this important
In the 2009–10 federal Budget, the Government committed
$50 million over four years beginning in 2009–10 to:
Establish a competitive grant program managed
under the Australian Research Council's Special Research
Initiatives Scheme to facilitate research leading to the
development of a functional bionic eye.
Funding will be available to assist
up‑front research efforts to prove the efficacy and
biostability of implantable medical devices such as a bionic eye
and to develop appropriate mechanical and software control systems.
Funding will be awarded to organisations and associated partners
that can best deliver a collaborative approach that brings together
specialists from a wide range of relevant fields to position
Australia as a leader in bionic vision technology.
On 15 December 2009, the Minister for Innovation, Industry,
Science and Research nominated two research teams to share the $50
million funding to develop a bionic eye. The first team
comprises the Universities of Melbourne, New South Wales, Western
Sydney and the Australian National University. Collaborators
include the National ICT Australia, the Bionic Ear Institution and
the Centre for Eye Research Australia. They will receive a grant of
$42 million. This ‘team will utilise technology that implants
a device in the rear of the eye (the retina) to enable vision to
blind patients suffering from degenerative retinal
The second team consists of Monash University and the Alfred
Hospital to receive a grant of $8 million. The second team intends
to develop a device ‘that is implanted directly on the region
of the brain that processes vision signals (the visual cortex).
This will provide treatment for progressive
The Super Science Fellowship Scheme is part of the Super Science
Initiative announced by the Government in the 2009–10 Budget.
Super Science Fellowships, 100 in all, will be offered across
targeted disciplines. They consist of doctoral fellowships that
will allow the ‘most promising young researchers to work in
areas of national significance, with 50 fellowships to commence in
2010 and 50 in 2011’. Funding of $29.7 million has been allocated over
five years beginning in 2009–10 (including $2.5 million in
2013–14) to provide two rounds of three-year
Each fellowship will be worth up to $72,500 per annum. Fellowships will be
offered in three areas:
- space science and astronomy
- marine and climate science, and
- future industries research–biotechnology and
National ICT Australia
National Information and Communication Technology Australia
(NICTA) is an independent company specialising in Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) research. The Australian Government established
NICTA in 2002 as part of the Backing Australia’s Ability
initiative. It is funded through the Department of Broadband,
Communications and the Digital Economy and the ARC through the ICT
Centre of Excellence program.
In addition to federal funding, NICTA has additional funding
from the Australian Capital Territory Government, NSW Government,
Victorian Government and the Queensland Government. Certain
universities also contribute funding and support such as the
Australian National University, University of New South Wales
University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, Griffith University,
Queensland University of Technology and the University of
NICTA has been granted a four-year funding extension of $185.5
million, beginning in 2011–12 that was announced in the
2009-10 Budget. In a Joint press release by the Minister for
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Conroy
and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research,
Senator Carr states:
NICTA is a world-class information and
communications technology research and commercialisation facility
that is a key asset in Australia’s innovation system. It
facilitates a national approach to ICT research with four state and
territory government partners and participation by seven major
Senator Conroy noted:
With funding certainty to 2014-15, NICTA will
continue to generate significant economic and social returns for
the Australian community and attract increased investment from
The Australian Research Council and the Department of Broadband,
Communications and the Digital Economy will jointly fund NICTA. The
ARC is responsible for half the funding allocation. The allocation
for 2011–12 is $50 million, $25 million of which will be
managed by the ARC, as shown in the Budget paper No. 2 for
National ICT Australia — funding
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Australian Research Council
The Senate Selection of Bills Committee deferred consideration
of the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill 2010 at its 4
February meeting to its next meeting.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that the Bill will increase
spending by $889.6 million. It is difficult to see how this figure is derived
from the information provided. The Bill proposes to amend section
49 of the Act to change existing annual funding caps.
Section 49 of the Act currently states ‘that the total of
all approved amounts determined in respect of a year to which this
Division applies must not exceed:
(j) for the financial year starting on 1 July
(k) for the financial year starting on 1 July
(l) for the financial year starting on 1 July
The Bill proposes to change the amount in subsection 49(j) to
$652,831,000, a decrease in the cap of $3,429,000.
The proposed change to subsection 49(k) is $695,860,000, an
increase in the cap of $10,880,000.
The proposed change to subsection 49(l) is $774,169,000, an
increase in the cap of $42,520,000.
The sum total of these changes to the caps is $49,971,000.
The Bill also proposes to set the cap for the year starting on 1
July 2012 at $811,072,000.
Proposed expenditure under the Act as shown in the Portfolio
Budget Statements for the ARC in the 2009–10 Budget is as
Program 1.1: Discovery—research and research training
Australian Research Council Act 2001
Program 1.2: Linkage–cross sector research
|Total ($ million)
There are differences between the amounts shown in Portfolio
Budget Statements and the Bill as shown in the following table:
As shown in the Portfolio
As proposed in the
The figures for 2009–10 are identical but when the figures
are compared for the later financial years, the funding caps
proposed in the Bill are less than the proposed expenditure shown
in the Portfolio Budget Statements.
Division 1 of Part 7 relates to financial assistance for
approved research programs. Item 1 amends
subsection 48(2) of this Division to include reference to the
financial year starting on 1 July 2012.
As discussed above, item 2 proposes to
substitute paragraphs 49(j), (k) and (l) to amend the funding caps
for the financial years starting on 1 July 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Proposed paragraph 49(m) to be inserted includes a
reference to the financial year starting on 1 July 2012.
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff can obtain further
information from the Parliamentary Library on (02) 6277 2784.
24 February 2010
Bills Digest Service
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