Bills Digest no. 14, 2017–18
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Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Section
14 August 2017
Purpose of the Bill
About the Australian Nuclear Science
and Technology Organisation
National Innovation and Science
ANSTO Innovation Precinct
Selection of Bills Committee
Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bills
Policy position of non-government
Position of major interest groups
Statement of Compatibility with Human
Parliamentary Joint Committee on
Key issues and provisions
Functions of ANSTO
Date introduced: 20 June 2017
Portfolio: Industry, Innovation and Science
Commencement: The day after Royal Assent.
Links: The links to the Bill, its Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speech can be found on the Bill’s home page, or through the Australian Parliament website.
When Bills have been passed and have received Royal Assent, they become Acts, which can be found at the Federal Register of Legislation website.
All hyperlinks in this Bills Digest are correct as at August 2017.
The purpose of the Australian Nuclear Science and
Technology Organisation Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) is to amend the Australian Nuclear
Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987 (the ANSTO Act) to
provide greater flexibility to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
(ANSTO), in the use of its property, facilities and resources. In particular,
the Government has indicated that the Bill will support the establishment of an
‘Innovation Precinct’ at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site.
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is one of Australia’s
largest public research organisations, focused on nuclear research and
technology. ANSTO operates some of Australia’s key national research
infrastructure including the Open Pool Australian
Lightwater (OPAL) research reactor (at Lucas Heights in Sydney), the Australian
Synchrotron and the Centre
for Accelerator Science (CAS).
ANSTO is a corporate Commonwealth entity
and was established by the ANSTO Act. Section 5 of the ANSTO Act
lists the functions of ANSTO, which include to:
research and development in relation to nuclear science and technology and to
encourage and facilitate the application and use of the results from such
research and development
and use radioisotopes, isotopic techniques and nuclear radiation for medicine,
science, industry, commerce and agriculture
and store radioactive materials and radioactive waste
advice to government and undertake international liaison in nuclear-related
available (on a commercial basis) its facilities, equipment and expertise for
research in nuclear science and technology
scientific and technical reports, periodicals and papers and
for training in nuclear science and technology, including through awarding
scientific research studentships and fellowships, in cooperation with
universities, professional bodies and other education and research
Innovation and Science Agenda
In December 2015, the Government announced the National Innovation and Science
as a comprehensive, long-term framework to drive improvements in science and innovation
The NISA focuses on four key pillars:
and capital, to help businesses embrace risk and incentivise early stage
investment in start ups
to increase the level of engagement between businesses, universities and the
research sector to commercialise ideas and solve problems
and skills, to train Australian students for the jobs of the future and attract
the world’s most innovative talent to Australia and
as an exemplar, to lead by example in the way Government invests in and uses
technology and data to deliver better quality services.
On the second pillar (collaboration), numerous reviews and
reports have identified a low level of collaboration between public sector
research organisations and the private sector as one of the key weaknesses in
the Australian innovation system. For example, the Australian Innovation
System Report 2016 noted:
Australia fares poorly on collaboration with research
institutions. Australian industry’s collaboration with higher education and
research institutions ranked the lowest of 27 countries in the OECD, both for
large businesses and for SMEs [small to medium sized enterprises].
Similarly, a recent ‘performance review’ of the Australian
innovation, science and research system by Innovation
and Science Australia
found that ‘researcher-to-business collaboration is a weakness of the
... substantial evidence that Australia is poor at
translating and commercialising its strong research base. International data
suggests that collaboration between the research and business community is weak
More recently, in March this year, the Government issued a
Science Statement to articulate ‘the government’s vision and objectives for
Australian science’, and set ‘principles for government policy-making in
The Statement also identifies improved collaboration as an area of government
focus in science and innovation, and specifically mentions the potential use of
Collaboration is vital for innovation and the competitiveness
of Australia’s industries ... By helping to overcome the barriers between
potential collaborators and by supporting increased connections, including
through innovation precincts based around universities and/or publicly funded
research agencies, the government will facilitate improved production of
research, knowledge and technologies.
As part of the focus on improved collaboration, the
Government has signalled its intention to establish an ‘innovation precinct’ at
ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site, to:
... co-locate and crowd-in scientific partners,
knowledge-intensive businesses, high-tech industry, and university graduates
around Australia’s centre of nuclear capabilities and expertise.
explains that the proposed innovation precinct will be designed to:
... help foster innovation within ANSTO and its community; by
instilling an understanding of innovation and providing opportunities for
knowledge transfer between academia and industry.
It will connect the Australian industry with our nation’s
best and brightest researchers and engineers, and provide unparalleled access
to Australia’s landmark and national research infrastructure.
ANSTO’s proposed innovation precinct will have three
components: a ‘Graduate Institute’, an ‘Innovation Incubator’ and a ‘Technology
Park’, all designed to ‘enable ANSTO to act as a conduit between research,
industry and universities’.
The Precinct will bring together scientific partners and
businesses to provide a unique environment with opportunities to embrace world
class expertise, teaching, research and industry-ready graduates in one
location. The aim is to establish a global scale nuclear science and technology
centre to train and develop future scientists, engineers and technologists,
foster innovation with emerging technologically astute experts in an ‘ecosystem’
that is attractive to industrial users.
The Graduate Institute aims to establish a ‘more formal
program of postgraduate training and development in partnership with
According to ANSTO, currently, at ‘any given time, there are approximately 120
postgraduate researchers from over 30 universities who spend time as
postdoctoral researchers directly leveraging ANSTO’s infrastructure and
The proposed Institute will expand this program to allow approximately 300–400
graduate and postgraduate students to undertake research studies at ANSTO.
The Innovation Incubator will offer ‘physical office and
co-working space for eligible members’ as well as ‘access to ANSTO graduates,
structured programs, business support services and innovation toolkits’.
According to the second reading speech, the proposed
Technology Park will ‘crowd-in SMEs, high-tech industry and knowledge-intensive
business, which will have the benefit of close access to ANSTO’s unique
capabilities, nuclear applications and research infrastructure’.
Notably, businesses that have ‘already approached ANSTO regarding possible
co-location’ include those in ‘high-end medical manufacturing, next generation
food production and 3D data capture’.
of Bills Committee
At its 9 August 2017 meeting, the Selection of Bills
Committee deferred consideration of the Bill.
Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
The Scrutiny of Bills Committee had no comment on the Bill.
position of non-government parties/independents
At the time of writing, non-government parties and
independents do not appear to have publicly commented on the Bill. However,
during Senate Estimates hearings in May 2017, Australian Labor Party Senator Kim
Carr, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, indicated
that he was ‘not opposed’ to a possible ANSTO innovation precinct, but sought a
more detailed briefing from ANSTO.
major interest groups
At the time of writing, no major interest groups appear to
have publicly commented directly on the Bill. However, according to the
Explanatory Memorandum, ANSTO has been:
... working in partnership with local industry groups,
universities and all levels of government in developing an ANSTO Innovation
Precinct. These stakeholders have been supportive of the proposal and have been
working with ANSTO to achieve the successful development of the Innovation
Similarly, the second reading speech indicates:
Industry groups, universities, state and local government
have all been actively engaged in the planning process for the ANSTO Innovation
Precinct and are excited about the opportunities it will bring.
In November 2016, the Greater
Sydney Commission released a draft South District Plan for public consultation
which identified the expansion of ANSTO facilities at Lucas Heights, including
the technology park, as a ‘productivity priority’.
In its submission on that consultation process, the relevant local government
authority, the Sutherland Shire Council, was supportive of the proposed ANSTO
expansion, but noted that improved transport may be needed to support that
The need for enhanced public transport and road infrastructure was also identified
by ANSTO in its own submission on the draft South District Plan.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the Bill will not
have any direct financial impact on the Budget. However, the Explanatory Memorandum
states that the Bill ‘will allow ANSTO to leverage its facilities to generate
additional capability and increase opportunities for ANSTO to generate
commercial revenues from its land, facilities and research’.
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights
(Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the
Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared
in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The
Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
Joint Committee on Human Rights
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considers
that the Bill does not raise human rights concerns.
Key issues and provisions
Section 5 of the ANSTO Act sets out the functions
of ANSTO. As noted earlier in this Digest, these include, for example, to
undertake research and development in relation to nuclear science and nuclear
technology; to encourage and facilitate the application and use of the results
of such research and development; to manage and store radioactive materials and
waste; and to provide advice on aspects of nuclear science and technology.
In particular, paragraph 5(1)(ea) currently provides that
ANSTO may make available to other persons, on a commercial basis, its
knowledge, expertise, equipment, facilities, resources and property by:
training and management expertise
or leasing equipment
land, buildings and facilities or
other action that ANSTO thinks appropriate.
Section 6 of the ANSTO Act also provides ANSTO with
a range of general powers in connection to the performance of its functions,
including powers to enter into contracts, acquire and dispose of property, and
erect buildings and structures. Subsection 6(3) also specifically provides
ANSTO with the power to construct buildings and facilities for the sole purpose
of performing the function in paragraph 5(1)(ea).
Item 2 of Schedule 1 of the Bill amends paragraph 5(1)(ea)
to replace the words ‘on a commercial basis’ with ‘whether or not on a
commercial basis’, meaning that ANSTO’s ability to make its knowledge,
expertise, equipment, facilities, resources and property available to others will
not be limited to being provided on a commercial basis. The Explanatory
By encompassing non-commercial activities, the Bill provides
the flexibility for the potential construction of post‑graduate
accommodation and facilities, for example, which may not necessarily be
undertaken on a commercial basis, but would help support research, innovation
and training outcomes.
The Government suggests this flexibility will enable the
establishment of the proposed ANSTO Innovation Precinct at Lucas Heights (and
potentially similar developments at other ANSTO sites in the future). In doing
so, the Bill will ‘facilitate enhanced collaboration between industry,
universities, researchers and ANSTO across all its sites’.
Also, the Bill aligns with the priorities articulated in the NISA and the
National Science Statement, as outlined earlier in this Digest.
The costs associated with developing the innovation
precinct are unclear. However, as noted earlier in the Digest, the Explanatory
Memorandum states that the Bill will have no direct financial impact, but will ‘allow
ANSTO to leverage its facilities to generate additional capability and increase
opportunities for ANSTO to generate commercial revenues from its land,
facilities and research’.
Item 4 inserts a new subsection 5(4A) which
provides that, without limiting paragraph 5(1)(ea), ANSTO may perform its
function under that paragraph for the purposes of scientific research,
innovation and training. Item 1 inserts a new definition of ‘scientific
research, innovation and training’ into section 3 of the ANSTO Act. That
definition provides that ‘scientific research, innovation and training’
includes (whether or not related to nuclear science and nuclear technology):
activities in the fields of natural or applied science (including engineering
and technology) for the extension or application of knowledge
activities that involve innovation or high levels of technical risk for the
purposes of creating new or improved materials, products, devices or processes
and training of persons in matters related to activities mentioned in the above
Unlike other aspects of ANSTO’s functions listed in
section 5, this new subsection and associated definition is not limited to
nuclear science and nuclear technology, which may have the potential of broadening
Subsection 5(5) of the ANSTO Act currently provides
that ANSTO may not exceed the functions conferred upon it by virtue of the
legislative powers of Parliament, and refers to several potentially relevant powers
under the Australian Constitution such as the trade and commerce power
and external affairs,
and defence powers.
This subsection reflects the fact that there is no direct head of legislative
constitutional power for the Commonwealth relating to science and research (or,
in ANSTO’s case, nuclear science and research). However, subsection 5(5) does
not mention some other potentially relevant heads of constitutional power,
perhaps because, as the Explanatory Memorandum notes, it was drafted on the
basis of constitutional law as it was understood in 1987.
Item 5 proposes to repeal subsection 5(5) and item
6 replaces it with a proposed section 6A, setting out an updated and
broader constitutional basis for ANSTO’s functions, listing a much larger
number of constitutional heads of power. In particular, proposed section 6A
adds legislative powers such as those relating to astronomical and
meteorological observations; census and statistics; weights and measures;
copyrights, patents, designs and trademarks; provision of medical and dental
services; and Commonwealth places.
Memorandum, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Amendment Bill 2017, p. 1.
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), ‘ANSTO
at a glance’, ANSTO website.
operations and governance arrangements are subject to the Public Governance,
Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
further, for example, ANSTO, Annual
report 2015–16, p. 49.
Innovation and Science Agenda’, National Innovation and Science Agenda
Pyne (Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science), Agenda
to transform the Australian economy, media release, 7 December 2015.
Turnbull (Prime Minister) and C Pyne (Minister for Industry, Innovation and
innovation and science agenda, joint media release, 7 December 2015.
of the Chief Economist, Australian
innovation system report 2016, Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science, Canberra, 2016, p. 60; see also, for example, Joint Select
Committee on Trade and Investment Growth, Inquiry into Australia’s future in research
and innovation, May 2016, pp. 21–35; B Webster, ‘National
Science Statement does little to bring industry and researchers together’, The
Conversation, 23 March 2017.
and Science Australia (ISA) is an independent statutory board, with
responsibility for providing strategic whole-of-government advice to the
Government on all science, research and innovation matters: see ISA, ‘About
us’, ISA website.
review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System,
Canberra, 2016, pp. xiii; 83–85.
Sinodinos (Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science), Government
unveils long-term commitment to science and research, media release, 22
National Science Statement, 2017.
Memorandum, op. cit., p. 1.
Innovation Precinct’, ANSTO website.
reading speech: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Amendment Bill 2017’, Senate, Debates, 20 June 2017, p.
Plan 2016–2020, p. 9.
op. cit., p. 4358.
Plan 2016–2020, p. 9.
Innovation Precinct’, ANSTO website.
op. cit., p. 4357.
Selection of Bills Committee, Report,
8, 2017, 9 August 2017.
Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny
digest, 8, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 9 August 2017, p. 1.
Carr (Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research), Senate
Economics Legislation Committee, Official
committee Hansard, 31 May 2017, p. 151.
Memorandum, op. cit., p. 1.
. McGrath, op. cit., p.
Sydney Commission, Draft
South District Plan, November 2016, Sydney, p. 60. For further
information on the Greater Sydney Commission and Sydney District Plans, see
Greater Sydney Commission, ‘Who
we are’ and ‘District
Plans’, Greater Sydney Commission website. A list of submissions published
in relation to all the draft District Plans is available at Greater Sydney
Commission, ‘What you’ve
said’, Greater Sydney Commission website.
Shire Council, Submission
to the Greater Sydney Commission draft South District Plan, 28 March 2017, pp.
to the Greater Sydney Commission draft South District Plan, 31 March 2017, p.
Memorandum, op. cit., pp. 1–2.
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights can be found at page 3 of the
Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill.
Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report,
7, 2017, The Senate, Canberra, 8 August 2017, p. 36.
Memorandum, op. cit., p. 4.
Constitution, section 51(i); ANSTO Act, paragraph 5(d).
Constitution, section 51(xxix); ANSTO Act, paragraph 5(e).
Constitution, section 122; ANSTO Act, paragraph 5(f).
Constitution, section 51(vi); ANSTO Act, paragraph 5(g).
Memorandum, op. cit., p. 5.
a more detailed discussion of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers in
relation to science and research, see P Pyburne, N Gupta and
A St John, Industry
Research and Development Amendment (Innovation and Science Australia) Bill 2016,
Bills digest, 18, 2016–17, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2016, pp. 8–9.
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