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THE GOVERNMENT’S R&D BILL

December 10, 2019

At a time when investment in research and development (R&D) is in decline compared to other countries, it is concerning that the Morrison Government has reintroduced a controversial bill amending the Research and Development Tax Incentive.
 
Last Parliament when the Government first sought to cut around $2 billion from R&D, it slipped the measure into a bill titled “Making Sure Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share of Tax in Australia” – a misnomer given a large number of firms affected are Australian start-ups and small and medium enterprises.
 
Labor supports the intent of measures to maintain public confidence in the integrity and financial sustainability of the R&D tax incentive, as per the Senate Economics Committee report.
 
However, the Government is yet to properly explain how the minor tweaks to the bill before Parliament have heeded the bipartisan concerns of the Senate Committee that the R&D measure “should be re-examined in order to ensure that Australian businesses are not unfairly disadvantaged”.
 
Labor is proud of creating the R&D Tax Incentive, the single largest investment the Commonwealth makes in supporting science, research, industry and innovation in the Australian economy.
 
Only Labor has sought to address the decline in R&D spending in Australia.
 
Under the Liberals, Gross Expenditure in Research & Development (R&D) as a proportion of GDP decreased from 1.88 per cent to 1.79 per cent according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
 
Business R&D spend has hit 0.9 per cent of GDP, falling below 1 per cent of GDP in the previous data (2015-16).
 
The total human resources devoted to business R&D is still well below what was devoted when the government took office. In 2013-14 total ‘person years of effort’ was 78,839, whereas the most recent data is 74,991 – almost 5 per cent lower.
  
It is clear that the Government’s lack of an economic agenda, coupled with an anti-science backbench, poses a serious threat to our economy, industries, and present and future workforces.
 
As a recent Australian Institute of Company Directors report noted, Australia’s total Gross Domestic spending on R&D is currently ranked 21st within the OECD and that while the global trend is for national business expenditure on R&D to grow, Australia’s has fallen.
 
As such, Australia’s investment levels have fallen below countries such as South Korea, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Singapore.
 
Labor will continue to consult widely on the impact of the R&D Tax Incentive measure, and fight for researchers against the Government’s anti-science agenda.

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