Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has released the Review of Australia’s National Innovation System. Far from being a turning point for the future of innovation in Australia, as he has claimed it to be, it is more of the same old fare.

“Friends of the Earth Australia welcomes the Review’s recommendation to restore public research funding, but nowhere in the Review does it mention the need for public funding to primarily support the public interest” said Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Project spokesperson Dr. Rye Senjen.

Friends of the Earth Australia also welcomes the recommendation that we adapt or build a regulatory framework to support the responsible and safe use of innovative services and products. Unfortunately the Review is totally silent on how this can be done.

“Given that the precautionary principle is widely accepted as the most suitable basis for such a framework in the very countries which are leading innovation, this is a lamentable and discouraging omission” said Dr. Senjen.

While the report claims to support thinking outside the square and highlights the need for researchers, businesses, workers and governments to come together to play their part in Australia’s innovation system, the recommendations do not reflect this desire.

“Community representation and involvement in, for instance, the proposed new National Innovation Council is not even on the table” said Fiona Thiessen, Friends of the Earth Nanotechnology Community Campaigner. “How can you develop consensus and support for Australia’s strategic innovation directions, when the wider community is totally excluded? Apparently only research and business get a seat at the table.”

With the potential for far-reaching and disruptive changes, innovation policy must reflect community desires or risk failure. For innovation to be successful, it is vital that we thoroughly understand the potential benefits of technology development alongside its potential costs and challenges, and that we weigh up the opportunity costs of pursuit of one technology over another.

We must start by asking “Are we involving the people affected by this policy in its development?” Technology development must reflect not only commercial but also community needs. Public participation is an essential aspect of any innovation policy so that the policy can be informed and guided by public preferences and priorities.

“The public must also finally be given the right to say no to innovation it does not want”, said Dr. Senjen.


For further comment:
Dr. Rye Senjen, Friends of the Earth 0431 66 2124
Fiona Thiessen, Friends of the Earth 0422 171 121