Labor has accused the government of politicising the Cooperative Research Centres grants program after it was revealed the latest rounds’ recipients were selected late last year but are still yet to be publicly announced.
The Coalition said it had planned to announce the successful applicants to the 21st round of Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grants last December.
Despite the round having closed and the selected companies being informed they had been successful, there is yet to have been a public announcement of the winners, a Senate estimates hearing was told on Wednesday morning.
“There has been a process – the round has closed and we have gone through our evaluation process and now it is a matter of releasing the outcomes. The department has provided the advice,” AusIndustry’s Duncan McIntyre told the estimates hearing.
Labor’s Senator Kim Carr said the government was holding back the announcement until a politically opportune moment, and this was impacting the successful bidders.
“We’ve got a large number of companies who are in breach of reporting requirements to the stock exchange because the government is waiting on a convenient political timetable to make a public announcement about decisions that have been made and have been made for quite some time,” Senator Carr said.
“We now have a situation where the requirements of the partners and companies involved in the CRC program have got an obligation to the stock exchange,” he said.
“They know there’s been a material change to their circumstances, but are prevented from making changes to the stock exchange because the government is waiting for a suitable time to make a political announcement about a funding round.”
But Employment Minister Michaelia Cash denied these companies had been prevented from making announcements to the stock exchange about the CRC funding.
“You are actually wrong,” Senator Cash told Senator Carr. “I am instructed that the CRCs have been advised that they can make all the disclosures as necessary. Everything you’ve just said to date…is incorrect.”
The CRC program provides funding for “long-term, industry-led research collaborations” through a number of grant rounds. It provides half of a project’s value involving industry-led collaboration and at least one Australian organisation.
The 21st round of CRC funding opened in April last year and closed in October. The winners were selected in December and informed of this, but the list is yet to be publicly announced. The funding is due to start in July this year.