Independent Senator for the Australian Capital Territory David Pocock is set to support the National Reconstruction Fund bill, with his proposed amendments expected to be backed by the government and the Greens.
On Monday, Senator Pocock welcomed the establishment of the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) but pushed for four amendments, including one to the second reading motion which calls on the government to “consider exploring” additional policy mechanisms to provide startups with access to finance for commercialisation.
InnovationAus.com understands three of the four proposed amendments are likely to get up and that this will be enough to guarantee Senator Pocock’s support for the passage of the NRF Corporation Bill through the Senate.
The Greens are understood to be supporting all of Senator Pocock’s amendments. Labor is supporting Senator Pocock’s substantive amendments and the call to explore policy mechanisms for financing startups.
However, Senator Pocock is still seeking a specific commitment to establishing a commercialisation body that supports the NRF — similar to how the Australian Renewable Energy Agency supports scaling projects before they can receive support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Speaking to the amendments in Parliament, Senator Pocock said that for too long startups have had to “go overseas to develop technology that is important to Australia”.
“For the NRF to succeed, we clearly need a sustainable pipeline of eligible projects at a stage suitable for funding through the Corporation,” he said.
“And additional work ensuring that there is finance available for those startups will help address the challenge of early capital to get them through the valley of death”.
The same amendment also calls on the government to “establish a presence for the [NRF] Corporation in the Australian Capital Territory”.
Senator Pocock added that this would ensure the Corporation has “good engagement with other government agencies and departments.
“We can’t afford to operate in silos. We need the NRF to be speaking to departments like the Department of Industry, Department of Agriculture, the CSIRO and so many more,” he said.
Substantive amendments relating to the governance of the fund are also expected to be passed, including reducing the maximum term for NRF board members from five years plus five, to four years plus four.
Another amendment tabled by Senator Pocock, which would require reporting of the identity of NRF investment recipients in the Corporation’s quarterly investment reports, does not have government support but will likely get up thanks to the Greens and the Coalition.
Senator Pocock’s fourth proposed amendment is not expected to pass. It would require the NRF board to give consideration to “Australia’s international obligations and commitments under” the Convention on Biological Diversity 1992, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 2022, and “any subsequent global biodiversity framework to which Australia is a party”.
Senator Pocock told the Senate that Australia is a “mega-diverse country, one of only two developed countries that is mega-diverse. Biodiversity often misses out on being considered. We have to ensure that a “in all the decisions we make making, we are taking into account the impact, negative or positive that it will have on nature. We’re part of nature”.
“If nature goes down we go down with it. And so, it makes sense to consider the impact on nature in all of our programmes and funds that are being set up,” Senator Pocock said.
Finally, Senator Pocock said he would seek government commitments that the NRF board would consider climate related risks in its investment decisions.
He also highlighted his belief that the board should consider “nature-based solutions when making investment decisions”, although this and the aforementioned commitment are not included in the tabled amendments.
Concluding his speech to the Senate, Senator Pocock said the NRF is a “significant step in ensuring we are making things here in Australia”, as well as supporting Australian startups and innovation export to the world.
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