I'm advised that Gretals had applied for a bridging grant under the Global Connections Fund in 2017. The fund is administered on behalf of the government by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:43):
My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Senator Canavan. Is the minister aware that the member for Dunkley, Mr Chris Crewther, in the other place said of the company he personally invested in:
I met with the CEO of Gretals, Alistair Cumming, to discuss how they will benefit from the $50,000 grant they recently received under the government's Global Connections Fund, part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, as well as other federal funding they've recently received.
Can the minister confirm that Gretals Australia received a $50,000 grant from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science? I seek leave to table a copy of the Global Connections Fund bridging grants awardees.
Leave not granted.
On the leave: I think that Senator Carr and, in particular, Senator Wong, understand the usual courtesies that always apply in relation to these matters. At the end of question time, we may grant leave, having had the opportunity to review a copy of what is proposed to be tabled.
I now call the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Senator Canavan.
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:44):
In relation to Senator Carr's question, I am aware of the reports that Senator Carr has referred to. I'm advised that Gretals had applied for a bridging grant under the Global Connections Fund in 2017. The fund is administered on behalf of the government by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering has confirmed that, while Gretals was found to meet the requirements to be awarded a grant, the company withdrew its application. Furthermore, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering has confirmed that no funds were paid from the Global Connections Fund to Gretals.
Senator Carr, a supplementary question.
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:45):
I thank the minister for his answer. I'm just wondering why the letter that was received by the President from the Leader of the Government in the Senate didn't refer to this grant and the circumstances around the matter that he's just raised. Was there any advice provided to the leader of the government on these matters before that letter was sent?
On a point of order, the minister is being misled.
Honourable senators interjecting—
I do grant some discretion to the leaders of both parties. I'll hear the point of order he's making. He's making a point of order.
He's not making a point of order. He said 'on the point of order'. That was a question.
No, Senator Cormann is taking a point of order.
I'm taking a point of order. The question yesterday was about a grant that was made, whereas the question today is in relation to a grant that was not made. That is an important distinction, and I think Senator Carr is seeking to confuse the Senate.
Senator Cormann, with respect, that is a point of debate. Part of Senator Carr's question did ask the minister representing the minister: was any advice provided? The question was in order, so I'll call Senator Canavan.
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:46):
Obviously, Senator Carr has asked a question that relates to issues that were handled by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, so I do not have direct advice with regard to that. But I think Senator Cormann outlined the case properly here: there are two different grants, one of which is administered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, about which I have related information to you. The other grant that was referred to yesterday, I believe, comes under the education department.
Senator Carr, a final supplementary question.
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:47):
I thank the minister for his answer. I simply ask this: given that the Prime Minister has previously stated that he had no concerns in this matter, did the minister or the department provide the Prime Minister with a brief on the question of the Global Connections Fund grant before the Prime Minister made those comments, given that the member for Dunkley actually stated in the House of Representatives that the company, which he personally had invested in, had actually received the benefit of this $50,000 grant?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:48):
This is the second question in a row where you've asked around issues that relate to another portfolio. Obviously, you're asking about what the—
Order! Senator Canavan, please resume your seat. Senator Carr on a point of order.
Senator Kim Carr:
On a point of order. I would like to clarify, this is the same grant from the department of industry to the same company which the member for Dunkley personally referred to in the House of Representatives: a benefit which he had received.
Senator Carr, I'll take that as a point of order on direct relevance. Senator Cormann, on the point of order.
On the point of order, given that Senator Carr is deliberately seeking to mislead the Senate, the Australian Research Council grant—
Senator Cormann, I'll ask you to withdraw the comments about deliberately misleading.
I withdraw. The point, though, is that it's not a grant to the company concerned; it's a grant to the University of Melbourne.
Order! I've heard enough. These are points of debate. They are entitled to be raised during question time or following by a person asking or answering a question. I'll call the minister to answer the question asked by Senator Carr.
Thank you, Mr President. As I was indicating earlier, the question Senator Carr just asked was: did the Prime Minister receive briefings? Obviously, as I outlined, I don't represent the Prime Minister in this chamber. What I can advise is that I have been briefed on this information as the representative minister. Of course, any questions in relation to the Prime Minister's briefings need to be asked of the relevant minister.