Featured image: Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon Arthur Sinodinos, addresses the National Press Club at Science meets Parliament 2017
The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon Arthur Sinodinas, highlighted collaboration and ensuring all Australians understood the benefits of science as key areas of focus for the Government’s science ‘vision’ in an address to the National Press Club.
The Hon Sinodinas is the fourth Minister for Science in four years. This was his inaugural address to what Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel termed the ‘network of nerds’, a gathering of over 200 of Australia’s most senior scientists at Science meets Parliament.
Sinodinas said innovation has become a buzzword that “excites socially mobile, inner-city types; but for other Australians, creates anxiety – about job losses and insecurity.”
However Australians need to be prepared for disruption as “the new constant”, he warned.
“We need to manage the transition from the resources boom to more balanced, broad-based growth.
“This is against the backdrop of heightened uncertainty and slower economic growth, and a yearning for more protectionist measures.”
Sinodinas went on to quote Atlassian co-founder and highly successful tech entrepreneur Mike Canon-Brookes, who recently questioned if the government was “dodging the question of job losses as a result of innovative change.”
“The Government has started a conversation with the Australian people to address just that question. We’re about helping your business to respond to disruption and stay viable in the future. We want to create a culture of innovation across the board.”
Australia’s climate science and energy future
Overall, the mood at Science meets Parliament, which brings 200 science, technology, engineering and maths professionals and researchers to Canberra to pitch their programs to politicians – about a third of whom volunteer their time – was positive and researchers were happy to be heard.
“Science meets Parliament is a great event. It is about recognising the contribution of scientists. Scientists and politicians should be natural communicators,” said Sinodinas.
He also addressed criticisms of the Government’s commitment to climate change science at the National Press Club address.
“We haven’t turn our back on climate science, we made sure it is properly looked after and protected and that will provide its own insight into climate science information. We are also trying to deal with this issue at the same time as we deal with the affordability and reliability of energy.”
Science at the forefront of the next election
Last night both the Minister and Opposition Leader the Hon Bill Shorten presented their vision of science at a gala dinner. Sinodinas extolled Australia’s national research infrastructure, including the Australian Synchrotron and the Square Kilometre Array, a 3000-dish radio antennae that will offer an unique glimpse into the universe’s early history. He also emphasised we need to “nail collaboration”.
“As a country, if we want to have control over our economic destiny, we want to have world class companies operating out of Australia. To do that we need to nail collaboration.
“Finding the money for the next stage of the research infrastructure is a challenge.”
Shorten also highlighted collaboration as an essential goal, and reiterated the Opposition’s goal to invest 3% of GDP in science R&D by 2030.
“Science research and innovation are not niche areas. They should be frontline for all of us.
“The issues that scientists deal with are political and there needs to be this engagement,” said Shorten.
“Science research and innovation are economic, environmental and practical issues that are vital to adapting to technological change and will allow us to compete in the Asian market. It shapes the way that we learn and teach.”
He also emphasized the need for job security for postgraduate researchers, a sentiment widely echoed by scientists attending the Science meets Parliament event.
“For all of those postdoc researchers who spend years, we owe you certainty in terms of support,” said Shorten.
“We can’t complain about fake news when the facts don’t suit the stories. We see you as essential to the future. Science will be at the forefront of the next election.”
– Heather Catchpole