Address to the Science Meets Parliament Gala Dinner

Parliament House Canberra ACT

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: I acknowledge that we’re on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land and pay respects to elders past and present. And any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are here today as well, I want to acknowledge them. 

Thank you for your custodianship. And particularly to Paul Girrawah House, Ngambri Elder, who was here earlier. You always get something out of that Welcome to Country. It was good to have him here today. And one of the big things I’ve focused a lot on as Minister for Science is I think we all have something we can do together – and that is to recognise and pay respects to First Nations’ knowledge and systems. 

Because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were here 65,000 years, living on one of the toughest continents, learnt a lot. And there was a lot that was done in times past that did not acknowledge, recognise, and respect what had been learnt, tested, and passed on through generations. We’re doing some of that work in terms of refreshing the national science priority with focus on the First Nations’ knowledge. And that work on the national science priority is really important. 

The other thing that we want to do today as well is for the first time in the history of the CSIRO – it’s been around since World War I – we today announced the first First Nations person to be appointed to the board of the CSIRO. A big day. Professor Alex Brown, Indigenous genomics doing so much in terms of some of the things that held people back is really important. I think we can all do more on this and play a part in terms of all of that. 

I want to thank – obviously the Deputy Prime Minister will be here shortly. He is also the co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Science. I also want to acknowledge the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews. Between Karen and Richard they did a big thing in terms of setting up that Parliamentary Friends of Science. And a lot of the work that has started in terms of encouraging parliamentarians to engage, that was a mammoth task. 

I don’t care – and I know Karen is the same and Richard – it doesn’t matter about your politics; what matters is that we work in the national interest in this arena and advance the science. And I just want to extend to Karen and Richard – and I hope you can join with me in congratulating them for starting that and maintaining the Parliamentary Friends of Science. Thank you very much. 

And to the Shadow Minister for Science, Paul Fletcher – where are you, Fletch? Where is he? G’day, how are you? Going well? Yeah, good, thumbs up. So Paul’s good. That’s good. And I saw Brian Schmidt – sorry, this is dangerous because once I start seeing people and acknowledging, I’ll be going to every table. Misha Schubert, thank you so much. You know, I know ANSTO is doing some great work, but if we could actually tap into your energy, we’d solve a lot of problems in this country. It’s amazing how much you do, and Mark. So many VIPs and parliamentarians in attendance. Huge. 

And it’s been a great time to be in Parliament. Now, Mark – where’s Mark? What was that number you said? How many parliamentarians did they meet? You’ve got a louder voice than that – I know that. 


ED HUSIC: So, the target we’ve got to beat next year is 87. We’re going to do much better next year, right? 

Okay, so just so you know – some people do know – I’m as stubborn as a mule, so we will hector and find more than 87 and we’ll get all the friends’ colleagues that are here – there are a lot of parliamentarians that are here tonight – they’re all going to join up and make sure we beat that target. 

Because it is tremendous. It’s a great record on what you’ve been able to break today, and it’s really important because being able to not only engage in that way but to build what I think is really important – the faith and the know-how that is present in all those scientists and researchers and people and technologists who have been going out and meeting MPs and to all the members and senators who did that today, can I extend to you a heartfelt thanks for your engagement as well. It is very much appreciated. 

And this event itself holds a very special place in my heart because it was the first official speaking role that I had as the Minister for Industry and Science, and it was a unique opportunity to be able to meet with you all. One of the people that doesn’t like it when I speak at these events is my speech writer because I tend to cut the speech out and, of course, then we go through a whole round of therapy. But I did speak from the heart last year and I think a lot of do feel strongly about the role. And we are kind of a new government and we’re prioritising. We’re doing that refresh, as I said, of the national science priorities. We want your involvement in that. We want you to help drive that. It’s a grassroots thing. 

We have a terrific Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, who’s here tonight. Cathy has already done 20 roundtables, and the feedback of being invited for you all to participate, please, I really want you to engage in this because it will be picked up and embedded in the national science statement. And then there’s the longer term goal, my friends, which is in terms of the investment we need to make in research in this country to lift the 1.8 per cent of GDP we’ve got in this nation at the moment, to get it closer to the OECD average. It’s going to be a big push. It’s going to be hard work. I’ve got to do a lot of work to convince colleagues to be able to get that and find the ways to do it, too, is important. Because it won’t just be about turning to government; as much as you’d love me to be able to bring forward a cheque book instead of a speech to these things, it will take a lot of work to encouraging industry as well and universities in terms of how we lift that. 

Because it’s important. There’s a lot riding on this. And to be honest, we need you. We need what you deliver in science and research and technology in this nation, we need you. We need you longer term to be able to lever off your ambition and to do the things that you want to do and you know you can do in terms of building up and lifting up the nation and improving national welfare. 

It’s not all just about making a buck; it’s important and I’m not denigrating that, but a lot of what you’re doing in terms of pushing human knowledge, pushing those boundaries, pushing for better and wanting to leave a mark of good, we need more of that. And to be able to have that platform of support under me, that’s the stuff of governments working with industry, universities and others to make that happen. 

And also, if I can say to you ensure, too, that we break down some artificial barriers that are preventing people from being able to make a contribution. That’s why I kicked off the Diversity in STEM review to lift the number of women that are involved in STEM related activity in this country, but also people from under-represented groups, from all different backgrounds and being able to have a sense that they’ve all got a part in the future of the country and driving that, leaving their mark, as I said. 

And one of the great things I love what Science and Technology Australia does is that Superstars STEM Program. Where are the Superstars tonight? Can I have a whoo-hoo. Yeah, over here. Yeah, I saw your hand. You know what I love about it, you’re trailblazers, and what you’re doing for the next lot that are coming through is really important. It’s not just about now; it’s about the ones that follow – always. Because we need to do this in mass. 

And the other thing that we want to do is encourage people to have a sense that know-how matters from all corners when it’s applied in the national interest. So we are trying to draw up people from all corners of the community to work as one for the national good. 

And so in terms of the diversity in STEM review Sally-Ann Williams, Dr Parwinder Kaur, Mikaela Jade, they’ve got a lot of work as well obviously our Chief Scientist and all the different things that we’re working on and looking forward to seeing the outcome of all that. 

The government is a government that listens to science, that acts on the science, that believes in the power of science and believes in the fact that we can have a much greater presence on the world stage. Be employing Australian skills and expertise we can create new opportunities for the nation, essential to national wellbeing. We’re committed to working with you. We want you to do the very best you can not just to make this country proud but to transform lives internationally for good. Thank you very much for what you do. Thank you for letting me be with you tonight.