Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

Michael Rowland
National Science Week; Secret Ministerial Portfolios

MICHAEL ROWLAND: For more, let's bring in the Federal Industry and Science Minister, Ed Husic. Mr Husic, good morning to you.

ED HUSIC: Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We're here to talk about Science Week, which is very important. We'll get to that. But just picking up on the Scott Morrison affair. The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this morning said there could well be more to this story. Do you know what more he's talking about?

ED HUSIC: I think I'll leave it to the Prime Minister at the point that he's got all the facts and is prepared to talk about what has actually gone on. I'll leave that to him. But I do think that it is an important issue because what it points to is the matter of accountability. When a list of Ministers are tabled in the Parliament, you get to know as a member of the Australian public, and the Parliament, who's responsible for what. And you just simply cannot have a situation where a Prime Minister in secret is sworn to double-up on that job, potentially create conflict and confusion about who decision‑makers are. In the end, you're asking the question: the buck stops where? In this case, who is responsible? Who is accountable? Who is making the calls? And it's all very unclear, and it is a serious issue in terms of the way in which our democracy runs.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Is it the fact that the former Prime Minister did this or the secrecy surrounding it that concerns you the most?

ED HUSIC: I think there may be exceptional circumstances where this comes up and you heard it in the case of him working alongside the then Health Minister at the early stages of the pandemic, but it is an extraordinary circumstance, one that a lot of Australians wouldn't be familiar with, and it would require a lot of explaining. But the issue with the Morrison Government, the hallmark of that Government, was an obsession with secrecy, a refusal to be transparent and accountable, and this really does speak to the way in which Scott Morrison ran his Government where he refused to basically be open about the way that he was doing things, and you saw it in so many ways, from Question Time, shutting down debate, refusal to engage properly in the estimates process, and it was all underpinned by obsession with secrecy and refusal to be transparent.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Do you believe the Governor General has more questions to answer about his role in all this?

ED HUSIC: I think Scott Morrison put the Governor General in a very, very difficult position in terms of what's happened, and you've seen the Governor General issue statements about that. But it will come back to Scott Morrison. And again, I don't think it's any surprise that when this has all been put to Scott Morrison what was his reflex move? To not answer questions, to say that he's not engaging and this has been the problem with the way that he approaches politics, and to do so in a way that brings in the Governor General and put pressure on him, I mean, it just goes to show you the conservative side of politics when it comes to constitutional convention, it's one rule for them and the rule for the rest of us, and I just don't think that's an acceptable position at all, frankly.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, let's move on to the Science Week and I see behind you lots of, understandably, very excited kids there at Questacon, with experiments going on left, right and centre. As the Minister, how important is this week in terms of focusing on the broader importance of science and scientific knowledge to Australia's prosperity and future economic developments?

ED HUSIC: Well, National Science Week is crucially important because with the 1,600 or so events across the country, we get a chance to not only meet with scientists and hear about the work they do, but also to congratulate them because we have a lot of smart people in this country that have doing great things to improve the wellbeing of the nation. Scientists are at the forefront of that. We don't recognise them enough I think, and I just think a simple “thank you” for their work and their contribution goes a very long way. So, through all the things that have been happening or will happen through Science Week — and if you're in Broome you can learn about robotics at the Broome library, or you can go to Kuranda and see the science of butterfly food, or you can go to Hobart where they have four breweries, four brews, and two thirsty scientists explaining how beer is made. But it's all about using human knowledge in a way, as I said, that improves the lives of people. The beer one, okay, put that one aside. But you know if you look at the contributions of people like Professor Eddie Holmes, who basically uploaded the COVID virus genome that helped put us on a path to getting the vaccine discovered and made. I mean, there are people that have made big contributions and Science Week is all about recognising that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: You make a good point, Minister. This country has so many great scientists and often underappreciated scientists as well, so I want to ask you before we go, as Science Minister, do you get free run at all of those experiments that are behind you over the course of today?

ED HUSIC: Yes, yes, I'll have to declare on my register of interests that that's occurred, and we had Liv behind us, I think you would have seen, doing the dry ice experiment. I had to try a few times to make the bubble out of dry ice. Unfortunately, that didn't get filmed.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Well, Liv's doing a great job any way, so you're pretty safe there.

ED HUSIC: She really is.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Ed Husic, appreciate your time this morning, thank you.

ED HUSIC: Thanks, Michael.