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Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, Gala Dinner – Canberra


16 October 2019

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Good evening and welcome.

I have to say, tonight’s event would have to be right up there as one of my favourite events in my calendar.

It’s so exciting to me, to be in a room with our wonderful science community, celebrating the important achievements that you have all made.

Achievements that have helped us to understand the world.

It is scientific endeavour and education that drives human progress, aspiration and satisfies enquiring minds.

But it’s also science which offers the solutions to our great challenges and creates the opportunities for us to grow as a nation.

As the Prime Minister spoke about earlier tonight, it will be our science community, our researchers, who will help address some of those great challenges facing our nation.

Our science and research community also presents huge opportunity, to turbo charge industry and our nation’s economy.

It’s because of this that I’m absolutely committed to connecting our scientists with our small and medium sized businesses, to help them reap the benefits of your knowledge and skill.

We have an incredible science community in Australia. We have a rich history. What is essential, is that we continue to improve the way industry interacts with our science community.

The names of our great scientists and inventors dot our history books because they are the people that have helped revolutionise the way we live.

They are responsible for the great leaps forward that humanity has taken and continues to make.

Make no mistake. This is a government that understands the importance of science and the amazing work you do:

  • To transform the world
  • And just as critically, to drive our economy and raise the prosperity and quality of life of all Australians.

We know for that to continue, we need to keep investing and delivering the support you need.

That’s why we back Science Week and the 2,000 or so events around the country which inspire the scientists of the future.

It’s why we established the Australian Space Agency and recently announced our plan to invest another $150 million into the Australian space sector, so we can see our businesses and researchers join NASA’s Moon to Mars Mission.

It’s why we have Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith out there encouraging more girls and women to study and pursue STEM based careers.

It’s why we have the Biomedical Translation Fund, to help commercialise the incredible research that our science community is continuing to develop.

I could go on… the point I make is that it is not enough to simply acknowledge the value of science. You must back it up with substance and action.

This is what we do and will continue to do.

And we will do it in partnership with you.

The National Science and Technology Council was purposefully created by the Prime Minister and I to seek your counsel, guidance and independent advice.

To respond effectively to the great challenges ahead - to develop policies that are evidence based - we need the sage input of our scientists.

Scientific rigour is critical to good government.

And as Science Minister and as an engineer, this respect for and reliance on science in public policy, is something I am completely committed to.

It’s also why I’m such a big fan of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

On this, the 20th year of the Prizes, we proudly recognise how central science is to our lives and to our futures.

Tonight we acknowledge those men and women across many disciplines and fields of expertise:

  • Who dedicate themselves to scientific investigation and discovery.
  • Who teach, pass on and build upon the knowledge of previous generations.
  • Who every day, write history, inspire their students and make this world a better place

And I say to you - absolutely and unequivocally - that the Australian people, and this Government recognise, value and appreciate all you do and the difference you make to the world.

I also cannot let it go without being said, how proud I am to see women so well represented tonight.

A 50-50 split in our award recipients … a record and achieved after last year when there was only one recipient.

We saw a problem, we put in a strategy to address it, and only 12 months later we are seeing the fruits of that labour.

It goes to show that we do have a powerful science community, and that female scientists are a fundamental part of that, and should be recognised as such.

We know women are not usually the best self-promoters, but tonight it’s wonderful to be celebrating their success.

So let me conclude by simply saying this.

Thank you.

Thank you for all the great work you do … for your passion … your ingenuity … your bold thinking.

Congratulations and enjoy this wonderful occasion.