Shadow Science Minister Paul Fletcher MP gave the following speech during the launch of National Science Week at Parliament House on Thursday 4 August.
Well thank you very much, Misha, its great to be here for the launch of National Science Week which, as has rightly been mentioned, has enjoyed strong bi-partisan and indeed, cross party support for many, many years.
I will seek to be digitally compressed with my remarks as we’re under some time pressure here so I want to incorporate by reference some of the acknowledgements the Minister made – congratulations, Ed, on becoming the Minister for Science, Melissa Price, of course, what a great job you did, but I do want to particularly acknowledge Cathy Foley, my constituent, who did such great work at CSIRO and now doing such a great job as the Chief Scientist. And can I acknowledge all the many friends and supporters of science who are here.
Friends, we know that the extraordinary growth in prosperity, in safety, in quality of life that has characterised life in advanced nations like Australia over the last 100, 200, 300 years reflects science. It reflects centuries of achievements – the Watson and Crick, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, and of course the names go on, and in Australia we see that tradition of research and the application of research in things that we’re all intensely proud of: the bionic ear from Cochlear, the cervical cancer vaccine, Wi-Fi – of course, developed by CSIRO. We can talk about whether it was commercialised as successfully as it could have been, who ended up getting the money, but the science was great. I’d also like to mention Baraja, a company commercialising LiDAR technology for driverless vehicles which spent a period in the incubator at CSIRO in West Lindfield that Cathy led so successfully.
So, friends, Science Week is an opportunity to reflect on all of this, to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution to our prosperity and our quality of life that fundamentally depends upon science and on fundamental research.
I’m proud to have been part of a Coalition Government where we committed more than $93 billion in science, research and innovation, more than $12 billion for science and technology over the last two years alone, and supported hundreds of thousands of highly skilled Australian jobs. Now the baton has passed to the other side of the House, but we can say, I think confidently, that there is strong support for science across the Parliament and across the community. The priorities of National Science Week including increasing the role of girls and women in STEM are enormously important.
Congratulations to all involved and let us recognise that Science Week is about increasing awareness amongst policymakers, the fundamental importance of science, increasing awareness and interest amongst young people about the career opportunities – the very satisfying and fulfilling career opportunities – in science. And, as the Minister mentioned, there is high community confidence in, and awareness of, science but that needs to be constantly worked at and Science Week is part of that. For all those reasons, the Opposition, the Coalition is very pleased to be expressing our strong support for Science Week.