House debates

Monday, 14 July 2014

Constituency Statements

Women in Maths, Science and Engineering

10:44 am

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to celebrate the groundbreaking work that is done right around this country by women working in the areas of maths, science and engineering, particularly in South Australia. I was very privileged to co-host the Parliamentary Friends of Women in Maths, Science and Engineering at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute a couple of weeks ago.

The Parliamentary Friends of Women in Science, Maths and Engineering, which I founded together with the member for Higgins, aims to promote the role and achievements of women in the STEM area—promoting their work to parliamentarians especially, but also to the wider community. It was therefore extremely wonderful to hear directly from researchers at SAHMRI in South Australia who spoke about their current state-of-the-art research. We heard from Professor Deb White, director of Cancer Research and Principal Research Fellow at SAHMRI. Professor White and her research team have made major breakthroughs in the fight against cancer with a new way to kill leukaemia cells. Professor White and her team found that blocking a common protein which was crucial to leukaemia cells' ability to survive chemotherapy appeared to persuade the cells to die after short periods of intensive therapy. For patients this could mean short, intensive exposure to therapy rather than continuous treatment with its debilitating side-effects.

We were also very privileged to hear from Michelle Gheorghiu, the woman who oversaw the establishment of this $200 million dedicated flagship research institute in South Australia. For those who have not seen it, it is a magnificent building—really state-of-the-art—and, most importantly, the work that is going on inside is really wonderful.

Their stories were incredibly inspirational to all the young scientists, engineers and maths researchers who were there. Unfortunately, though, such stories are under threat from the Abbott government which is ripping $5.8 billion from our universities. This will really rip the guts out of our universities. We know from the NATSEM modelling data that a female science student graduate, under the Liberal party's proposed plan, could pay up to $123,000 for a degree which now costs $44,000. That is an increase of more than $78,000—and it will take double the time to pay off, increasing from 8.4 years to 16.4 years.

This is an unfair measure. These university changes are unfair measures which will affect women, in particular, when it comes to higher education. Unfortunately this government does not have a minister for science. I ask the Prime Minister, as the minister for women, to reconsider his higher education changes because they are bad for women in science.