House debates

Monday, 9 September 2019

Private Members' Business

National Science Week

10:31 am

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises National Science Week took place from 10 to 18 August 2019;

(2) acknowledges:

(a) National Science Week is an opportunity to recognise the economic and social contribution of those working in science disciplines;

(b) National Science Week highlights the importance of sparking an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects from an early age and maintaining participation by students throughout primary and secondary schooling;

(c) last year almost 1 million people participated in more than 2,100 events around the country; and

(d) Questacon's leadership role during National Science Week and throughout the year in inspiring young people and promoting STEM study; and

(3) notes the Government's ongoing investment in science, research and innovation, which totalled $9 billion in 2018-19.

As a scientist, I have always believed in enabling others through the powerful exchange of ideas. Science represents an ideal form for this exchange, especially in encouraging greater fascination amongst people of all ages in understanding the world we live in. There are dedicated initiatives like National Science Week, which was held this year from 10 to 18 August and featured more than 1,000 registered events across the country, providing a wonderful opportunity to ensure that our country's best and brightest ideas are recognised.

Our country depends on problem-solvers who are educated, trained and curious. That is why the Morrison government is investing $9.6 billion in science, innovation and technology this year alone. Boosting the confidence and engagement of our next generation of STEM students, especially amongst young women, is fundamental to our government's agenda of ensuring the next generation is prepared for the future of work—a future that is underpinned by the growth of the knowledge economy.

I'm delighted that the recent National Science Week has been an opportunity to celebrate all things science and technology in Australia, reflecting our flourishing scientific community. National Science Week is Australia's annual celebration of science and technology, and thousands of individuals, from students to scientists to chefs and musicians, get involved, taking part in more than 1,000 science events across the nation. Science Week is designed for everyone, with events, activities, talks and shows for every age group. It provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of Australian scientists in the world of knowledge. It also aims to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public and to encourage younger people to become fascinated by the world we live in.

In Higgins alone there were a number of events held over National Science Week in which we celebrated the problem-solving innovation of our community. I was delighted to attend the launch of the My Iron Manager app by Haemochromatosis Australia. This app will help those suffering from haemochromatosis to better manage their disease. Haemochromatosis is the commonest genetic order in Australia. Put simply, excess iron that is not properly excreted by the body results in rusting of organs. The condition tends to be underdiagnosed but can present as fatigue, arthritis, diabetes or liver cirrhosis. Get an iron check from your GP if you're feeling tired, because it could be because of iron deficiency or because you've got too much iron. One in 300 Australians carry two copies of the gene. This means they are at risk of serious consequences if it is undetected and left untreated. Giving blood regularly is the only way to treat the disease, but it also prevents it. It's really a reason to become a blood donor. The My Iron Manager app helps those affected manage their treatment by providing online tools for recording blood results and blood donation history. It also provides directories for places to have blood taken. This is a clear example of simple science enabling the lives of others.

I was also thrilled to attend the inaugural Global Table conference in Melbourne last week on behalf of the Hon. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. The event was a dynamic, new agrifood exhibition which showcased cutting-edge agriculture and manufacturing innovations, including agtech and food tech, for solving the biggest food security challenges of tomorrow. Science solutions were on show. New technologies, such as lentil products that taste like meat that will help sustainably feed the world if grown at scale, were there to see. These innovations and technologies have the potential to make our processing facilities, farms, homes and cities smarter and more sustainable. Importantly, the event highlighted that the potential of these showcased innovation capabilities rests fundamentality upon our ability to engage in multilateral trade with emerging markets. I was also privileged to launch the Trade Barriers Register, which will help trade be better.

Science helps drive a stronger economic future for our country. I congratulate all those who hosted events for this year's National Science Week.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

10:36 am

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Higgins. Before I do so, I might just congratulate the Clerk on her new role. I look forward to working with her.

National Science Week was held around the country from 10 August to 18 August. This year the theme was 'Destination Moon: more missions, more science'. As I discovered, the theme was not taken lightly by the staff and students at Yeronga State High School, a school in my electorate of Moreton. They held an exhibit that was an exact copy of a living room from my childhood—my very, very early childhood, I should say. They actually set up a workshop as a replica of a lounge room from 1969. It was incredibly authentic. They even dressed up in 1960s gear. They had an old TV in the corner with an image of the moon landing attached to the glass screen. There were mannequins wearing the old school uniform from Yeronga State High School at the time; replica copies of the newspapers; and, in the corner, an original crystal radio set that was actually in working order—not to mention some teachers who particularly got into the vibe with their groovy-looking gear that they very much enjoyed wearing. Some of them said they actually wore it most days anyway.

In the background, I could hear some favourite hits from 1969, including 'Suspicious Minds' by Elvis Presley. The most controversial part of the exhibit was an old toaster on the kitchen table that was causing much confusion amongst the students. The students at Yeronga State High School couldn't believe that you had to open the side of the toaster to turn the bread over so that each side would actually be toasted. Obviously pop-up toasters hadn't been invented in 1969, and it was very entertaining to watch them try and work out what it was about. The scientific component of the workshop involved students on one table constructing a modern version of the radio set from a kit and another group constructing a satellite and data transmitter using littleBits and their phones. I was very impressed by how clever the students were.

After seeing the students and staff at Yeronga State High School, I felt inspired to conduct my own experiment for National Science Week. Now, I taught English for 11 years, and I did teach science for one year, but I had a great lab assistant. They didn't let me near the lab for many good reasons, but my staff had some faith in me and made sure that I had lots of safety goggles, and they kept back a safe distance in my electorate office. I did an experiment in my kitchen, and it consisted of bicarb of soda, vinegar, a glass bottle and a balloon. I poured the vinegar in the bottle, placed some bicarb of soda inside a balloon and carefully placed the balloon on top of the glass bottle. As the bicarb of soda slowly sprinkled out of the balloon, it reacted with the vinegar, creating a bubbly gas which caused the balloon to expand. Thankfully, it didn't burst. I did think my staff were setting me up, but they weren't. I'm very proud of my efforts, and I've posted a video for all the world to see on Facebook. I look forward to a more adventurous experiment next year—perhaps with some more protective gear!

I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and I noticed that all of my science equipment was quickly packed away, but I will be back next year.

The great thing about National Science Week is that it gives us all a chance to reflect on the importance of science and scientists, and the great role that they play in society. At the Nathan campus of Griffith University, located in my electorate, there is some incredibly important medical research being carried out, conducted as part of the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, headed up by Professor Kathy Andrews. Professor Andrews and her team are researching cancer, infectious diseases, Parkinson's disease, drug resistance and spinal cord injury repair. As I read this comprehensive list of research areas, I'm sincerely grateful for their research. This also confirms that I should definitely stick to my day job as a politician!

Aside from Professor Andrews's important research work she has also been involved in another project called That's Rad! Science. Professor Andrews and some of her colleagues have created a series of colourful children's books to help encourage children into STEM careers. There are currently four books in the series. Each book takes on a different theme: parasites, nanotechnology and forensic science, with the fourth being protein crystal science. Professor Andrews's book in this series is called My Mum Is A Parasite Scientist: That's Rad! It's not your normal, everyday children's book, but it serves its purpose of making people familiar with these topic areas that we don't normally consider.

I'd like to confirm right here and now that I will not be changing to teaching science or being a scientist. But we do know that there will be a shortage of science teachers and of STEM teachers coming down the track, so we need to make sure that people like Professor Andrews and others in the education and academic area cultivate as many STEM students as possible. We should be glad that Professor Andrews and her team are working on important research into areas that are going to be of benefit to us all. I look forward to encouraging other people to go down this path. We need more scientists, and I'm happy to take suggestions for a science experiment for next year's National Science Week.

10:41 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Whilst I decline the opportunity to give my good friend and colleague the member for Moreton any further suggestions, I'd hate to think that he's going to start impersonating Dr Julius Sumner Miller. I think that's very dangerous territory, and so he should stick to his day job!

National Science Week is always a tremendous time for students and teachers right across Australia to get together and focus on the importance of science and technology to our community and to our economy. Not only does it recognise the economic and social contribution of those working in the science disciplines; it's also a great opportunity to inspire, motivate and encourage our young people to learn more about the sciences and to pursue a passion for science, technology, engineering and maths.

The government this year continues to back National Science Week, with funding support of $6.8 million each year going towards hosting some amazing events across Australia. We do this because we recognise the global economy is changing and that the majority of jobs in the future will require STEM skills, which is why it's so important to encourage our young students.

In my electorate, Saint Stephen's College held a science expo where the kids had the opportunity to try hands-on science activities, including virtual reality and various science competitions. My favourites were the marshmallow catapults and the science show, just to name a few of the activities available. Upper Coomera Library also held some amazing events, including the Magical World of Crazy Science Stage Show!, which is a science stage show performed by scientist and entertainer Richard Scholes. Kids as young as three enjoyed witnessing giant columns of elephant toothpaste, a genie's appearance from a lamp, massive smoke rings zooming, toilet paper flying and more. I must remind members that elephant toothpaste is not safe for human use, in case any members forgot to brush their teeth this morning! The library also hosted the free Digital Explorers Workshop in collaboration with BOP Industries. This workshop helps young people discover how science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship can combine to help us solve some of the major issues facing our world today.

We talk at length about what our schools and universities are doing in the STEM field, but one of the things I think we forget to mention very often, or don't talk about often enough, is that the work of our small to medium-sized businesses right across this country in all manner of sectors, whether it be manufacturing, agriculture, dairy, mining—any number of our industries—requires these STEM skills each and every day. And the work they are doing in research and development we very rarely hear about. When I talk to small business, that is frequently one of the areas where they are looking to create that point of difference with their competitors.

A part of the importance of Science Week is that students developing these skills and abilities is not just about the students doing science and R&D subjects at university but about the skills they can then bring to our local business community to help it become better. A great example is Windaroo Valley State High School, where the students have the opportunity to learn and develop technologies to support the agriculture industry. The students are currently integrating robots into small planting beds to investigate how we can develop technologies to improve yields and efficiency in agriculture. It is these real-world, practical learnings that are delivering results and engaging our young people in STEM. That's why it is important in this chamber and across the political spectrum that we continue to support STEM for the development of new products, more efficient services and systems, higher quality health care, enhanced natural resource management, new ways to respond to changing environments, progress in tackling national global challenges, and better decision-making in government and industry. It is this work across the board that keeps our country going.

10:47 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to congratulate my colleague the member for Higgins, Professor Allen, on introducing this motion to parliament. I'm sure she, like me, is a lover of science. I have longstanding interest in a whole variety of different sciences. It is great to have some young people in parliament today and to know that their lives will be made better by the tremendous advantages and advances that science has given our community and the wider international community as well.

Recently, I've been doing some work with the Shepherd Centre, which deals with children with severe hearing loss. It is important to know that the great Australian scientist Professor Graeme Clark grew up in my electorate of Macarthur. With his invention of the cochlear implant he has made the lives of so many thousands of people in Australia and overseas better because of his love of science. Also in my electorate of Macarthur we have the Macarthur family still residing. John Macarthur and his wife, Elizabeth Macarthur, were agricultural scientists in the way they introduced the merino genetics into Australia, the birthplace of the Australian wool industry, with the first development of scientific breeding of sheep for wool. Great scientists have come from Macarthur for many, many years. My great hero, Sir John Monash, famous of course as a soldier and as an engineer, was also a scientist and the first to do experiments with concrete science in Australia that led to the development of prestressed concrete and the growth of high-rise buildings.

National Science Week is an important initiative because it not only recognises the contribution of science to the greater community and recognises the scientific community itself but also offers a fantastic system to support the development of science hubs in our education systems throughout regional New South Wales and Australia. These science hubs go a long way to inspiring young people to pursue an interest in science as well as extend networks and partnership opportunities in the regions.

In my electorate of Macarthur we have many businesses that are using science and are at the forefront of scientific technology and business to create wonderful industries and products for use in Australia and for export. I would briefly mention the DECO Group, which uses membrane technology and new technology in coatings to produce the great new products we see in building and throughout our railway network in New South Wales. Most of the signs are now made by DECO Group using their specialised technology of coatings on metal to give a wood appearance and very long-term viable results for seats and structures around our railway stations and in high-rise businesses and buildings without flammability. It is great new technology. The Sevaan Group is another engineering group in my electorate that uses high-technology computers and laser cutting to create different metal objects for use in things like medical technology et cetera. There are really great scientific advances throughout my community in Macarthur. I should also mention the Leppington Pastoral Company, which is the biggest privately operated dairy corporation in Australia. It uses new technology in agriculture to increase the yield of the dairy cows. So there is lots of great new technology occurring in my electorate of Macarthur.

I have been to many schools in my electorate, such as Broughton Anglican College, St Peter's Anglican Primary School and Campbelltown Public School, to see the wonderful advances the children are making in their learning about science. Their experiments are great to be involved with. It's exciting to see the next generation of young scientists coming along. I know that Science Week is an important week and I know that there are many more scientific advances to come from Australia that will benefit us all, both in terms of the economy and in terms of our knowledge and our future.

10:52 am

Photo of Celia HammondCelia Hammond (Curtin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Higgins for moving this motion and acknowledging the important role National Science Week plays in engaging our communities, particularly our students, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our government rightly values the importance of STEM, sees its importance for future generations of our workforce and is committed to making sure that STEM education remains a priority.

National Science Week is a fantastic initiative that celebrates science and technology and engages a variety of organisations and groups within my electorate of Curtin, from tertiary institutions, including the University of Western Australia, to the 54 schools in my electorate, libraries and science centres. The primary aims of Science Week are to acknowledge the contributions of scientists, to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public and, most importantly, to encourage younger people to engage with science and the world we live in. This year there was fantastic engagement across Australia, with over 2,077 events registered on the website. Approximately 1.5 million people participated in National Science Week and there were more than 2,000 tweets that mentioned the #scienceweek hashtag, which of course reflects one of our most recent technological advancements, Twitter—for better or worse.

Within my electorate there were many schools and organisations celebrating National Science Week, but I would like to comment on one event in particular, the Perth Science Festival, which took place at the Claremont Showground. The festival featured more than 50 stallholders from various STEM organisations running interactive activities, with stallholders including tertiary institutions, government departments, small businesses, not-for-profits and charities. The festival featured a diverse range of fields covering more than 10 different areas of STEM, including activities that targeted a range of ages, from the 'littlest scientist' corner for young children to gaming technology for youth and resource management and sustainability for adults. I would like to congratulate the organisers of the Perth Science Festival on a fantastic event, with hands-on, interactive and engaging activities in STEM. This is the way to engage and inspire young minds to pursue paths in STEM. As someone with a background in higher education, I'm particularly passionate about ensuring that our young people have the skills they need when they leave school or university to find employment and to contribute meaningfully to society.

As the global economy changes, new industries are emerging and new skills are required for workers at all levels. As we continue to make advances in technology and automation an increasing number of jobs in the future will require STEM skills. Current stats and analysis show that 75 per cent of jobs in the fastest growing industries will require workers with STEM skills. Fifty per cent of current jobs with skills shortages are in STEM fields. It is predicted that demand for professional, scientific and technical services will rise by 14 per cent in the next five years. Employers expect their need for STEM professionals to increase by 49 per cent for university graduates and 53 per cent for VET graduates in the next five to 10 years. Ninety per cent of jobs will need digital skills in the next two to five years. Fifty-eight per cent of current students under 25 are studying for jobs that will be radically changed by automation.

In essence, what it is critical that we do now is ramp up our STEM capability across the country to ensure that we are educating people with the problem-solving, innovative, creative-thinking and digital skills which we increasingly need in society. To ramp up capability we need to ramp up interest, passion, enthusiasm and engagement. This is at the core of Science Week and was at the core of the activities in my electorate. These activities are a fundamental and vital part of the government's commitment to providing long-term, stable funding and policy settings for Australian science, research and innovation. We understand that science is critical to our continued prosperity, and we are building on and backing our policies with smart and strategic investments to deliver stable support for our researchers across the coming decade.

10:57 am

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll say at the outset that I loved science as a kid. Growing up, one of my favourite possessions, and I had to get a few of them, was the old chemistry set. I used to run out of the coloured ones, and mum would doggedly go down to the shop and get another one or the replacement bits. I studied a Bachelor of Science at Monash University; I have a chemistry degree—not that I was that good, because I was otherwise occupied. My staff know that school visits to science labs can take longer than anticipated because I get a little bit stuck playing with the kids and the chemistry sets. I'm a proud nerd.

I think it's fair to say that science has transformed civilisations and societies for centuries. The tradition of reason, which emerged over many centuries and which we today have inherited—the scientific method, if you like—trumped religious tyranny and absolutism or various forms of superstition (I'm not equating the two) and has led to a much better world.

Science and research are critical, as the member for Curtin just said, to our current and future prosperity in so many areas, be it health, medical research, energy, agriculture, manufacturing, defence or just everyday living. We certainly punch above our weight—that overused phrase in Australia—in the global rankings, compared to our population. There is no doubt about it.

When it comes to the motion, I'd say that it's fine as far as it goes and that it's a worthy debate to have. Who could disagree with the platitudes that National Science Week is a great opportunity and highlights the importance of sparking an interest in science and STEM and that people participate in it? That's fine, as far as it goes. The last bit of the motion is curious—it 'notes the government's ongoing investment'. But, as always, you need to look at what's not said; you need to look at the invisible ink. The motion does not admit the government's cut of 10 per cent in real terms—$1.1 billion over five years—to investment in science and research. It doesn't talk about that; that's not said. It doesn't talk about the government's slashing of 1,300 jobs from the CSIRO; that's not said. And it doesn't talk about the government's trashing of the tradition and importance of fundamental research—basic research, research that our brightest scientists can just do, following their inclination and intuition, and discover wonderful things—and the importance of that basic research in underpinning applied research and work with industry. The motion doesn't admit that that's what this government has done. In that regard, it's the height of hypocrisy. The government as a whole, in so many areas—and I don't mean some individual members; indeed, those opposite, particularly the members for Higgins and Curtin, break the mould for the government—actually hate science. They reject science, and we have to say that actions speak louder than words.

Science means looking at evidence; it means looking at facts to inform conclusions, exposing your reasoning to peer review and changing your mind when the facts change. But the Liberals ignore and denigrate expert scientific evidence on the largest global issues—in particular, I'd say climate change and energy. Only the Liberals could pretend to love science but have a climate change policy where emissions actually rise year-on-year, and then pretend that's not the case.

For many opposite, climate change is not a matter of science. The language of belief clouds the debate. We should not have a language of belief: 'I don't believe in climate change'. Look at the evidence; at least have some evidence to back up this language of belief. But, really, as we know, it's all about politics. It's a peculiar Australian disease that the conservatives in this country have in rejecting the science of climate change. It doesn't happen in the UK. Despite Brexit and the chaos that Boris is causing, they are actually on board with the rest of the world about climate change. The government's hostility to science comes from the hard Right ideologues, and they're out of step with Australians. Those are not views held by the majority of Australians.

Part of valuing science is that you can't pick and choose your facts. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said—I just googled it, because it's an often used quote and I couldn't remember who said it:

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

The ultimate tinfoil hatter, the member for Hughes—we called him that once in the Federation Chamber and he said, 'I proudly wear my tinfoil hat'—rejects 99 per cent of the world's peer reviewed scientists and instead follows the crackpots on Sky News After Dark, where he seems very comfortable.

I will read out a quote from the Prime Minister:

… there are those who would seek to manipulate science and use it against their fellow human beings for their own nefarious and evil purposes.

Well said, Prime Minister! It sounds like a comment on your own government when it comes to climate change and energy policy.

In closing, the invisible ink bits in this motion—the bits that are not said and the bits that the government doesn't like to talk about—are their $1.1 billion cuts to science, their cuts to CSIRO jobs and their cuts to university research funding. In the midyear financial update it was $328 million and then four months later it had gone up to $345 million in cuts. There have been cuts to the Australian Research Council and $3.9 billion in cuts to the Education Investment Fund. Actions speak louder than words. National Science Week is good to stimulate public awareness and interest in science, but the government has to do its bit and stop cutting research funding to science.

11:02 am

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too would like to thank the member for Higgins for bringing attention to National Science Week. In Lindsay, I am particularly committed to ensuring that our children have an understanding and a commitment to science and technology. This is very much a priority.

I was recently joined by the Minister for Education to launch the Lindsay Jobs of the Future Network. We were joined by local school, industry and business representatives to discuss how we can ensure that our local children are being educated in the jobs of the future. These are the many thousands of jobs that will be coming to Western Sydney as part of the development of the Western Sydney International (Nancy Bird Walton) Airport and the development of the Western Sydney Aerotropolis—jobs in science and technology, in advanced manufacturing and in agribusiness. Western Sydney will be the heart of Australia's advanced manufacturing industry. I want to make sure that our local kids are being educated in those jobs now—in time for the airport's opening in 2026, when they'll be looking and thinking about their future careers.

The Minister for Science and Innovation joined me to launch the Girls in STEM Toolkit. We got great insights right in Western Sydney at a great high school called Jamison High School. We met with the principal and joined students from grades 8 to 10 to launch the toolkit, which aims to build girls' confidence in STEM subjects in schools and also to look at what jobs they might do in the future. We were also able to view their other STEM activities in the school, such as drones and four-wheel drive challenges.

The Minister for Education and I also visited a local public school, Samuel Terry Public School. I was so impressed with their incredibly talented students and the work that they're doing in STEM and robotics, using Lego robotics, at a young age. Kids across Western Sydney, in primary schools and in high schools, are learning more about science and technology, engineering and mathematics. These are the critical industries that do make up the jobs of the future.

Importantly, we also visited my alumni university, Western Sydney University, and visited Launch Pad, which is providing opportunities for young entrepreneurs across Western Sydney to develop their science and technology ideas and get them into the marketplace. I was particularly impressed with Aquacell, who are developing wastewater treatment and water recycling systems. They got their start in Western Sydney and now their services are being used in Silicon Valley and across the United States. They are a great story about science and technology in Western Sydney.

Having worked in the university sector at the US Studies Centre, I know how important it is to have a great science industry in Australia and to learn from our friends in the United States. I would like to acknowledge Professor Susan Pond for the work that she's doing in Australia to address some of our most challenging issues around science and for the work she's doing to get more young girls and women interested in and involved in science and technology.

Increasing science, technology, engineering and maths capabilities are at the core of the Morrison government's science agenda, as set out in the National Science Statement. That's why National Science Week is so important. Applying STEM knowledge and skills has many benefits for local and global economies, like better quality health care, more efficient services and systems, and better decision-making in government and industry. Science aims to encourage an interest in pursuits amongst the general public. Science Week does this and encourages our young students, like those I saw right across the week in Western Sydney in my electorate of Lindsay. The Morrison government is backing National Science Week with funding of $6.8 million each year.

There were 1.5 million people who participated in National Science Week this year, across 2,077 events. Ensuring all Australians can be engaged in science is absolutely a priority of the government, as is ensuring that more girls get interested and confident in science and technology at a young age. And for me, in Lindsay, it's around ensuring that our local kids are being educated for jobs of the future.

11:07 am

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

National Science Week is a chance to shine a light on the work of Australia's researchers and innovators, and I commend the member for Higgins for putting forward a motion that acknowledges that. As one of the members of this place with a science degree—a double major in psychology from ANU, at least 20 or so years ago, when psychology was studied as an experimental science—I am proud to stand up at any opportunity to support anything which encourages imagination and inquiring minds and the promotion of facts and evidence. However, like my colleague the member for Bruce, I must confess to being a little bit confused about the line in this motion talking about this government's investment in Australian science, because, as far as I can see, over the years this has been a government which has spent too much of its time rejecting scientific evidence and facts—including, at times, the evidence about how to better support scientific evidence and facts, and, most importantly, innovation.

Data from the Australian Innovation System Monitor shows that since 2013, so on this government's watch, business investment in research and development has fallen dramatically, and, over the same period, federal government investment in research and development has also fallen in every state other than Western Australia, where there has been only a minor increase. The fall in business investment in research and development is linked to this government's cuts because the evidence shows that public investment in research and development crowds in rather than crowds out private investment.

A review commissioned by this government, undertaken by Innovation and Science Australia and released in 2017, presented the evidence for increasing R&D by shifting from tax incentives to more direct support for collaborative research. Unfortunately, this Liberal government rejected that advice—not just that recommendation but, it would seem, the whole report. And, under this government, there have been well publicised cuts to the CSIRO and to our universities. There's been political pressure on the CSIRO to be silent about climate change and, more recently, the manufacturing of a culture war over academic freedom, one might suspect, to disguise cuts to research. This government's failure to listen to and promote debate based on evidence and to promote and listen to experts has profound consequences now and into the future.

In coming weeks we expect the release of the review into the Australian public sector by a panel led by CSIRO chairman David Thodey. The Prime Minister in recent times has made it clear he doesn't want the public sector to worry about evidence; he just wants it to implement his policies. However, the Thodey review is independent, and I'm sure the panellists understand that the Public Service is about more than doing what the government of the day says. The quality of our public debate requires a public sector that knows the facts, relies on the evidence and uses that to provide advice. It requires public servants that are prepared to defend their role in the public debate.

Acknowledging National Science Week is an opportunity to remember why, in that public debate, we must stand against a creeping tide of the rejection of science, research and innovation. We must support science so that we can prepare Australia's economy for a future that we know will be different, for a shift in how we work and how our economy works. We must support science so that we can create the future that we as Australians want, where good health, education and work outcomes are available to everyone; where emissions actually fall; where we take our environmental pressures seriously; and where our cities, our regions and our communities all enjoy a great quality of life. Science can guide us in all of these things—things that my community values.

A more inclusive and sustainable Australia is possible but requires us to stand up for the role of science, evidence and facts, not to undermine it. That's the message of National Science Week. Last week I was principal for a day at Elisabeth Murdoch College in Langwarrin. One of the classes I visited was made up of students from the performing arts collective—young men and women talented in music, acting and dancing who were taking a science class. These bright young students understand the importance of science, and our parliament and government should hear their voices.

Amber Emmett loves science and maths because she wants to fight climate change. Amber's plea is to listen to the science about climate change and to give students the knowledge and equipment to fight it. Autumn Reihana understands that science is constantly changing our world and she cites the iPhone and how important it is to her as proof. Her call is for government to see the potential of women to contribute to science, research and innovation and to genuinely support girls and women to have careers in STEM. Amber's and Autumn's voices represent the students of Dunkley. They represent the voices of students across our country and they speak for the future. This parliament—particularly this government—needs to listen.

11:12 am

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great pleasure to rise in the House to support the member for Higgins's motion, which quite rightly acknowledges what a success National Science Week was. With a $6.84 million investment from the Morrison government, we saw a very successful National Science Week held across 10 to 18 August. There were over 2,077 events around the nation as part of the week, and 1.5 million people participated in it to help promote science in our nation and how we are at the forefront of it.

The global economy is changing. We know that. We know that this means new industries are emerging and new skills are required. The majority of jobs in the future will require STEM skills, which makes Science Week an important priority for our nation. Applying STEM knowledge and skills leads to new products and technologies, more efficient services and systems, higher quality health care, enhanced natural resource management and better ways that our nation can be sustainable. In particular I wanted to come back to a few of these points, particularly the new products and technology and the higher quality health care. We heard the Labor members opposite talk about and lament how perhaps there isn't enough funding from the Morrison government going to science. They disregard in its entirety the fact that it was this government that instituted the Medical Research Future Fund, a $20 billion investment that is the envy of the world when it comes to promoting science and medical research in this country and globally. It puts us at the very forefront—and I know that for a fact because it's institutions like the University of Queensland, in my electorate, that are doing some of the research—of breakthroughs that are coming through in science and technology.

We also have not only the University of Queensland but also CSIRO's Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies in Pullenvale. As I said, it will be the jobs of the future that are going to be in this particular area of STEM, in science, so a core part of Science Week is to make sure we're encouraging young Australians, the next generation, to take up the mantle of science and innovation research. Few schools—I want to say no schools but some of the honourable members in here might disagree with me—do it better than Mitchelton State School in my electorate. It was a great pleasure to visit the school and hear about all the activities they held for National Science Week, including their annual STEM competition. With the Science Week theme of 'destination moon', students had the opportunity to discover black holes, wonder about stars, build moon bases and explore how astronauts survive. They even had noted astrophysicist and cosmologist Dr Brad Tucker visit the school and talk to students about the universe, as well as a visit from Starlab, which is an inflatable planetarium—and, having gone in it myself, it is as fun as it sounds.

Over 300 students from the school participated in the STEM competition to show off their prowess and try and win the school prize, which was judged externally. All of the entries were exhibited during the open day and they had a real life science competition where they got to participate with the judges and do some science experiments. A particular congratulations goes to Alastair, who was the overall school winner. I had the pleasure to meet him and present his prize to him. His dad had a great time putting together their science project—overseen by mum, of course. And particular congratulations goes to the classroom teacher and STEM coach, Danielle Spencer, and principal, Chris Hart, who lead that program at that school.

In addition, I had the pleasure of welcoming Minister Andrews, our Minister for Industry, Science and Technology to the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies in Pullenvale and to visit a company called Emesent. Emesent have gone from start-up capital to creating 20 jobs in advanced manufacturing, science and technology in just over 12 months. They are doing leading research in cutting-edge drone technology that allows mining companies to safely map underground terrain without putting people at risk. The $160 million that the minister announced while she was there for the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund is a great example of how we are creating and funding jobs in the science and technology area so we can have and can continue to promote the jobs of the future in STEM.

As part of that, I had the pleasure of going to UQ with Minister Hunt to look at some of the genomics health work that is going on at UQ. This is cutting edge technology and— (Time expired)

11:17 am

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

This year we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and the voyage of Apollo11. It was one of the great scientific technical achievements of humanity. It was at the time, and indeed now, celebrated in popular culture and in the media on the front pages of our newspapers. It was impossible watching at the time—and as we relive it 50 years later—the incredible journey of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and those first steps taken without being completely enraptured about the power of human curiosity, the interest and magnetism of science, and the desire to be a part of it. In the aftermath of Apollo 11, people studied science around the world in unparalleled numbers. Indeed, in Australia, if you take year 10, the moment at which a student chooses for the first time to study science as a voluntary act, 1982 represented the peak of the graph of kids deciding to pursue science in the proportion of people who made that choice. It was the year in which I made that choice and went on to pursue a science degree. There is no doubt that, whilst I can't remember the Apollo 11 landing, the sceptre of Apollo 11 loomed large in my mind as being one of the great things which encouraged me to pursue an academic career in science. Since then, though, that is a stat which has been on the decline across governments of all persuasions, leading to a point now where encouraging kids to study science is actually a matter of national urgency.

It has been a tenet of my life that Australia has been on the cutting edge of modernity, but, if you look at the statistics today, you see that there are other nations around the world that are embracing the study of science and the pursuit of it in a way that we are not. Today, 18 per cent of degrees awarded in Australia are in STEM. In Sweden, that number is 28 per cent. In South Korea, it's 32 per cent. Compared to that remarkable event back in 1969 where Australia actually played a very significant part in it occurring, today there is a risk that, unless we change our cultural relationship to science, we are at the risk of being left behind.

It seems to me that part of that lies in a celebration of big science, and we have big science in this country to celebrate. The Square Kilometre Array telescope, which is based in South Africa and here in Murchison in Western Australia, probably represents the biggest science project in the world today. It will illuminate our view of the universe in ways that we have never before experienced. Those who are working on it talk about the fact that the Square Kilometre Array will be able to identify planets with biomarkers in different distant parts of the universe—indications that on those places there is life. Think about that: within the next decade, there is the real prospect that that will occur, which in that moment will be a profound incident in the human experience, and yet where do we read about that on the front page of our newspapers? The fact is that we simply don't. We read about everything else, but a celebration of big science in a way which encourages kids to pursue it is not happening, and it is a prime example of how we need to change that cultural relationship to science.

It's in that context that National Science Week is actually a really important week. More than 2,000 events occurred during August encouraging kids to explore the wonder of science. We do have some wonderful institutions in Australia around science outreach—Questacon being the most significant. In its field, scientific outreach to kids, Questacon is world class. It had more than half a million visitors last year, almost 150,000 of whom were students and another 50,000 of whom were teachers. It runs programs across the country. We can actually do this when we put our mind to it, but the need for Australia to change its cultural relationship to science is absolutely paramount.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.