House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023

Questions without Notice

Albanese Government: Science

2:46 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industry and Science. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to prioritise science, and how were last night's Prime Minister's science prizes part of this effort?

2:47 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Industry and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to the member for Adelaide for that question. Science tackles the toughest problems we face, drives economic growth and helps improve national wellbeing along the way. Our government committed to a future made in Australia, revitalising manufacturing, and it's important to note that manufacturing invests heavily in R&D. As the Prime Minister puts it, 'New discoveries are making way for new products that will be made right here in this country.'

It was terrific to celebrate Australian scientific know-how and science teaching last night at the PM's Prizes for Science. I was particularly thrilled to see that the PM's Prize for Science went to Professor Michelle Simmons, celebrated for her trailblazing work in quantum technologies. Professor Glenn King's work with funnel-web spiders is being translated into new treatments for people following strokes and heart transplants. Professor Chris Greening discovered that microbes that live in the air can help us regulate climate change, a world first. Professor Yuerui Lu's contributions to superfluidity are paving the way for a new generation of lower-energy-consuming electronic devices, and Associate Professor Lara Herrero's experience contracting Ross River virus helped her create the world's first drug with the potential to beat viral arthritis.

Behind every scientist is a science teacher who set them on their path, who nourished their passion and their curiosity about the way the world works. Without brilliant science teachers we wouldn't have brilliant scientists. Last night we celebrated Ms Judith Stutchbury from Kalkie State School, eight kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef, who is instilling in her primary school students a love of marine science, and we celebrated Ms Donna Buckley from John Curtin College of the Arts, in Perth, bringing cryptography and cybersecurity to the classroom, alongside highly commended teachers Matthew Dodds and Dr Gabrielle Oslington. These teachers are widening the pipeline of STEM talent. You've all been acknowledged earlier, but the House wants you to know how deeply grateful we are for your efforts.

Science is absolutely central to unlocking the next generation of opportunities underpinning our ambitions in advanced manufacturing, agriculture and clean energy critical technologies, but the key will be investing in skills. That's why the National Skills Agreement is a big deal. I want to congratulate the Minister for Skills and Training. I'm particularly pleased to see the commitment to the Centres of Excellence which will bring together universities, industry and the VET sector to help lift skills. This will be key to driving future growth and improving the wellbeing of the country.

2:50 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I want to join with the Minister for Industry and Science in congratulating the winners of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science. It was a wonderful evening last night with Dr Cathy Foley and the stories that were told, the videos of the winners and what they are achieving in innovation and research—making a difference to people's lives but also, it must be said, making a difference to our economy as well.

There are major commercial benefits to Australia commercialising opportunities. We've always been very good at science and breakthroughs. What we haven't always done is take advantage of that ourselves. The scientists and the science teachers who were celebrated last night—I join with Ed—were just inspirational. I've been to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bargara and Bundy up in the electorate of Hinkler. It is a wonderful place. The Mon Repos Turtle Centre is a fantastic facility and a great tourist attraction, talking about protection of our turtles as part of our native wildlife that is so precious.

I congratulate all the winners and also their families. One of the things that happened last night was that people who give so much—whilst people are doing the research and the time, often without much compensation in the early years, it's got to be said—were celebrated as well. Congratulations to all.

2:51 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I want to associate the opposition with the comments of the Prime Minister and the minister in relation to the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science. I was certainly pleased to attend and represent the Leader of the Opposition.

It was a very well-organised event and appropriately acknowledged the excellent work of the scientists and teachers who were recognised. I want to particularly acknowledge one of the highly commended science teachers, Dr Gabrielle Oslington, my constituent in Bradfield. I think it's fair to say that all of those who received awards were inspirational. It can be easy to be somewhat discouraged by the range of challenges we may face as a nation in the world. But, when you see what our extraordinary scientists are doing and the solutions they are coming up with on a daily basis, it is cause for hope, optimism and faith in the extraordinary capacity of human ingenuity.