Monday, 1 September 2014
Questions without Notice
Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council
My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister said, 'This is a government which is dedicated to science.' In light of this statement, can the minister explain why the Prime Minister has not met his science, engineering and innovation council during his first year in office?
It is the height of cheek to have that question from a former minister who presided over cuts to ANSTO, CSIRO and the Cooperative Research Centres—indeed, I think he saw the demise of three of them during his time in government. Senator Carr presided over a huge cuts in these areas, so for him now to pretend to be their champion is, I must say, a little bit rich.
The Prime Minister is well known for his support of science for research. Indeed, in my home state of Tasmania we have seen an absolute commitment to the Antarctic endeavours with funding for a ship that Labor promised but without funding. As was their wont in so many areas, including in the scientific space, Labor made the promises but then never budgeted for them or provided the funding base. What did we do? We actually provided the funding base for a replacement vessel for the Aurora Australis, which will assist—
Mr President, I have a point of order, on direct relevance. There was only one question and it was: why has the Prime Minister not met with the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council during his first year in office?
The budget also provides $28 million for science for Australia's future, and so the list goes on. Whether the Prime Minister has or has not met with the particular council to which the honourable senator refers I do not know, but what I am happy to do is to see if the Prime Minister wants to add anything to my answer.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the abject lack of dedication to science displayed to date, can the minister guarantee that there are no plans to downgrade the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, which has been advising Australian prime ministers for 25 years? Can the minister assure the Senate that there are no plans to have the council report instead to the industry minister?
To whom or what the council might report from time to time will not necessarily determine the government's approach. What I can indicate to the senator is that the Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the wellbeing of science and future research. Indeed, that is why one of the very important parts of this year's budget was the new Medical Research Foundation, the funding source for which I understand the Labor Party are committed to opposing.
So what they say and what they do is that they come into this place, saying, 'We champion research; we champion a vessel for Antarctic research,' but then you ask them the fundamental question, 'Where is the money for this medical research coming from?' 'Oh, we're going to block that in the Senate,' in other words, no funding.
What about this ship for the Antarctic? 'Oh we didn't make any provision for that either' (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If, as the Prime Minister claims, this is a government which is dedicated to science, why does this government have no science minister? Who is the Prime Minister's chief source of scientific advice? Maurice Newman, perhaps—Mr global cooling?
I think Senator Carr might like to be reminded as to why Professor Penny Sackett resigned halfway through her five-year term. I dare say that is a chapter of Senator Carr's ministerial history that he would not necessarily want to be reminded about.
The government's commitment to science is well and truly on the table—
And we have the bellowing Senator Carr, who knows full well that responsibility for science lies within the industry portfolio and that we did not go down the track of their former minister, Mr Emerson. I think that half his letterhead was filled with up with all the ministerial responsibilities.
Can I say that we have truncated all that? For example, instead of my title being 'Employment and Workplace Relations' it is now simply 'Employment'. We have truncated the title— (Time expired)