Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Questions without Notice

Prime Minister's Prizes for Science

2:52 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Cash. I've got to note that it's a real privilege to ask this question today in the presence of Australia's scientific superstars. I note that the minister addressed the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science presentation dinner last night. Could the minister advise the Senate of the important achievements of the prize recipients?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Reynolds, for that question. Like my colleague Simon Birmingham, I too would like to acknowledge the recipients of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science, whom we celebrated last night in the Great Hall. It really is fantastic to have you joining us here in the chamber today. On behalf of all of us, congratulations. Last night, it really was a privilege to hear the stories of these scientists in pursuing their passion for human health and wellbeing. I'm going to describe each one to you, but describing them really does not in any way touch upon what really is their brilliance.

The winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science was Professor Jenny Graves AO. Jenny has pioneered the use of our distant marsupial relatives to better understand our X and Y sex chromosomes, our immune systems and the human brain. Professor Graves is also our first individual female winner of this top prize.

The winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation is Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO, who discovered a protein in milk that strengthens and repairs teeth. It's now sold as toothpaste and other dental products, and it has already generated in excess of $2 billion in sales.

Then there are the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year and the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. This year's winners are Professor Dayong Jin, who has created new kinds of microscopes that view molecules at work inside living cells, and Professor Jian Yang, who has developed a new statistical method to analyse the human genome.

Critical for our young Australians are the teachers. The Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools and the Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools went to Mr Neil Bramsen of Mount Ousley Public School, in Wollongong, and Mr Brett McKay of Kirrawee High School, in New South Wales, respectively.(Time expired).

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Reynolds, a supplementary question?

Senator Sterle interjecting

Senator Reynolds, you have the call.

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Uh-oh, I just got the evil eye from Senator Reynolds.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Sterle.

2:54 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Just show some respect, please. Can the minister apprise the Senate of the significance of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science?

2:55 pm

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

I can. As I said, today we are honoured to have in our presence some of the best and brightest in Australia, who are not just changing the lives of people in Australia; they are changing the lives of people in the world—not only people in the world but people who haven't even been born yet. What an absolutely amazing achievement, and all done through sheer, gruelling hard work and passion.

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Science) Share this | | Hansard source

Then why'd you cut the science budget by so much?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister's Prizes for Science are rigorously selected prestigious awards that, as I've stated—

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader for Science) Share this | | Hansard source

Why'd you cut the CRC projects?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

publicly recognise and celebrate the contributions that our scientists, innovators and science teachers are making to Australia's social and economic wellbeing. The award, of course, is part of the 'inspiring a nation of scientists' initiative under the government's National Innovation and Science Agenda. I think what's so delightful about these prizes is that they really do give us the opportunity to recognise the brilliance that we have in Australia. (Time expired)

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Reynolds, a final supplementary question?

2:56 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the minister for her answer, although it was a bit dismaying not to be able to hear it over Senator Carr's interjections, in front of the recipients. But I thank the minister and, again, I congratulate on behalf of all of us the recipients here today, and in particular Professor Jenny Graves, who I met this morning, for being the first individual female winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Science. Can the minister please update the Senate on the Turnbull government's work to encourage women to pursue careers in science?

Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Reynolds, you would know that, in addition to what are nothing but outstanding achievements in science, Professor Graves has also been a lifelong champion for ensuring that we do get more women and young girls into science, technology, engineering and maths. In fact, so many people came up to me last night—so many young girls at this dinner—and said how fantastic it was to see Professor Graves take out the Prime Minister's prize and what it meant to them as young women. This government is proud to invest in particular in getting more women and girls into science, technology, engineering and maths. We are investing $13 million over the next four years to encourage more girls and women to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths. The Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants program already provides $8 million towards addressing gender equality.