Senate debates

Thursday, 15 February 2018


Science Meets Parliament, Molan, Senator Jim, Burch, Ms Candice, MLA

6:36 pm

Photo of Zed SeseljaZed Seselja (ACT, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

As many of you know, over the last two days we've seen hundreds of scientists descend upon this building to talk with parliamentarians and each other about their projects, ideas and collaborations as part of the 19th annual Science meets Parliament event. The two days have been filled with activities and meetings, which demonstrate to us in this building the importance of science, research and development to jobs in a growing economy.

I had the pleasure of attending a number of the events, including the Superstars of STEM roundtable breakfast at Questacon earlier this week. I met 11 women who have been part of a program to promote and support women in STEM. I learnt a lot from Dr Rebecca Johnson, the director of the Australian Museum Research Institute, whose work in wildlife forensics uses genome science to improve conservation efforts of Australia's endangered species. I'd also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the Superstars of STEM: Dr Sanam Mustafa, Dr Jodie Ward, Dr Pallave Dasari, Dr Rebecca Johnson, Dr Sue Keay, Dr Caroline Ford, Dr Tien Huynh, Dr Fiona Kerslake, Dr Tamara Keeley, Dr Jillian Kenny and Dr Lisa Mielke.

Like many other parliamentarians, I also had the opportunity to welcome some of the Science meets Parliament delegates into my office for a meeting, where I was able to learn about their work and give them the opportunity to ask me how the government can help. I met Dr Kate Grarock, a local Canberra Sanctuary ecologist who works at Mulligans Flat in Canberra's north. She has been instrumental in restoring some of the critically endangered grassy woodlands in the region, including by reintroducing local extinct species. It was great to learn more about her work after I had the opportunity to visit Mulligans Flat with the then Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, a couple of years ago to witness the reintroduction of one such species—the eastern bettong.

I also learnt a lot from Dr Keith Barnard, a research group leader with CSIRO, who is involved with the minerals resources processing program. Keith has been doing great work in changing the way CSIRO engages with industry, particularly the mining industry, so that there is more of a partnership between science and industry when it comes to getting the most from our abundant mineral resources.

If any of you watched SBS's Catalyst program during the week, you'll have already learnt of Associate Professor Alan Duffy's work in astrophysics. I was grateful to hear more of his work as the lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia. He is at the cutting end of understanding how galaxies, like the Milky Way, form and is pioneering research into dark matter, with the soon to be launched dark matter detector called SABRE.

Finally, Claire Edmunds is a PhD candidate at the Australian Institute of Physics. She is working on one of the big scientific issues of the day—quantum computing. Claire is based at the Sydney Nano Institute, which I visited earlier this year. She uses charged atoms to demonstrate and develop quantum control techniques.

There is no substitute for hearing directly from the people at the coalface of scientific endeavour, and I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with Kate, Keith, Alan and Claire and hear about the great work they are doing to increase Australia's knowledge, expertise and innovative culture. There were, of course, hundreds more scientists who descended on parliament this week, and they have equally compelling stories to tell. Science meets Parliament was once again a great success, and I hope all parliamentarians take every chance they get to engage with their local scientific community.

This week we also witnessed an outstanding maiden speech from Senator Jim Molan. It was great to hear some of his insights from his 40 years of distinguished service in the military and some of the work he has done since leaving the military, including on Operation Sovereign Borders. I would again make the point that we saw disgraceful attacks on him from the Greens and, indeed, some in the Labor Party such as Senator Cameron. I reject those attacks, and I think most Australians reject those attacks absolutely and completely.

We also saw another maiden speech this week—in the ACT assembly. I would like to pay tribute to and congratulate Candice Burch, the newest Liberal member of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Candice comes in on a casual vacancy caused by the very sad death of the Steve Doszpot, which I spoke about in this place before Christmas. Steve will, of course, be greatly missed. Candice is an outstanding young parliamentarian. In fact, Candice coming into the ACT assembly means that the Liberal opposition, which holds 11 of the 25 seats in the ACT assembly, now for the very first time has a majority of women—six women out of 11. I think it is worth acknowledging that milestone. The Labor Party in the ACT also, I believe, has a majority. But the milestone that has been achieved by the Liberal Party in the ACT, with six outstanding women and five outstanding men, has been achieved without quotas. If I were to reflect on it, I would say it has come about because of a culture that has enabled people to be their best—be they men or women.

Looking at the diversity of those women and men, they represent multicultural diversity in Australia and the ACT. We have people like Elizabeth Lee, who has a Korean background. Candice Burch came from South Africa. Giulia Jones has an Italian background and Elizabeth Kickert has a Pacific Islander background. It is a really diverse and capable team. I think it is worth paying tribute to them.

In particular, I pay tribute to Candice on her maiden speech, which I thought was outstanding. She spoke about her family's journey. She spoke about her work as a Commonwealth public servant in the Department of Finance. She has an economics background and I think she'll be a great addition to the team in terms of her knowledge of the economy and finance. Also, she spoke very passionately about freedom and the values that led her to join the Liberal Party, stand for election and, in sad circumstances, come in on a countback and have the opportunity to serve the people of the ACT and the people of the Kurrajong electorate. For those from other places, Kurrajong is in the inner north and inner south of Canberra. Where we are sitting right now is in the inner south of Canberra. Just on the other side of the lake, on the other side of the city, is the inner north, which is the other part of the electorate of Kurrajong. So Candice is representing the inner north and the inner South, along with Elizabeth Lee, the other Liberal who represents the seat.

Candice spoke very passionately about what she wants to do for her electorate. She spoke about the great freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of enterprise. These freedoms are foundational to the Liberal Party and they are foundational, I believe, to Western democracy—the idea that, with only the smallest of limits, people should be free to say what they like, free to sometimes say things that might offend other people, free to practice their faith, free to believe in whatever god they want or to not believe in God, free to express those religious views and free to live that faith in action, which is a great thing. Freedom of enterprise is about the ability to go about your life without having the government interfere in a burdensome way—to be able to go out there and start a business, to be able to employ people, to be able to be innovative and not have the government hold you back. These are foundational. People can do this. People have the opportunity to speak freely, to worship freely and to look after themselves and their family by earning a living, working hard and starting a business. Then, of course, there are things like freedom of association—the ability to join a union or not join a union and to be part of an organisation or not part of an organisation. If we protect these freedoms and these values, our nation will continue to be a wonderful place for decades and centuries into the future.

These are things that are foundational to the Liberal Party. I'm really pleased that we have a new member of the ACT Legislative Assembly who stands for those values and will stand up for those freedoms—sometimes when it's unpopular—and she'll do it as part of a really great team led by Alistair Coe, the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition, who is taking it to the ACT Labor-Greens government. But she'll do it as part of a team of which, for the first time, the majority are women. It has been achieved because of a culture that has enabled great women to put their hands up to have those opportunities to put themselves to the electorate, and the electorate has responded. I congratulate Candice and the entire team.