We need a Minister for Science, Tony

Australia is just beginning to make a name for itself in science research and development, but now Abbott has done away with a science minister altogether. Do we really need one? Yes, actually. Here's why.

In the past few years, Australia has finally begun to emerge as a scientific innovator. We have a 10% stake in the Large Magellan Telescope, the biggest earth-based optical telescope ever made; we've orchestrated the world's first bionic eye implant; and we're about to build the Square Kilometre Array on Australian land, which is arguably the most ambitious attempt yet to probe into the deep reaches of the cosmos.

And yet, for some reason, we are told that the position of "Minister for Science" will no longer exist under the Coalition government. Instead, scientific concerns will be divided between Ian MacFarlane, a former climate change denier who will somehow fit science in as the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources; and Christopher Pyne, who will cover the odd dregs of University-related science in his duties as Minister for Education. It is perhaps irrelevant that neither of these ministers have shown any aptitude for, nor interest in science as a whole, nor any vision as to its future.

While I've talked up a couple of Australia's recent achievements in science, we have so far to go. We currently lag behind nations half our size in total science spending, employment levels for researchers and appeal for investors. We sit just around the middle of all OECD countries in science spending, which isn't very good at all considering the status of half the countries in the world, and our investment in science is only shrinking. Yet, spending in science, aside from benefitting the world immensely in many ways, is a massive boost to economies, with top estimated 14 to 1 return associated with spending on NASA programmes.

Above all, there is so much left in the universe to be discovered. Without a minister devoted to this incredibly important, lucrative and profound endeavour, Australia risks being left behind the rest of the world in this quest. Again.

comments powered by Disqus