‘We’re going to fix it’: Husic’s clarion call to Australian science


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Ed Husic has begun his leadership of the Industry and Science portfolio by thanking Australia’s scientists and promising to listen more, respect their advice to government, and build a “national purpose”.

In his first address as Australian minister for Industry and Science, Mr Husic pledged to fix Australia’s brain drain and research translation problems as part of a pandemic recovery, flagging billions in strategic investment for emerging and medical technologies to transform Australia into a country of “makers” not “takers”.

“We’re going to fix it. We are bloody going to fix it,” Mr Husic told hundreds of Australian scientists and technologists at Science and Technology Australia’s Science Meets Parliament event on Thursday night.

“And we need your help in doing that. And we’ll have a lot of people that say ‘it’s too tough’. And will say ‘it’s too hard and that’s not Australia’s thing’. And yet…Australia [has] 0.3 per cent of the global population producing four per cent of the world’s research. And we have eight of our universities in the top 100.

“We’ve got capability, we’ve got capacity, we’ve now got to apply it,” Mr Husic said.

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic. Image: STA/Ben Calvert

Mr Husic was named Minister for Industry and Science in the new Albanese Government after years working with the sector in Opposition.

The new Labor government has also returned ‘Science’ to portfolio name in place of ‘Innovation’, a change Mr Husic said was a signal that science would return to the “forefront” in the new government.

“We’re listening to the science, we’re respecting the science, we’re acting on the science, these things — this is the signal that we wanted to send. So that’s really important and…I’m very keen to work with you all as much as I possibly can in the time that I have.”

Mr Husic urged the science and technology sector to work with government to rebuild a sense of “national purpose”. The pandemic had shown Australian science and ingenuity could help save people around the world, Mr Husic said, but doubts at home had cost lives.

“What you do and the work science does to improve the quality of life [is] very important. But now we need to think ahead not just in terms of the pandemic, but beyond where we reshape the nation,” Mr Husic said.

“Because we don’t want to go back, we’ve said, we don’t want to just go back to the way we were before this pandemic hit us. Let’s do something better. This is the big challenge.”

Mr Husic acknowledged the sector faces challenges around public confidence in science and growing international competition as geopolitics disrupts international research partnerships.

“We could do a hell of a lot more on science diplomacy,” he said. “We’ve been talking about that and how do we work with our neighbors on that and build stronger relationships in sorting out common problems…So there is a lot to do.”

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4 Comments
  1. Amanda Heyworth 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Science is important. Translation is important. Commercialisation is important. They are not the same thing and doing all three well would move the needle. There is an opportunity to do much better if we challenge the norms and tackle the real underlying issues: aspiration, capability, culture and reward systems. Its not just universities – business, government, education system and advisers all need to contribute to the solution. Aspiring to be ‘makers’ and not ‘takers’ is a very good start.

  2. I think the first two commentators both have some good points. The communality is that none of the Unis do commercialisation well. This is why the outcomes are as they are. Several Uni’s are trying to lift their game but I don’t see radical changes. The clear fact with technologies is that it isn’t all about the tech
    Commercialising is about Value Creation for customers.

  3. Gary Stewart 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    WOW!! So we could not make Innovation work – so now we will focus on Science and see if we can make that work!!
    Funny, I could have sworn I’ve heard this before.
    I wonder where?
    Oh! yes. Now I remember – Morrison – Turnbull – Abbott – Rudd – Gillard – Rudd – Howard – Keating.
    It’s like a replay over and over again.
    Change the name – brand it as new – and trot it out.
    The last time our nation had Innovation and science that worked somewhat ok was under John Button.
    Perhaps if our politicians studied in great depth precisely WHY Innovation and Science have failed our nation for the past 30 years – they might, just might, begin to understand why we have not been able to make innovation and science work for the past 30 years.
    For those who don’t follow – just understand that Australia has ranked LAST in the OECD for commercialisation of Innovation for the past 20 years straight – while spending a quarter of a Trillion dollars of Taxpayer money.
    Yes, you read that right we spent $250b to go from last in the OECD 20 years ago to still last in the OECD today.
    Perhaps If Mr. Husic was to STOP listening to those who have advocated where we spent that $250b (the rent-seekers) and tried to work out how to design, develop, and execute a competent system for Innovation – he could indeed create a whole different future for our nation.
    But only if he STOPS listening to those who advocate more of the same, Minister. Those who will say to him: “No, Minister, you don’t need a NEW system – we just need to do better with what we have now!!”
    Have they all been listening to the brilliant Sir Humphrey Appleby?
    Do they have Sir Humphrey at his best playing on a continuous loop?
    It seems so.
    While I admire the new Minister’s intent – more of the same under a different guise – will NOT fix Science and Innovation.

  4. MIke Jones 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    I fully support the emphasis on translational R&D at universities. For too long universities have been blinded by metrics and citations, forgetting that taxpayers foot most of the bill and with not much in return from all the research. Australia is about bottom of the OECD countries in commercialisation of R&D. Its time to support and value commercialisation of Uni R&D to generate new high-tech industries and jobs for the future, and add value instead of the publish in high impact factor journals for unis, and the dig it up and send it off mentality of industry we have had for far too long.

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