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.
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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