Science takes sustained investment – especially by industry, says Industry and Science Minister

Health Industry Hub | March 23, 2023 |

Medical: An annual highlight on the Parliamentary calendar, Science Meets Parliament has been delivering opportunities to elevate visibility of STEM in Parliament and government departments. This year, over 40% of MPs, Senators and their advisers have met with scientists during this time.

Industry and Science Minister the Hon Ed Husic MP gave a speech at the National Press Club on 22 March to highlight the importance of science as we confront challenges to the planet, its people, and our collective prosperity.

He said “Since becoming Minister for Industry and Science, I have been vocal about tearing down the barriers preventing people from contributing to the wellbeing of the nation. Confronting the biases head on that hold people back from entering or staying in STEM careers. It’s one of the motivations for initiating the Diversity in STEM review within my first 100 days as a Minister.”

The Women staying in the STEM workforce report recently found that over one-third of the women in the STEM workforce aged 25 to 35 intend to leave their profession within 5 years.

Minister Husic stated “We are re-invigorating Australia’s science priorities, the first time since 2015, underpinned by a National Science Statement, that hasn’t been updated since 2017. That’s why the government is creating the National Reconstruction Fund, $15 billion to support Australian manufacturing.”

Shadow Minister for Science Paul Fletcher MP said in his address during Science Meets Parliament 2023, “Politics doesn’t always work in quite the same rational, evidence-based fashion [as science]. Nevertheless, I do want you to be confident that your work as scientists is enormously respected and valued across the political spectrum. We know that work advancing the frontiers of human knowledge is enormously important, and of course we also recognise that as well as that basic research, there is applied research, the commercialisation of research and the more direct economic benefits that brings.”

Minister Husic pointed to the Australian medical and scientific successes that have made a significant impact on the international stage.

He said “Let’s not forget University of Sydney Professor Edward Holmes was instrumental in the team of scientists around the world that first sequenced the COVID-19 genome in 2020. For women around the world today, their chances of developing cervical cancer have been drastically reduced by the creation of the HPV vaccine. It was first developed at the University of Queensland, by researchers Ian Frazer and the late Dr Jian Zhou. But it wasn’t commercialised by an Australian manufacturer. Instead, MSD picked it up and it became Gardasil.

“Today we take for granted the use of ultrasound for medical examination and diagnosis, but its development, which happened right here in Australia, was anything but an ‘overnight success’.”

Australia makes up only 0.3% of the global population, yet we produce more than 4% of the world’s published scientific research.

Minister Husic stated “Our manufacturing self-sufficiency languishes dead last in the OECD. But we can and should have the ambition to build on Australian ideas here. Australian businesses spend around $18 billion on R&D. And each year, businesses receive just over $2.7 billion in tax offsets on their eligible R&D expenditure. But at only 1.8% of GDP, R&D spend across our economy is well below the OECD average.

“Science isn’t a nice to have only when times are good. It is essential to the prosperity of this country. To our national wellbeing. It takes sustained investment – not just by government and universities, but by industry too. Especially by industry.”

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