With a Federal election now potentially just months away, science and technology is gaining momentum as a key issue.
The government has created a new peak advisory body to the Prime Minister and other ministers on science and technology.
The new National Science and Technology Council will replace the former Commonwealth Science Council.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will Chair the council, while Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews will serve as Deputy Chair.
Up to six additional “scientific experts” will also be appointed.
“The Council will identify Research Challenge projects and oversee horizon-scanning reports into long-term science and technology priorities, providing expert advice on issues such as health, emerging technologies and education,” said Prime Minister Morrison and Minister Andrews in a joint statement.
“It will focus on the key science and technology challenges facing Australia, ensuring the Government receives the best independent advice possible.”
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been laying out Labor’s plans for science and technology.
Addressing the Australian Academy of Science, Shorten promised he would put “science back at the centre of government” if elected.
“If elected, I want to lead a government that makes its policy decisions on the basis of the best possible evidence.
“And science provides us with that evidence.
"If elected, I want to lead a government with a vision for the long term, the Australia of the 2030s.”
He stated plans to have 3% of Australia’s GDP devoted to R&D by 2030 – as opposed to the current 1.88%.
Shorten also took the opportunity to attack current approaches to science.
“In an age where the sum of human knowledge is searchable by a smartphone, it’s never been easier to be better informed, there’s never been more potential for shared understanding.
“Yet what do we see? Deeper division, more vitriol.
“And an aggressively anti-scientific, anti-knowledge, anti-education movement masquerading as an attack on the so-called ‘elites’.”
Put your money where your mouth is
Despite the positive political intent shown for science and technology, Australia’s peak body in this space, Science & Technology Australia (STA), has shown caution.
President of STA Professor Emma Johnston said direct funding is what is needed for the industry to prosper ahead of next year’s Federal Election.
“Investment in the sector is badly needed, and the Federal Election will be a useful platform for both parties to lay out their plans for supporting science,” she said.
“It’s important that government leads the way by example, investing to establish an environment that will encourage industry to follow.”
“We also need a whole-of-government plan for science and technology – a vision for our future as a unified sector to allow us to address threats to our health, wealth and wellbeing.”