Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Yes, Science Minister

By Ian Lowe

The merry-go-round of science ministers raises concerns about instability.

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Australia has a new science minister, the fourth in the past 18 months. The Academy of Science’s secretary for science policy, Prof Les Field, noted: “This is the kind of instability that would typically raise a red flag, especially for a sector like science where training, work programs, infrastructure requirements and outcomes all have timeframes much longer than election cycles”.

Some of us remember golden ages of stability, such as when Barry Jones was minister for more than 7 years or Kim Carr for more than 4 years. In the British TV program Yes, Minister, the wily bureaucrat Sir Humphrey Appleby said that reshuffles kept ministers “on the hop” and avoided the danger of politicians knowing enough about their portfolio to challenge the advice they received. That was certainly true of Barry Jones.

Arthur Sinodinos comes to the portfolio with a chequered past, marked by his inability to recall questionable financial dealings when called before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. But he does have a reputation for being an effective political operator. The science community will be hoping to see that in action.

Sinodinos’ recent predecessors have laid some important groundwork. In December 2015, Christopher Pyne announced the National Science and Innovation Agenda. This promised 10 years of funding for the National Collaborative...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.