Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

On Feeling Precious

By Simon Grose

The Minister responsible for Science has described scientists as “precious petals”. Crunch the numbers and he may be right.

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

It’s a given that Australian scientists are intelligent and well-educated, but that doesn’t protect them from being sensitive and insecure.

The Federal Minister with responsibility for Science, Ian Macfarlane, dobbed them in September when he told a business gathering in Brisbane that he was fed up with “some of the precious petals in the science fraternity” who couldn’t get over not having their own Minister.

“I’m just not going to accept that crap,” he said. “It really does annoy me, because there is no one, no one, more passionate about science than I am… and I give science more than their share of my time.”

This provoked muted outrage from this “fraternity” – muted because they are too insecure to get aggro.

Greens MP Adam Bandt went aggro in their place: “It is unacceptable for Ian MacFarlane to insult the country’s science establishment … the Minister should not only apologise, he should increase science and research funding”.

For Bandt, science is an “establishment”. No wonder they were insulted. But for Macfarlane’s predecessor (plus one, Scott Emerson) it was just “science”: “Sometimes there’s a sense that science is separate, and if only we understood science the rest would all be all right,” Chris Evans told a Science Meets Parliament dinner in 2012. “The world is far more complex… science has to compete in the mix, we need to...

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