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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19707

Mr NAIRN (3:36 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. Would the minister inform the House of the winners of the Prime Minister's science prizes and outline their contributions to Australia?

Mr McGAURAN (Minister for Science) —I thank the member for Eden-Monaro for his question and for his important and valuable work as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Science and Innovation. He is a popular and credible figure in the science constituency—at times more so than the minister himself, I hasten to add. In fact, some in the science media have speculated that he is a future science minister, and I am more than happy to dip my lid to this outstanding champion for science.

The SPEAKER —The chair would be assisted if the minister would come to the question.

Mr McGAURAN —I hasten to add that there is one person that the science media never speculate about becoming science minister and that is the opposition's spokesman for science, and I challenge anyone to name him or her.

The SPEAKER —The minister will come to the question.

Mr McGAURAN —Returning to the matter at hand, last night was an opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work of all Australian scientists and particularly that of three exceptionally gifted scientists. The Prime Minister presented the Prime Minister's Prize for Science to Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller. Professor Miller is known as the modern father of immunology. His work underpins modern medicine's understanding of how the immune system operates. His work forms the basis for new vaccine development, preventing organ graft rejection and enhancing cancer cell death. Professor Miller's award acknowledges a lifetime commitment to the quest for knowledge and his outstanding medical breakthroughs which have improved the quality of life for countless Australians.

Prizes were also awarded to two exceptional Australian scientists who, although at a relatively early stage in their careers, have already made significant achievements in their areas of research. The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for the Physical Scientist of the Year was awarded to Dr Howard Wiseman. Dr Wiseman's work as a senior research fellow at Griffith University is expanding our understanding of the quantum world. His work focuses on what is known as the quantum measurement problem—a problem that baffled even Einstein. The winner of the Science Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year was Dr Christopher Helliwell, a senior research scientist with the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry. Dr Helliwell has isolated the genes that control the biosynthesis of one of the most important hormones in plants. This discovery will help shape the future of agriculture and horticulture in Australia. These two young scientists represent the face and future of science in Australia. The awards reflect the government's commitment to encouraging our best talent to pursue careers in research.

Whilst I am sure the House joins me in congratulating all the prize winners on their achievements, I also wish to congratulate their support teams who are leading the way in so many areas of science and innovation in Australia. The medal recipients are representative of the research teams who collectively make Australian science the basis of the nation's prosperity. We are indebted to them and their colleagues.