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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11123

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (16:18): I rise today to speak about the great success of last night's launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Science. I am privileged to be a co-chair of Parliamentary Friends of Science, along with the member for Corio. As a graduate in mechanical engineering I am very passionate about science, engineering and education. I am confident that this new friendship group can be used as a vehicle to increase the dialogue that currently exists between our community science leaders and parliamentarians. I also believe that through Parliamentary Friends of Science, parliamentarians can work together to encourage more students to take up science in school and in their tertiary studies. It is a sad reality that, although many more students are going onto higher education after school, the rates at which they are taking up science and engineering disciplines is decreasing. We need to be able to inspire and excite our students, starting in primary school, to give them the greatest chance of what I believe will be a very worthwhile career for them to pursue in science or engineering.

To launch the group last night we were privileged to take part in a master class in astronomy with Australia's most recent Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt. I cannot think of a more fitting person to be a guide to the skies, as he led us through a 20-minute journey of our nearby celestial neighbours, the galaxy and the universe. Although the patches of cloud last night did give us a little bit of trouble it was, nonetheless, a fascinating and captivating presentation. I would sincerely like to thank Professor Schmidt and his students for providing us with this fabulous opportunity.

At this stage, Parliamentary Friends of Science boasts 50 members and senators from all sides of parliament. It was fantastic to see so many of them attend the masterclass and also the gala dinner that followed as part of Science meets Parliament. I look forward to seeing the number of members and senators joining the Parliamentary Friends of Science grow over the coming months.

I also appreciated the opportunity last night to address the attendees of the Science meets Parliament gala dinner and to speak to them about their research and to listen to their thoughts and views on the state of science in Australia. I have had the opportunity to meet today with some of the scientists who were taking part in Science meets Parliament. It gave me and, I hope, the scientists an opportunity to talk openly about the issues that they are facing in their research, particularly with regard to research grants, and where science in Australia is heading and what our science community here can do to assist us.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Science & Technology Australia and the Australian Academy of Science for their support in establishing the Parliamentary Friends of Science.