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Speech for the Prime Minister's Science Prizes.

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Ministers for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research


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We have a packed calendar of scientific anniversaries this year.

Among many others, we celebrate a giant of the physical sciences in Galileo, and a giant of the life sciences in Charles Darwin.

Tonight we recognise new achievements in both fields.

My task is to introduce the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year, and the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

Let me do that by way of my own discipline, which is history.


Up until the 1960s, Australia did not have a minister for science.

It had a minister in charge of CSIRO - or of its predecessor, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

This is a measure both of CSIRO’s consequence, and of how little research was done elsewhere during the first half of the twentieth century.

CSIRO today is stronger than ever - a national icon and an international force in the realm of ideas.

It is fitting that tonight’s physical science prize is named in honour of a past Chief Executive of the organisation, the late Sir Malcolm McIntosh.

The life science prize is named after an office, not its incumbent.


The appointment of Senator John Gorton as our first minister with general responsibility for science in 1963 was an acknowledgement:

• of how important this branch of inquiry had become to our economic and social development

Innovation Minister > Senator the Hon Kim Carr


Senator the Hon Kim Carr

28 Oct 2009

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• and of how rapidly our research capabilities were developing - in private industry, and especially in higher education.

Having started out as teaching institutions, Australia’s universities now do:

• a quarter of our R&D

• half our research in the physical sciences

• half our research in the life sciences

• three-fifths of our basic research

• and four-fifths of our research in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

We have come a long way, and it is essential that we maintain the momentum - not just by increasing activity, but by increasing collaboration and connectivity.

Our contribution

That’s why the Government has brought innovation, industry, science and research together in one portfolio.

The undisputed highlight of my time in this job - so far - has been presiding over the biggest increase in Commonwealth support for research and innovation on record, including:

• $1.1 billion for the Super Science Initiative

• and an extra $703 million for university research over the next four years, with more to come thanks to better indexation.

It would be nice if I could claim the credit for this, but that’s not how it works.

We are making these investments because the whole Government recognises that we can’t build tomorrow’s prosperity on yesterday’s ideas.

Let me share another truth.

Very little happens in modern Westminster-style governments without a nod from the Prime Minister.

So it is fortunate that Australia has a Prime Minister who understands why science matters.

Few past occupants of the Lodge can match Kevin Rudd in this regard, and I say that knowing full well that Robert Menzies briefly put himself in charge of CSIRO while he was Prime Minister - it didn’t work, Kevin.

I say it mindful that Prime Ministers Holt, Gorton, and Fraser all served in the science portfolio on their way to the top job - to which Senators don’t aspire, Kevin.

John Gorton was an exception, Kevin.

The future

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So, we have a Government that believes in science, and a Prime Minister who believes in science.

It is the research community’s job - and mine - to justify that belief.

We do that by displaying inspiration, by demanding excellence, and by delivering results.

Just like the two outstanding scientists we are about to meet now.

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