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Minister speaks on the importance of science and technology

ROBYN WILLIAMS: Have you spotted it's the year of young people in science? Maybe not. And when many younger folk think of science, quite a few are thinking about jobs. Nic Svenson reports.

NIC SVENSON: Turning now to the influence those in government exert on young scientists' careers and, specifically, to the speech given at this forum by the Honourable Mr Peter McGauran, Minister for Science and Technology.

PETER McGAURAN: The public good is heavily dependent on research and development and innovation. We know that, as I say; not everybody does. And our task is to convince those within government, industry and the community of the need for Australian research and Australian commercialisation, and it won't be done by shrill, overblown exaggerated whining and wailing. Over-exaggerate the nature and extent of the problems and you weaken the credibility of the science community. That's a self-evident truth and it applies to every other sector of the economy I can think of.

It seems to me that there's not enough emphasis on the private sector career opportunities for our young scientists, engineers. We still concentrate too much on what the public sector will provide them. Not everybody is going to be the next Gus Nossal. There can only be so many top academics. That's always been the case and always will be.

Now, some of the press releases issued in the lead-up to today exaggerate the issue-an attempt to create a climate of crisis. If we're going to get anywhere today, and I'm genuinely interested in the proposals that come forth, then it's only going to be by explaining the positives of careers in science and engineering and the wealth of opportunities that do exist for young people embarking out on a career. We don't value enough careers in industry, and yet the role of government is directed at stimulating private sector investment in RD.

Now, in making these comments, I am not myopic or self-satisfied. I know how much more needs to be done, and I want your ideas and advice when they're well researched and well thought out. There's no need to waste my time or yours, ever, with ambit claims. If you're direct with me, I'll be direct with you.

So of course the Government has a role in both the private and public sectors, and the principal role is to sell the benefits of science without ever being a Pollyanna. Thank you.