Don’t just honour scientists – listen to them

People keep asking me if I’m pleased that Michelle Simmons was named Australian of the Year. And, yes, I think it’s great that three out of the four top Australian of the Year Awards went to scientists and a mathematician (and to teachers). But, honestly, it seems to me that what would be even better would be if the Government took this a sign that they ought to listen to scientists.

The Awards are not chosen by the Government, so there is no real connection between the two. However, there is no question that this Government has a terrible record with actually listening to scientists, even those that they employ directly to give them advice. And, to be fair, in doing so the Government mirrors the press and many people in substituting belief for facts that are hard to understand or which it does not want to face. That said, it’s one thing to be sitting round the barbie and thinking you know more about global warming than scientists, it’s quite another to be in a decision-making role in Government and doing that.

Until the Government actually listens to the people who devoted their lives to studying subjects that are complex and difficult, we are never going to rise and meet the challenges that face us today.

Maybe the Australian of the Year Awards will help address that. I doubt it though – we’ve had sportspeople win before and we all still think we know better than the Australian cricket team.

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