What truth can we find in the rhetoric about being the clever country, in saying that our future competitiveness must lie not in digging raw materials from the earth but in thinking and creating, when we don’t recognise those who do the thinking? At this level it may only be a symbol of how seriously we take what we’re saying as a country; but it’s a powerful symbol.
More significantly, can there have been a time in the last 50 years when the input of science into decision-making was more important? At a time when we are having to address climate change in a very material way, we lose Science as a portfolio. Given the climate skepticism rife in the Liberal party (for which read “my gut feel tells me those boffins can’t be right”), dropping science can only be interpreted as a deliberate move to ensure the pesky facts and research doesn’t get in the way of men making decisions.
Now I recognise that there can’t be a seat at the top table for every sector of our national life. But, to put this is perspective, Sport is warming one of those chairs.
We used to have Ministerial representation for Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. None is there now. I look at that list and think those are all part of creating a clever country: And in the case of Climate Change probably the most significant challenge we face as a nation and as part of this World. How can they be subsumed into an Industry portfolio without sending a clear message about what is really important?
The answer is that they can’t. Given this is politics and messaging is so important, so top of mind, it’s not something that was done without thought to its consequences. And the sad reality is that there will be no consequences because I’m going to bet that the Murdoch papers are quite happy with the way things are turning out. Today’s online Daily Telegraph hardly touches on the detail of the cabinet, but it does give front-page coverage to The truth About Climate at Last and Global Warming Forecast Wrong. The Prime Minister might want to check with some actual scientists about that – if he can find any.