Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wants scientists to become more involved in politics, and they want specialist advisers in all federal government departments.
Mr Shorten, who took on the shadow science portfolio when he became leader, has told scientists their input is needed if Australia is not to be “stuck on the blocks” in the race for the jobs of the future.
His comments came as hundreds of industry leaders converged in Canberra to meet parliamentarians to fuse stronger bonds between science and politicians.
Pointing to the success of National Disability Insurance Scheme campaigners, Mr Shorten said “together they achieved an outcome that would have been impossible alone”.
“The future of Australian science will depend on whether you, and I, can make your cause a national political issue,” Mr Shorten said.
He says scientists shouldn’t have to deal with uncertainty in funding and there should be a new national commitment to science and innovation.
Labor will call for a Senate inquiry into science, research and the Australian innovation system to explore that idea and others including how to help innovators commercialise their ideas.
Science and Technology Australia boss Catriona Jackson says industry leaders are hoping to follow the UK’s lead and spread expert knowledge throughout federal divisions since the Abbott government scrapped a science ministry.
“We have certainly discussed the idea with the government and there has been some movement, with an appointment in agriculture,” Ms Jackson told AAP.
After coming to power in 2013 Prime Minister Tony Abbott reshuffled portfolios and split science between industry and employment, removing the role of dedicated science minister which had been in place since 1931.
Ms Jackson said scientists were concerned but have suspended their opinions until they see the government’s first budget in May.
While there is a federal chief scientist, and one for each state and territory, greater consultancy would be valuable, she said.
Chief scientist Ian Chubb will outline the importance of science to Australia’s future on Tuesday at the National Press Club.
He hopes to explain how support for the full spectrum of research and a more strategic approach to science can provide Australia with the technological progress needed for sustained economic development.