‘There are no free rides to the future: Australia’s Chief Scientist‘, The Conversation, 13 August 2014 and updated
Speech mapping current state of play in science – Australia is in only the middle of the pack = and future scenarios around competitiveness, education and training, research and international engagement.
Other countries are doing it – and they’re investing strategically in science – for the long haul. These other countries have found the right way to get leadership from government – learnt how to get government in the way – in the right way, in the right place for the right period of time. We can, too.
I note in passing that our “competitors” have also moved past using the expression “picking winners” as the standard pejorative to stop any thinking about needs and advantages and focus and scale. Instead of being stuck in the old ways, our competitors have moved on. They have identified national priorities and set out to fund them appropriately – areas where they have advantage, or need, or capacity to grow to scale, or to take new products to market.
Professor Chubb placed his remarks in a historical context. His lecture was in honour of Dr Jack Beale, Australia’s first minister for environmental matters.
Jack Beale was also in politics at a time of reconstruction after World War II. It was a period when people of vision saw a need to build a different Australia – a better Australia. And it was one where research and education were seen as vital to the building of that better Australia – a stronger Australia that earned its place in the world because of the contribution it was willing and increasingly able to make.
They thought a lot about the future in those days – and it was clear that they had learnt from history and didn’t want to repeat it. I wonder if we can say the same of our thinking about the future today.