Former ALP president and eminent Australian thinker Barry Jones says the Abbott government is waging a “war on science” in which contributors are demonised, derided and regarded a liability.
Mr Jones, a science minister in the Hawke government, argues Australia’s intellectual capital “is as important as its mining base” but is being taken for granted.
He “absolutely” bemoans the fact there is no science minister in the Abbott government.
“It is not a priority in any sense. In fact you might say with the present government that there’s a bit of a war on science,” Mr Jones told AAP.
“There’s no minister for science … scientists generally are marginalised, they’re derided, sometimes they’re even demonised and they’re regarded as an expense, a kind of liability.
“Australia’s intellectual capital is as important as its mining base, it’s as important as our purchase of new fighter planes, it’s an important part of our defence for the future.”
The outspoken polymath, lawyer and quiz show champion is among various contributors in the field of science appointed to the Companion in the Order of Australia (AC).
Mr Jones has been honoured for eminent service to the community as a leading intellectual in Australian public life, through contributions to scientific, heritage, musical, medical, political and public health organisations, and to the Australian Parliament.
He is the only person to have been elected to all four Australian learned academies: science; technological science and engineering; humanities; and social sciences.
And he has a bay in the Australian Antarctic Territory and an extinct marsupial, Yalkaparidon jonesi, named after him.
But the 81-year-old described his latest accolade as the “apex of the pyramid”.
“What’s gratifying about the award, I say fearlessly, is that there’s a touch of vindication in it. It may be that there’s a kind of recognition, in my ninth decade as people point out, to say that, `yes, there are few things that he got right’.
“It’s my ambition to drive people mad over the next decade unless they start re-thinking.”
Others to be appointed to the order under the science banner include Professor Marc Feldman for service to medicine and public health as an acclaimed researcher in the field of chronic immune disease, and through the development of innovative treatment therapies.
Professor Richard Gibbs is appointed for eminent service to science and academic medicine as a leading researcher, author and scholar, particularly in the field of genetics and human genome sequencing, and as a mentor of emerging scientists.
By Karlis Salna, AAP