Transcript: The Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools Program

August 14, 2015




Subjects: Scientists & Mathematicians in Schools Program; marriage equality debate.



What we have seen here is a fantastic example of exciting and inspiring young children to study science.  These are the young scientists of the future. And the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools Program with the CSIRO, the Government’s $3.5 million program to promote the teaching of STEM subjects in schools is all part of preparing us for the future.  The reality is we are living in a much more competitive world, new technologies are disrupting the established order of industries. To succeed, to prosper, we have to be smarter, faster, more competitive, more scientifically literate, more mathematically literate, we have to be more innovative. And all of that depends on, ultimately, the young people and thousands like them that are being inspired by great teachers and scientists today. You can see the excitement in the room, and believe me our future depends on those kids being inspired by great teachers, and them taking that inspiration on to become the scientists, the engineers, the technologists of the future.


Jack mentioned that this is a course that has been running since about 2007 or so, I was just talking to him about the cuts that the CSIRO has faced over the past couple of years. This obviously is separate from that, there will be no impact on this sort of course?


Well, no.  The promotion of STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics subjects in school and of course in universities too, the promotion of STEM is absolutely a critical part of the government’s agenda. And it is being done in a lot of different ways, through the schools state governments play a huge role of course in the public education system and it is great to see the CSIRO engaging with this. And of course we saw Adrianna, the marine biologist from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science here as well.


I have some questions about gay marriage, I hope that’s okay if you don’t mind me asking – you have proposed a bill be passed in this term of parliament to legalise same sex marriage, only if the majority of Australians vote in favour at a plebiscite. Have you raised that with Mr Abbott?


I think I made my position on this clear yesterday -- yesterday and the day before in fact. And the answer to your question, have I discussed these matters with Mr Abbott – yes I have, on several occasions. The position of the party room was to decide that there would not be a free vote on a same sex marriage bill in the life of this parliament. That was the party room’s decision, or the Coalitions party rooms’ decision. As far as consulting the public through a plebiscite that is not yet determined, the mechanism is not yet determined, the timing of it is not yet determined, so there is really not a lot more I can add to what I said yesterday.  


Some other MPs are calling for a referendum though. Would that scuttle the vote, because the people calling for a referendum are opposed to gay marriage, so I am curious as to --


Well I can only repeat what the Attorney General said yesterday and he is absolutely correct. The Commonwealth Parliament, the National Parliament, has full constitutional power under the Constitution as it stands to legislate for same sex marriage so there is no need to change the Constitution at all. So if you wanted to consult the public and I think there are powerful arguments for that, I am not opposed to plebiscites, quite the contrary. If you want to consult the public about it you would have to form a view, a bill, a new law would have to be at least agreed upon, if not completely passed through the Parliament, which set out the changes and then you would go to the public and say, ‘here is this bill or this law - do you agree with it or not?’

And then you would get the expression of the opinion of the Australian people. That is perfectly open to us and I think everyone likes being consulted. It is not a conventional or traditional part of our political system, there have only been two plebiscites of that kind, asking the public’s advice on a policy matter like that, there have only been two plebiscites in our history and they were during the First World War on the matter of conscription, but nonetheless it is something that can be done. Thanks.


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