This is a modified cross post from the WA Democrats' site. I posted it here because it's a nearly-perfect snapshot of my own state of mind at various points over the last ten years. It encapsulates all of the frustration I felt when I decided to re-engage with politics. So it might be a little out of context here, but if you know me at all, you should read it.
A version of this article was originally published in the June 2011 edition of the Australian Democrats' National Journal as a call for us to create a new science and technology policy. I am now the National Policy Coordinator for Science and Technology, and will be running public forums on science and politics to get input from the people closest to these issues.
In early March this year a rumour emerged regarding possible budget cuts of up to $400 million to medical research. It was one rumour out of several floating around; it was not part of a call to arms or outraged opinion piece, just another party leak that made it into the news cycle.
But the response from the community was phenomenal.
Within days, the Discoveries Need Dollars campaign was launched. Soon it was all over Facebook and Twitter, there were pieces written about it on Crikey and ABC's The Drum, and eventually there appeared editorials and human interest articles in the Australian and most state papers. More than 12000 people turned up to rallies in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth, Darwin and Brisbane — not just scientists, but administrators, scientific support staff, survivors of diseases made treatable by Australian research, and relatives of those whose lives were lost to disease but still improved by medical science. Central business districts became a sea of white coats, orange signs, business attire, petitions, clipboards and cameras.
All over science.
If this proves anything, it's that although science is not a high profile issue, and it's certainly not as well funded as most scientists would like, Australia does not take it for granted. Not always, anyway.