The Slightly Disgruntled Scientist

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A Disgruntled Technocrat's Guide to the 2019 Election

This one will be short, mainly because honestly, not much has changed since 2016. Same government, same opposition, same issues; all just turned up to 11.

We argued over metadata retention then, now it’s full-on mandated vulnerabilities. We ignored urgent advice about climate change then, now we ignore extinction-level desperation. It was dog-whistling then, now it’s pretty explicit white supremacy. I didn’t realise I would ever characterise the issues of 2016 as “subtle”, but here we are.

Let me remind you where this tradition of mine started: I had recently joined the Democrats. I had joined them in despair at the lack of a political home for the science-minded and actual scientists. In my narcissism I saw a moribund party as both a blank slate and a vehicle for science policy, and to some extent I made some progress. Not much, obviously.

I admit that a large part of that idealism is what I would now pejoratively call technocracy in anyone else. I did not specifically want an elite cabal of scientists to rule Australia, but I did definitely think that if we only had (many) more of them in politics, this country would just become better. I now see the foolishness of this. Voting ourselves more scientific works about as well as a Silicon Valley startup engineering themselves more ethical.

I do still believe that there is a place for science in Australian politics, both (a) in and of itself, as a powerful aspect of our humanity and (b) as something better than the current crop of coal carrying dipshits with Derek Zoolander levels of IT knowledge. But my question, the question you should be asking yourself is this:

What do you see in science, that makes you want to factor it into your vote?

We would like to make a Technical Assistance Request.

Why are you a science fan?

Do you see the potential to keep people everywhere safe from disease and disaster? To vanquish those once primal fears? I’m sorry, but I don’t think the boundary of scientific knowledge is our limiting factor here. You want to cure disease? Well, I hear measles is on the rise, maybe you could develop some way to defend against it? Or you could find a cure for typhoid. (I can’t extend this “joke” format to climate change, I wouldn’t know where to stop.)

Do you see the value in researching and recording knowledge, that we might share it and understand each other? Because that’s basically university, and working at a university currently sucks. If that’s you, forget voting for a second, go and join the NTEU. Then also vote.

Do you want to turn that knowledge into something we can collectively apply to our problems (apart from disease and disaster, I mean)? Well friend, that would be the public service! Public servant? Join the CPSU. Also vote.

Do you want to see our nation’s laws and policy be shaped by evidence and guided by compassion? Yeah me too.

So, voting, then. Science and Technology Australia have an election scorecard for science. It briefly suggests what I have previously stated, and what is borne out by reading the parties' policies and examining their record. Labor will definitely 100% commit to a review into whether they should consider doing a thing; the Liberals will continue their usual grift; the Greens will make decisions based on compassion and reason but usually not at a time or arena of their choosing. There are other parties too, go ahead and look them up. But beware the single issue party with no community, no organisers, no contributions — there lurk the narcissistic technocrats, and they are not fit to be put in charge. It takes one to know one.

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