Firstly the good news.
Despite some initial speculation (and concern), Denis Jensen did not land the role of science minister. Placing a climate sceptic in charge of policy would have been a disastrous for science in Australia. Not to mention somewhat embarrassing.
Newly incumbent Prime Minister Tony Abbott neatly side-stepped the potential embarrassment of having a sceptic heading up the science portfolio by doing away with the science portfolio:
The country’s top science bodies have expressed concern over Tony Abbott’s new ministry, which has omitted a dedicated science minister for the first time in more than 80 years.
Not since 1931, and for six weeks during World War II, has an Australian government been without a minister with science in their portfolio title. Under the incoming Abbott government the minister for industry, Ian MacFarlane, will be responsible for some areas of science including the main scientific organisation, the CSIRO.
The Australian Academy of Science’s Les Field was disappointed Mr Abbott had not appointed a science minister and hoped one would be announced in the coming days.
”A scientifically literate society is a society which is equipped to hold informed debate and make intelligent decisions about big issues that affect us all,” said Professor Field, the academy’s secretary for science policy.
See, problem solved!
Silly, silly scientists. What importance could science be to Australian society in the early 21st century?
Some commentators have noted that Macfarlane is a better choice than Jensen.
Really? Those of us with long memories and some insight into climate politics in Australia have grave concerns.
MacFarlane was once described as a member of Australia’s “Greenhouse Mafia” – part of a select group of men (surprise!) who worked behind the scenes in the Howard Government to block attempts to put a price on carbon or ratify the Kyoto agreement.
“As industry minister in the Howard Government since November 2001, Macfarlane has been the greenhouse troglodyte of the Government. Even after the Prime Minister and the environment minister had accepted (at least in public) that climate change is real and potentially damaging, he continued to deny that there is a problem. MacFarlane has worked hand-in-glove with the fossil fuel lobby to sideline climate change. When the issue is unavoidable, he engages in policy window dressing in order to fool the Australian public into believing that the Government takes its responsibilities seriously…”
OK, now I can see how science fits into the industry portfolio.
Macfarlane’s mates get a free pass on polluting the planet, while science is muted and subservient to the needs of the fossil fuel industry.
Binders full of women, I mean women knocking at Cabinet’s door
In addition to this incumbent Prime Minister announced a ministry lineup which comprises of 95% men.
Memo to Australia: Afghanistan has more women in senior government positions than Australia.
Abbott sensed it may cause a perception issues stating:
“Nevertheless, there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the Cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.,”
Phew! Glad Mr. Abbott cleared up the impression he had a problem with women.
Yep, the boys are well and truly back in town.