Dr Phillip Schmidt
Senior Policy Advisor on Science
Ex-CSIRO Chief Scientist
It has been a long time since Australia has had a truly liberal political party, in the sense that ‘liberal’ is understood in most other parts of the world. For years we have witnessed the old Liberal Party of Australia drift further and further to the right, to the point that it simply cannot be regarded as ‘liberal’. It is closely aligned with the Tories in the UK (they have a close relationship with Boris Johnson) and the Republicans of the US (again, they have a close relationship with Donald Trump). To make matters worse it is not clear anymore what the Australian Labor Party stands for, changing their policies even as I write these notes. More and more Australians are being disenfranchised, the government continues to treat experts with disdain, whether it’s climate change, fires and floods or pandemics and frankly I am worried about what kind of a life my grandkids will have.
As a retired CSIRO Chief Scientist and ex-President of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists I feel I have an obligation to help put science back on the agenda and contribute to remedying the mess we are all in, especially as the importance and relevance of science has slipped education-wise. While once I looked forward to retirement and travel, none of that is working out. My wife and I ended up with 3,000 guava trees in the Ballina- Byron hinterland and while we did travel for a couple of years the pandemic has changed those plans, now and probably for years to come. As primary producers my wife and I see a different side to life from suburbia (see https://www.facebook.com/newrybarguavas). Unpredictable weather, fires and floods focus our attention much more these days. Consequently, my interests have expanded to encompass climate change, solar energy and electric vehicles. In this regard our daughter as a journalist with reneweconomy.com.au and The Driven and our son as Director of Research in chemistry at UNSW, an expert in photovoltaics, keep us appraised of the latest developments. I strongly believe that the science and the technology are available to overcome climate change and Australia is well placed mineralogically and industrially to actually benefit. Such a shame the LNP closed down the car industry instead of taking the lead CSIRO offered at the Sydney Olympics when they had converted a Holden Commodore to an EV (https://www.goauto.com.au/news/holden/commodore/ecommodore/holden-unveils- ecommodore/2000-05-24/21540.html). That was over 20 years ago! The LNP has well and truly passed its use-by-date.
Science is more important than ever and we need leaders who look to the experts for advice and take heed of that advice. It is time for the present government to get out of the way and for The New Liberals to lead.