A national strategy is needed to help Australia become the science capital of the Asia-Pacific, Bill Shorten says.
The opposition leader put out the call while issuing scientists in Canberra on Tuesday night with a challenge - let's make science political.
Mr Shorten conceded that he wasn't advocating partisanship, but rather elevating the field to the centre of "our national consciousness".
Addressing the Science Meets Parliament gathering, he said Australia must act now to develop a national science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) strategy.
And it shouldn't just be a "government-sponsored glossy pamphlet, launched and left to gather dust".
It would need to signal new co-operation with the states, industry, schools, universities and international partners.
"Science cannot be shunted away in one department or viewed as a boutique industry for a niche market," Mr Shorten said.
"Science needs a minister and a government that understand it as the engine of productivity and jobs growth across all existing and future industries."
The Labor leader said Australia needs better incentives for academics to work on more problems and for the private sector to invest in them.
"And we need to work together to bridge the divide between what our scientists discover and what our businesses use."
The next election should be a contest for the future of science, Mr Shorten argued.
"I want people to choose Labor because Labor has chosen science."