Ms Andrews, who trained as a mechanical engineer and has a deep interest in science, has been talking to Antarctic scientists who are researching ice cores, looking at carbon dioxide levels over time.
“What it will prove beyond doubt is that human behaviour has impacted [upon the climate]. Because we’ll be able to quantify it and say, ‘well here it is’,” she said.
Asked if the Antarctic work could be used to put to rest contentious debates about climate change within the Parliament and broader community, Ms Andrews said, “it can potentially go towards it. That’s not going to resolve all the concerns that people have or all the scepticism that people have, too. But it’s another part of the puzzle.”
The Coalition has called on Labor to support its climate change policy, under which it has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Ms Andrews has also invited new Environment Minister Sussan Ley and new Great Barrier Reef envoy Warren Entsch to have a “full briefing” on the reef by the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
“We know that there are bleaching events that are happening on the Great Barrier Reef. What we need to do is look at how we can extend the period of time between those bleaching events to give the coral … more time to regenerate,” she said.
In an interview shortly after being sworn in, Ms Andrews said she was working on 100-day plans for all three parts of her portfolio.
She nominated developing batteries using Australia’s raw materials, such as lithium and cobalt, as a priority. “That feeds into the whole issue of electric vehicles and what we can do with transport in the future.”
Ms Andrews, who wants to travel to Mars one day, also nominated the space sector as a key area of focus. “I love space,” she said, adding she was currently seeking advice from departmental officials on a “whole range of issues in relation to space”.
The Australian space sector is worth about $3.9 billion, with federal government plans to grow this to $12 billion by 2030.
Ms Andrews said she wanted to develop Australia as a space tourism destination, with landmarks like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef as key selling points, particularly for the South-East Asian tourist dollar.
More than 600 people have already reserved tickets costing about $360,000 to fly on a Virgin Galactic suborbital flight, which is due to start taking tourists to the edge of space by the end of 2019.
Ms Andrews, who was first elected to the Gold Coast seat of McPherson in 2010, said the government was looking at legislation to legally allow passengers to go into space from Australia.
“My understanding is that we pretty much have the infrastructure that we need now at some of our airports [for commercial space flights]. All we need is a runway that is capable of taking an A380 [the world’s largest passenger airline].”
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House