201407.14

Official opening of the Australian National University’s new Sciences Precinct, Canberra


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*Check against delivery*
Professors, staff, colleagues, students, research, teaching and learning professionals: how about giving yourselves a big cheer before I talk. I am the reason we are running late because I wanted to speak with some of the staff and researchers in these facilities which has been truly inspirational.

To see the sparkle in the eye and the fire in the belly of each and every one of you doing wonderful things; discovering that delicious world of possibilities of the environment we live in and what more we can learn and what more we can gain, is an uplifting opportunity and experience.

So much of that though is about the software; it’s about the people that make up this campus. But what a showcase. What a spectacular set of buildings that positions ANU as a world leading venue for the kinds of inquiry, learning and insight that is being pursued and that we are celebrating here today.

My friend and colleague, Christopher Pyne would have loved to have been here but as you know there is a little bit going on up on the hill and amongst Christopher’s significant responsibilities, he is also the Manager of Government Business in the House. So he has been required to be in Parliament this morning to address that part of his role. He does send his sincere apologies and best wishes for all you are doing and for the opportunities that we see ahead, supported by this outstanding infrastructure investment.

This is a pioneering facility which will boost research standards, it will add more nourishment to the kind of sparkle in the eye and fire in the belly that I touched on right across the sciences and help address some of Australia’s critical skills shortages.

The new Sciences precinct has been made possible by a very abundant, if I could use that term,
$165 million of grants from successive governments.

But looking around me I see that it is money very well spent. Although I must say I have just come through the chemistry area where I saw a very cost effective use of refrigeration. I see this world class technology and then I see a fridge that my Mum and Dad had when I was a lad, so it’s good to be well resourced and good to be resourceful. Maximum respect to you Dean for that, I congratulate you and I know you asked me to mention that in front of the Vice Chancellor and I have done so.

Biosciences and Chemistry are at the heart of science training and they are important disciplines in their own right, but they are critical in our understanding of other areas of science.

What’s important about the areas that we are celebrating in this investment and this infrastructure is the way in which those sciences can interact and we want to support that interaction, because there are great discoveries to be found and wonderful learnings that we need to pursue. It is very nourishing, a great tonic, for our best and brightest students to be welcomed into an environment that seeks to achieve the kind of world class standards that they are applying themselves. It’s something that I am deeply passionate about and I am thrilled to be here to play a small part in celebrating today.

We need to look at ways of making science, technology, engineering and mathematics – in our schools more attractive, dare I say more sexy. Can we make science sexier? I think we can by showing the insights and unlocking the wisdom that is so much a part of the facility.

We are also looking to the future. This is an area of great competitive advantage for our country but it won’t stay that way by just hoping it stays the same. We need to invest and we need to support our academics, researchers and the flow on effect, not only for the higher education sector, but for our worldwide reputation and in our long term interests as a nation. So these are indeed impressive facilities.

The impressive new buildings here include the Chemical Science Hub, a Sciences Teaching Building, a Research Building and a Combined Science Workshop. I did ask how many suits wandered through here, as there are quite a number of lab coats, and I think that collaboration across disciplines including inviting commerce students in and enterprising individuals is also an important part of this collaboration.

I’m optimistic that we can draw in those students, practitioners and draw in the business community so we can take those discoveries, the insights and the calculations of the sciences that are pursued here and transfer those into the demand, the innovation, the commercialisation to capture and carry forward that knowledge and know how.

Let’s see the next generation of celebrated Australians being great scientists but also great entrepreneurs that can see the benefits of their insights, better living standards and better opportunities for our country.

So I want to say congratulations. We have a skills shortage in this area and this is a wonderful magnet for people to pursue a science career. Whether it is in research, teaching, commercial application and insights that are gained through your joint efforts here today.

We know we can’t just keep pace with the rest of the world, we need to excel and exceed if we are to continue the rich tradition of this university and of our country.

That’s why we understand the need for investment in this important higher education sector, not only because it’s important in its own right but it’s crucial for our longer term interests as a country.

I congratulate you all who have been involved; it is a remarkable cluster of outstanding buildings that will bring the very best out of our brightest people whether they are researching, teaching or students wondering what to do with their lives. They might think, I’ve seen this and I want to be a part of science, I want to be a part of ANU.

Congratulations to all involved in this outstanding cluster of goodness.