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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 144


Senator WATSON (7:09 PM) —I rise this evening to comment on the importance of the Australian Maritime College. It is particularly important to my home city of Launceston and the worldwide maritime industry, and it has contributed to the social capital of northern Tasmania. This has only been possible through a partnership with the federal government. I wish to acknowledge the great contribution that has been made by the far-sightedness of its board, its head, its teaching staff and students past and present.

The Maritime College was established in Launceston in 1978 with the first students commencing in 1980. Since that time the number of students has continued to rise. In 2004 there were 1,900 students enrolled in award courses and 1,759 students undertaking short courses, mainly through the AMC’s commercial arm, called AMC Search. That was a total of almost 4,000 people studying last year at the college.

The direct economic benefits for Launceston and Tasmania are quite significant and are in excess of $20 million annually but the total economic benefit is estimated at greater than $50 million. That equates to more than 500 jobs, both directly and indirectly. The high proportion of international students has provided a strong multicultural influence in our community. The college contributes significantly, as I said earlier, to the social capital of Tasmania. A partnership between the Maritime College and the West Tamar Council has built a swimming pool at the Beauty Point campus which is available for students and, I point out, for the local community. It has been in use since the beginning of 2004, so there is great community interaction and social responsibility.

The college has a fine international profile and reputation which has continued to grow over the years. It hosts a number of visiting academics from overseas—for example, a professor from Kobe University is working on simulation research. Staff have delivered courses in places like Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. It has a strong relationship with the National Kaohsiung Institute of Marine Technology in Taiwan, which saw a number of their students attend a summer school at the Maritime College.

The Tokyo University of Fisheries’ training ship visited the AMC in 2003 and a joint research program in fish behaviour has been initiated. There is also a partnership with the Shanghai Maritime University, where the AMC will provide degree courses in China. The first students enrolled last year and will commence their studies in February this year. The college received accreditation from the Royal Yachting Association in the United Kingdom to offer their superyacht course in Australia. These are internationally recognised qualifications needed by prospective superyacht crew members.

As a measure of its international reputation, the AMC is now the Senior Vice-Chair of the International Association of Maritime Universities and it hosted the general assembly in November 2004. At that time, the principal, Dr Neil Otway, became the chairperson of this organisation and will hold office for the next 12 months.

It is important to acknowledge that the Australian government has continued to provide very significant support to the Maritime College. In fact, funding of $7 million was announced in December 2003 to provide high-speed, high-capacity internet links between Tasmania and the mainland to facilitate improved education and research. That has continued to provide students with excellent facilities and contacts. The number of AMC programs offered in a flexible mode has increased significantly. To facilitate further developments, educational software—WebCT—was acquired, which has been embraced by academic staff for a number of their courses.

The government in its last budget in 2004 announced a further $9.7 million for the college over the next seven years to support a new operation at Point Nepean in Victoria and $4.5 million was made available for the establishment of the Australian Maritime Hydrodynamics Research Centre in Launceston. This project has completed its first full year very successfully. It has met its targets to date and is well placed to achieve its vision of becoming a world-class centre of excellence for experimental and theoretical hydrodynamic research.

Perhaps the most exciting area for the college lies in its commercial partnerships. Its research arm, AMC Search, continues to have success. In fact, it received an outstanding contractor performance award from the Department of Defence for its Pacific patrol boat courses, a great achievement for such a small company. Presentations on AMC Search’s capabilities were made in a number of locations around Australia, including Melbourne, Canberra, Fremantle, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

I point out to the Senate that this college continues to be an innovative organisation, providing high-level teaching, research and consulting services to the Australian and international maritime industries. I believe it has a great future and is of great benefit to the state. I commend the federal government for its support for this outstanding college.