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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15549

Mr JOHNSON (12:59 PM) —One of the great privileges of representing the federal seat of Ryan in the Australian parliament is that I am frequently given the opportunity to meet some highly creative and incredibly talented people. For instance, I have spoken in this chamber of the handful of young University of Queensland students from my electorate who won this year's University of Queensland Business School enterprise competition for young business entrepreneurs and innovators. Their initiative and innovation led to a prize of $25,000 for their talents and efforts.

Today I want to speak in the parliament about the Queensland Bioinformatics Consortium that I had the very real pleasure of launching last Tuesday, 20 May at the premises of Data 3 in Toowong, where we were kindly hosted by Bruce Crouch, manager of enterprise infrastructure. I want to report to my colleagues in the parliament that the Queensland Bioinformatics Consortium is a tremendously exciting initiative that encourages bioinformatic education and training through links with industry and tertiary institutions to propel the commercial development of bioinformation in this country. The winner from this will be Australia.

The QBC is a combined initiative of Genetraks Pty Ltd, the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland, situated in St Lucia in my electorate. The QBC's initial funding was sourced through the Innovation Access Program, a federal government grant program initiated under the Howard government as part of the Backing Australia's Ability program. The consortium was awarded a $250,000 IAP grant from the Department of Education, Science and Training. The Innovation Access Program, an initiative of the Howard government's innovation statement, Backing Australia's Ability, is a strategy to promote research, development and innovation throughout the national economy. The federal government has provided $100 million to businesses to tap into world's best technology and science.

The government's Backing Australia's Ability is a five-year strategy and a major breakthrough in innovation policy. Backing Australia's Ability will position Australia at the forefront of the international trend towards knowledge based and new economies. What this means for our country is more jobs, better paid jobs and higher standards of living for our fellow Australians. By encouraging and supporting innovation, the Backing Australia's Ability strategy will enhance Australia's international competitiveness, economic prosperity and social fabric.

Let there be no mistake: Australia is not only capable of competing internationally with other players in the field of bioinformatics but indeed can flourish in this niche sector of the economy. But we must be innovative. We must be the first out of the blocks. We must lead the world in our capacity to generate ideas and then, absolutely critically, commercialise them and turn them into viable applications for the consumers of not only this country but indeed the world. The federal government's grant of $250,000, which I mentioned earlier, will go a long way to ensuring that one particular consortium can make this happen.

I commend the merits of the Innovation Access Program because its big picture goals—to promote innovation and competitiveness by increasing Australian access to global research and technologies and facilitating their uptake by Australian researchers and firms, particularly SMEs—are helping kick-start important projects such as QBC. There is certainly no doubt that in the electorate of Ryan the support of the federal government is making a meaningful difference to improvements in science and cutting-edge technology, which clearly plays a vital part in many businesses. I can attest that the businesses of Ryan have that great advantage.

The QBC is a great example of how Backing Australia's Ability is accelerating the commercial application of innovative ideas in a local electorate such as mine. I especially acknowledge the CEO of Genetraks Pty Ltd, Dr Roslyn Brandon. I thank her very much for her kind letter, acknowledging my presence at and participation in the launch. I place on record her letter thanking me for my attendance. In her letter she says:

Dear Michael

On behalf of the Queensland Bioinformatics Consortium (QBC), I would like to extend my thanks to you for taking the time to launch the consortium last Tuesday evening.

Your presence really helped to make the evening a great success and we look forward to maintaining contact. As I mentioned, we really valued your presence because the QBC was launched as part of a Federal Government Grant—the Innovation Access Program (IAP) administered by DEST.

We have had very positive feedback from all involved, so I thank you most sincerely for your time and address.

I also acknowledge Dr Tim Littlejohn, the Chairman of QBC, and his very experienced and dedicated advisory board. I also express my appreciation to the CEO of I.lab, Steve Copplin, who has been a powerful but quieter force in promoting all things innovative and world-class in the Ryan electorate. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

Main Committee adjourned at 1.04 p.m.