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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 581

Mr EVANS (Brisbane) (10:23): Recently I visited the Queensland University of Technology bluebox program to meet with the people behind one of its most exciting and promising projects. QUT researchers there have developed a sustainable and renewably sourced formulation—lignin barrier coating—for applying water resistant coating to material such as paper and cardboard. Despite the somewhat wordy description, if successful this material could be quite revolutionary. It could replace billions of tonnes of plastic-coated materials currently used to package and transport food right across Australia and around the world. This government, through its innovation agenda, is supporting this project and a whole lot of great projects just like it. This project is receiving an accelerating commercialisation grant of $125,000, matched funding, to see this technology reach the commercial phase and the international stage.

At QUT I was able to meet the brains behind this operation, Albert Tietz, CEO Tim McLennan, QUT bluebox Director Denise Hodge, and Director and Commercial Manager Michael Evans. In his laboratories, Albert showed me just how limitless the applications could be for this technology for agriculture, construction, logistics—you name it. The potential for commercialising a product like this could be really significant. These are the successes that are being achieved and prospered under this government's innovation agenda.

This House's Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, of which I am a member, has been looking at ways to ensure that the teaching of STEM subjects and innovation has a more lasting impact on our economy. Currently Australian schools are producing just a third as many top quintile maths students as the five best school systems globally. At school and university females are in short supply in maths, engineering and computing, and that is a massive disadvantage for our higher education system.

By intrinsically linking innovation to education we can guarantee that more exciting inventions like lignin barrier coating technology can occur here in Australia. Our school and higher education systems must be prepared to develop students' interests and proficiency in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Australia has enjoyed a sustained period of economic growth, and to sustain Australia's high standard of living into the future it is vital that education providers deliver the right skills mix at the right times to support an economy transitioning to the information age. International education is now my city Brisbane's largest export, and there is a big opportunity for us here into the future.

The investment in innovation and creativity needs to start at home and continue with teachers, career advisers, VET providers, universities, employers—you name it. I want to thank QUT bluebox for welcoming me and showing me their work, and I look forward to any opportunities to host the education and training committee members in the laboratories in Brisbane into the future.