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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4232

Senator CAROL BROWN (6:50 PM) —I rise to speak briefly on the pivotal role that Tasmania is playing in facilitating the federal government’s marine and Antarctic research agenda. Tasmania shared in over $200 million worth of funding dedicated to advancing our marine and Antarctic research capacity in this year’s budget. This included $120 million of funding for the construction of a brand new marine research vessel to replace the ailing RV Southern Surveyor, and $45 million for the establishment of a new Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart. As well, there will be an additional $52 million for the Integrated Marine Observing System—for which the University of Tasmania will be the lead institute.

This latest allocation of funding demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to establishing Tasmania as the nation’s hub for marine and Antarctic research, and to becoming a world leader in the field.

Professor Daryl Le Grew, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, recently praised the new institute. Professor Le Grew in an article in the Examiner highlighted that the new institute will see Tasmania once again dominate marine and Antarctic education nationally, and will attract students from around the world to study in Tasmania. The new International Marine Observing System, which has been four years in the making, will see Tasmania control 40 per cent of Australia’s marine education and research.

The idea for the marine observing system was born nearly five years ago when the university, CSIRO and the Antarctic Division decided that they should get together. The University of Tasmania will drive the new system, with memorandums of understanding with Queensland’s James Cook University, which covers tropical environment marine studies, and the Western Australian University, which looks at the Indian Ocean environment. The institute will also have a cooperative relationship with the National Centre for Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability, based at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, as well as other university faculties.

These developments build on the impressive work already being conducted in Tasmania by the CSIRO, the University of Tasmania and the Australian Antarctic Division in terms of researching, monitoring and ultimately preserving our important marine and Antarctic assets. Indeed, I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Australian Antarctic Division, which is based in Kingston, just a few minutes south of Hobart, with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett. The minister, who was joined by the federal member for Franklin, Julie Collins, was there to observe the great work being conducted by the division’s Marine Mammal Centre into non-lethal whale research—the type of work that will be able to continue as a result of an additional $36.9 million worth of funding included in this year’s budget to be allocated to the division over the next two years to ensure such research can continue. The division currently employs over 300 people.

As my federal parliamentary colleague the member for Franklin, Julie Collins, pointed out at the time:

The Division’s work has important flow-on benefits for the Tasmanian economy.

Up to $20 million of extra investment will flow directly to Tasmania from the additional funding to the Australian Antarctic Division announced in the recent budget, which is good news not only for [Franklin] … but for the entire Tasmanian economy.

The same can be said for the government’s other most recent investments in marine and Antarctic research in the state—they will not only strengthen the state’s and indeed the nation’s position as a world leader in the field but will also, importantly, support local industry and jobs. For example, I know of a number of local based service companies that are currently engaged on a regular basis to perform maintenance work on the Southern Surveyor. The guarantee of the new vessel being built will hopefully ensure that such benefits to the Tasmanian economy and industry will continue.

Arguably the most significant announcement for Tasmania in terms of marine and Antarctic research to come out of this year’s budget was the news that the government will provide $120 million for the construction of a new marine research vessel to replace the ailing RV Southern Surveyor. This was no doubt welcome news for many who had been lobbying for the funds to replace the ageing vessel for some time. This includes my parliamentary colleague the federal member for Denison, the Hon. Duncan Kerr, who has been working extremely hard for some time to see the vessel replaced and for it to be based in Hobart. Mr Kerr has praised the federal government’s commitment to replace the vessel, saying that the new vessel will take marine research to the ice edge of Antarctica and drastically increase the quality and quantity of our at sea research. He too has highlighted the significant flow-on benefits for Tasmania based service industries and the Tasmanian economy.

There is little doubt that the new vessel was urgently needed if we were to continue our marine research activities in the Southern Ocean. Currently the Southern Surveyor is the only research vessel capable of operating in the Southern Ocean, but it is now 38 years old and near the end of its useful life. The new vessel will ensure that our vital research in the Southern Ocean will continue safely well into the future. On commission, the replacement vessel will operate for 300 days per annum at sea, providing increased research capacity aboard a modern, efficient facility. The government has also committed to providing an additional $29.6 million over four years in recurrent funding to increase the number of days that the current research vessel, the Southern Surveyor, can operate at sea prior to the new vessel hitting the water. This increase in funding will see the existing vessel operate for up to 180 days at sea for each of the three years to 2011-12. The CSIRO currently only has sufficient funding to operate the vessel for 130 days at sea.

Securing our research capacity in the Southern Ocean is vital in terms of progressing our work at sea on the critical issue of climate change. The ocean as well as the land holds much of the evidence, and is likely to hold many of the answers when it comes to how best to address this globally significant issue. Therefore there could be no greater impetus for ensuring that our research capacity, particularly in the Southern Ocean, continues.

Having the Southern Surveyor and its successor out on the sea for as many days as possible is also important in terms of the discovery, development and sustainable use of our natural resources. Research in the region is essential in providing us with a better understanding of rich marine resources and how best to go about preserving its biodiversity. Indeed, approximately 77 per cent of Australia’s ocean territory lies between the edge of the coastal zone and the ice edge of Antarctica. This vast ocean territory is under the sole jurisdiction of the Commonwealth government, and the Marine National Facility provides Australia’s only dedicated research vessel capable of operating in the area.

Over the last three years, the Marine National Facility has been used by 15 different Australian universities, five Australian museums and all publicly funded research agencies with marine interests. It has also enabled Australian scientists to collaborate with 13 different overseas universities and 11 overseas research institutions. It goes without saying that the decision to fund a new vessel represents an investment not only in Tasmania as the national hub of marine and Antarctic research but also in our nation’s long-term research, development and conservation capacities in the region.

On top of the government’s commitment to fund a new Southern Ocean marine research vessel, it also announced that under round 2 of the Education Investment Fund it will allocate $45 million for the establishment of a new Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies to be based on Hobart’s prestigious waterfront. The project, totalling $74 million, will provide integrated research facilities for the University of Tasmania scientists, CSIRO and the Tasmanian government by creating an iconic marine precinct on the Hobart waterfront. The University of Tasmania is set to construct the facility, which is expected to create a critical mass of marine scientists in Hobart, allowing for the collocation of research teams in a marine science hub. The new building will consist of 7,549 square metres of shared work space, which will be used to house and integrate a suite of laboratories, offices and amenities to be collaboratively used by the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the Tasmanian government.

The provision of this world-class research and development facility will significantly enhance research collaboration and innovation outcomes for Australia. It will also accelerate collaboration between the University of Tasmania and its partners to deliver greater outcomes faster. Currently the university’s existing research expertise is scattered across six schools, centres and institutes. This development will bring them together in one centralised location.

The benefits of the institute will not be limited to the university. Existing partnerships that will benefit from the proposed development include the CSIRO, the Antarctic and Climate Ecosystems CRC and, of course, the Australian Antarctic Division. The project will also importantly support the development of the Australian national maritime science network with the University of Western Australia and James Cook University.

Initially the research portfolio of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies will be largely science based, covering a broad range of areas, including aquaculture, fisheries management, biodiversity, ecosystem management and modelling, and physical oceanography. Importantly, the overarching theme of the institute will focus on climate change and its impacts. This couples Tasmania’s marine and Antarctic research capabilities with the state’s ever-increasing interest in sustainable development and resource management.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Brown, your time has expired.

Senator CAROL BROWN —I seek leave to incorporate the rest of my speech into Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows—

The State Government and the Tasmania Institute of aquaculture and fisheries industries are important stakeholders in the Institute providing significant investment.

Indeed the project provides a wonderful example of cross collaboration between Government, industry and education and research bodies.

The University of Tasmania has internationally recognised strengths in marine science focused on the Southern Ocean and Tasmanian Waters—the Institute will draw the Universities marine science expertise into one single area, again enhancing and fostering cross disciplinary research in marine and Antarctic policy, law and even tourism.

Combined these two projects establish Tasmania as the iconic mecca for Marine and Antarctic research.

By doing so they draw on the State’s traditional intrigue and reliance, albeit sometimes bitter sweet, with the vast Southern Ocean and its treasures.

Importantly both of the projects will have significant flow on effects for local industry and further support local jobs.

I wish to commend the Federal Government, in particular the work of the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Research, Senator Kim Carr, and the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, for having the vision and foresight for investing in the future of Marine and Antarctic research which promises to hold many benefits both Tasmania and the rest of the Nation in the years to come.