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Speech at official opening of DSTO Sydney, Eveleigh.

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THE HON. WARREN SNOWDON MP Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

Tuesday, 19 August 2008



Australian Technology Park 2nd Floor 13 Garden Street, Eveleigh

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Your Excellency High Commissioner Singh, Dr. Sare, Commodore Middleton, Commodore Nairn, Mr Chris Jenkins, Dr. Liebing, Dr. Theobald, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

First allow me to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which stand - and to thank Max Eulo for the smoking ceremony…

Thank you everyone for inviting me today to formally open DSTO’s new research facility in Sydney.

It is entirely appropriate for this opening to occur during National Science Week.

The government has invested in this facility to enable DSTO Sydney to continue providing the highest level of technology support to the Australian Navy and its maritime operations as it has done for the past 50 plus years.

Only now, that support will be backed by the latest state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.

Australia must have a modern and capable Navy. This is what continues to drive defence science research at DSTO Sydney.

Navy’s demands on DSTO have been growing and becoming more complex.

This is partly due to the fact that the tempo of Navy operations, like the rest of the ADF, has increased significantly over the past few years.

To carry out its role effectively the Navy requires the right assets and resources.

An ambitious ships program is now under way with the planned acquisition of three Air Warfare Destroyers, and two new amphibious ships.

These assets will together extend the reach and force protection of the ADF at sea. These will also be the largest ships ever operated by the Australian Navy.

Of course these new capabilities demand high-end technologies to be effective.

This is where DSTO comes in.

DSTO is a key player in the acquisition of these new capabilities, their introduction into service and in their whole-of-life management.

DSTO’s research has already been vital in informing the decision-making process and is continuing through the delivery of mission planning and assessment tools for the acquisition of the two amphibious ships.

Over the past 50 years DSTO has built a world-class capability in both maritime operations research and littoral warfare systems.

The emergence of DSTO’s expertise in littoral warfare comes at a most appropriate time when the ADF is developing a significant expeditionary capability involving the new amphibious ships.

This does not surprise me, as DSTO has an excellent track record of being responsive to Navy’s requirements. As well, DSTO Sydney has developed many innovative technology solutions which have benefited Navy as well as the civilian sector.

The most widely-known product to come from DSTO Sydney has been the Australian mine sweeping system first conceived some two decades ago.

It was developed to permit a range of small craft to be converted rapidly and inexpensively into mine-sweepers or mine surveillance vessels.

Advances such as these in minesweeping technology are vitally important in keeping shipping lanes open and safe for commercial and naval vessels.

Transitioned to industry, the system is now in-service overseas in more than nine countries, as well as with the Australian Navy.

This represents the largest market penetration of any mine sweeping system.

Now marketed by Thales Australia, this technology has notched up export sales of $78 million and generated a significant number of jobs for Australian workers.

And the export success continues.

India is the latest country to buy the Australian mine sweeping system. The sale to India is the largest single order for this system since exports of the product began in 1992.

This is an excellent example of Australian industry partnering with DSTO to achieve a win-win outcome.

Industry is a vital partner with DSTO in delivering many of the outcomes which are often world-class technologies supporting the operational needs of the Australian Defence Force and the technology needs of the wider Defence organisation.

DSTO has benefited materially from the sales of the minesweeping system with over $3 million in royalties.

This has been re-invested in the research program in order to maintain Australia’s position at the cutting edge of scientific research.

Port and harbour security

One such high-priority research program is for maritime security and the protection of Australia’s ports and harbour facilities.

It is the single most significant component of the conventional maritime effort against terrorism.

Not only are Navy assets and Australian lives at risk from a terrorist attack on our seaports, there will be a significant impact on Australia’s international trade and economy.

APEC has estimated that its member countries could sustain trade losses of many billions of dollars in lost GDP due to disruptions resulting from a terrorist incident. The Sydney port alone handles more than $50 billion worth of trade each year.

To assess the security risks at our ports and develop counter measures, DSTO has been using 3-dimensional visualisation software representing Sydney Harbour, Port Botany, and the Port of Brisbane.

This technology gives photo-realistic interaction within 3-D virtual scenarios, allowing operators to immerse themselves at any location to scan for security weaknesses. Complex data can be viewed and manipulated to improve situational awareness and respond promptly to potential threats.

DSTO uses the 3-D models for scene navigation and analysis with a view to facilitate planning and tactics that can protect the infrastructure of the ports.

You will see a demonstration of this application later this afternoon.

DSTO will also use this application to support the Navy Force Protection Exercise, an international trial being held in Sydney in February next year.

Monitoring of our ports and harbours is also conducted using robotic technologies which DSTO is investigating for military applications.

Few will know that during World Youth Day last month DSTO and Navy deployed an unmanned underwater vehicle to inspect a 9.5 km stretch of water at Barangaroo Wharf prior to the arrival by boat of Pope Benedict XVI. The use of autonomous submersibles, such as the one used in this case, saves enormous time and resources as well as reducing the exposure of human divers to potentially hazardous situations. Images from this survey will also be shown to us a bit later.

And I’d also like to just take this moment, to congratulate Dr Doug Cato on his work.

Each year, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Defence Secretary reward excellence in environmental and heritage management in Defence.

And this year Dr Cato has been recognised for his work minimising the effect of sea trials and maritime exercises on whales and dolphins - leading to best practice procedures for the Navy.

It’s not all guns, mines and warships, and I too congratulate Dr Cato on his work, which has contributed substantially to the Navy’s reputation for high quality environmental stewardship.

History book and Top Ten S&T Reports

I have touched upon some of the interesting research currently being undertaken in Sydney.

This is only one aspect of a very extensive science and technology program that DSTO delivers to Defence.

Our defence scientists have been supporting the ADF for one hundred years now, ever since chemist Cecil Napier Hake first advised the Department on munitions and explosives back in 1907.

The history of defence science in Australia is rich with examples of world leading developments in science and technology.

Among them, the Jindalee Over the Horizon Radar, the Nulka anti-ship missile decoy (Australia’s biggest defence export earner), the Starlight computer security system, composite bonded aircraft repair technology, the Barra sonobuoy, the mine sweeping system mentioned before, and the pioneering methodology for fatigue testing of aircraft structures.

These noteworthy achievements have not only advanced Defence capability over the years but generated revenue for the Commonwealth and enhanced the reputation of Australian science overall.

Today’s DSTO continues to find innovative solutions to Defence’s technology challenges.

For about 2% of the Defence budget DSTO delivers a significant return on investment for the government and the Australian taxpayer.

The reputation of a science organisation relies very much on the published outputs of its research.

The output of scientific literature is an important indicator of the health of Australia’s scientific performance at the international level.

The total number of Australian scientific publications has increased steadily since 1981.

Australia is currently ranked 11th in the world in the output of reports. I believe Australia should be able to improve its ranking on this score. I would encourage industry to publish the results of their research more frequently and widely.

In Defence, publishing in the open literature can often be problematic for reasons of security.

Nonetheless, over the last 100 years DSTO and its predecessor organisations have produced approximately 20,000 unclassified scientific publications. On average, DSTO currently produces 275 formal reports and close to 500 client reports for the ADF.

A competition was recently conducted to identify the top ten reports that have been produced by DSTO and its predecessor organisations.

The basis for selection was scientific breakthrough, significant enhancement of defence capability or economic benefit for Australia.

DSTO staff as well as an independent panel of former defence scientists made the final choice.

It is not surprising that the top ten papers selected were those that illustrated world-leading science and the pioneering work of Australia’s defence scientists - namely, metal fatigue and full-scale fatigue testing, a wet process

for photocopying, coastal surveying with airborne laser, a new method for thermoelastic stress measurements, aircraft repairs with composite materials, computer information security, surveillance with over-the-horizon radar, and a reliable new process for screening certain chemical weapons.

The ‘favourite’ paper, as voted by staff, was the story of the development of the black box flight recorder, now used on all passenger aircraft throughout the world.

These remarkable works have now been compiled into a consolidated volume.

When these works are brought together between the covers of one book you get a sense of the incredible achievement.

It’s an extraordinary and significant record of excellence in science.

I thank and congratulate all those scientists, past and present, who have made such a commendable contribution to Defence.

It gives me great pleasure to launch ‘DSTO’s Top Ten S&T Reports’ volume today…… But wait…there’s more.

The evolution of defence science in Australia is the subject of another book which I am also pleased to launch today.

‘A Century of Australian Defence Science’ traces the developments and innovations of the different defence laboratories which merged and morphed over the years to become what is now DSTO. This too is a fascinating story. It shows that DSTO is not just another science agency but truly a national institution in Australia.

Indigenous science cadetships

What makes DSTO a powerhouse of science and technology is its talented staff.

To sustain its skills base DSTO needs to attract and retain science graduates. It is no secret, though, that the proportion of students undertaking science studies in the post-compulsory years is declining.

Research also shows that only 33 science and engineering graduates are currently joining the workforce for every 10,000 people.

The number of science graduates with PhDs as a proportion of all PhD graduates is also declining, and all this at a time when demand is growing for science and technology expertise in the workforce.

This is a big worry.

A shortage of science-qualified people in the skilled workforce is neither good for Defence nor for the economy.

The problem of high school students not enrolling for science subjects is even more acute in indigenous communities.

And to encourage indigenous students I am today announcing a Defence Indigenous Science cadetship for undergraduate study.

This is a five year scheme that will start with the 2009 academic year.

Each year for three years one undergraduate cadetship will be awarded to an indigenous student to study a science subject full-time on campus with a 12-week work placement at DSTO.

The students will graduate in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Defence will pay their HECS fee, provide mentoring support and paid 12 week work experience. At the end of their successful studies they will be offered an opportunity to be employed by DSTO at a higher level.

The value of this initiative is more than $300,000 and will be administered by Defence.

DSTO is working with Macquarie University to identify bright, capable indigenous students interested in studying science at the tertiary level.

The university already has a fine track record of promoting high-school science studies among indigenous students and preparing them for undergraduate studies through its ‘Pathways to Higher Education’ program.

I believe this new initiative will go a long way towards motivating indigenous students to take up science as a career.

This brings me to the final part of today’s formal proceedings.

Before that, I would like to thank all the project personnel and DSTO staff who have been involved in successfully completing the relocation from Pyrmont to this building.

I am sure the loss of Pyrmont’s harbour views will be more than compensated by the stimulating environment of the technology park with like-minded neighbours such as NICTA.

I am also sure you will make the most of these modern and excellent facilities and continue to maintain the high quality support you have always provided to Defence and Navy in particular.

I now declare the new DSTO Sydney research facility officially open.

Media contacts: Kate Sieper (Warren Snowdon): 02 6277 7620 or 0488 484 689 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664