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Address to staff and students, RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility.



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Speech: Kim Carr, Address to staff and students, RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility Kim Carr posted Tuesday, 10 August 2010

RMIT has kindly invited me here today for two purposes:

· to inspect progress on the university’s new Design Innovation Hub

· and to open this Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility.

It is only fair to say that I have a third purpose of my own, and that’s to talk

about Labor’s science policy.

These three purposes have a lot in common.

RMIT is devoted to innovation and the pursuit of excellence, and this is

precisely what Labor has been striving for and will continue to strive for in

higher education, science and research.

When I talk about science, I have in mind an older sense of the word - one

that embraces all forms of knowledge, and all branches of inquiry.

We see that definition of science made manifest in these two projects.

The Design Innovation Hub will support multidisciplinary teaching, research

and industry engagement in textile and fashion design, architecture,

industrial design, landscaping, interior design, engineering, urban design,

fine art, and creative media.

Like every field of creativity and systematic study, these disciplines are

essential to our prosperity and wellbeing.

It is a source of great pride to me that the hub received $28.6 million in

Commonwealth funding from the Education Investment Fund in 2008, and I

look forward to seeing it take shape over the months ahead.

Our second project - the Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility - is devoted

to physics.

This is a field in which RMIT has performed with distinction for a long time -

certainly since its specialisation in optics put it on the map in World War

Two.

Again, the Commonwealth is a proud partner in the facility, having

supported it through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure

Strategy and the Australian Research Council.

In fact, partnership is what this lab is all about.

It is a node of the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility

- along with universities in New South Wales, Queensland and Western

Australia.

It also has valuable relationships with BHP, BlueScope Steel, Southern Tools

and other companies.

It is essential that we have more collaboration like this - collaboration

among researchers, and collaboration between researchers and industry.

That’s why I have announced that a Gillard Labor Government will introduce

a new scheme to embed 200 of our best PhD students in industry settings.

The $24.3 million Linkage Industry Research Training Awards Scheme will

give postgraduates hands-on experience doing industry-focused research.

Pooling our skills and resources is the most effective way to build critical

mass and accelerate discovery.

It is something we must get better at if we want Australia to remain one of

the world’s great scientific nations.

That’s what we are and that’s what I want us to remain.

The choice

Which brings us to my third purpose today, and that is to talk about the

issues at stake on the 21st of August, especially for this sector.

When our opponents came to office in 1996, they cut higher education

outlays by $1.8 billion over their first four years.

Between 1995 and 2004, Australia was the only country in the OECD to

register a fall in public funding for higher education.

Total Commonwealth outlays on research and innovation declined by around

a quarter as a share of GDP under the previous Government.

These are the harsh realities.

Labor’s task from 2007 has been to repair this neglect and make a new

beginning.

We started from the premise that Australia’s capacity to do original, quality

research is critical to the nation’s future.

We expect a great deal of our researchers.

We expect them to cure the sick, feed the hungry, and save the planet.

We expect them to interpret the world and help us change it.

We also expect them to come up with the ideas we need to fuel new

industries and generate new jobs.

They cannot do these things without adequate support.

That’s why Labor has increased Commonwealth spending on research and

innovation by 34 per cent since 2007.

That’s why in two and half short years we have injected billions of dollars

into the university system - for infrastructure, for teaching and learning, and

for research and research training.

Science policy

Today it is my pleasure to announce some of the directions Labor proposes

to take if the people give us a second term.

Under Science for Australia’s Future, Labor will:

· plan strategically and long-term to meet Australia’s future science

needs

· establish a new $21 million Inspiring Australia program to engage the

community in science

· lift Australia’s profile in international science networks and

collaborations

· and vigorously prosecute the Australia-New Zealand bid to host the

huge Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio-telescope.

A long-term commitment

Labor is focused squarely on the future, and nowhere is this more important

than in science.

The action we have taken to double the number of Australian Postgraduate

Awards and increase the stipend by more than 10 per cent is one measure of

that focus.

Our Powering Ideas innovation strategy is another.

The $4.1 billion from the Education Investment Fund we are spending on

infrastructure is third.

More than $1.7 billion of that is going into research facilities - including

$901 million for the infrastructure component of the Super Science Initiative.

These investments will support great science - and deliver returns to the

Australian people - for years to come.

Labor will continue to take a strategic approach to science, for example:

· by planning for Australia’s future research infrastructure needs

· by promoting networks and collaborations to make the most of

valuable assets and concentrations of expertise

· by completing our Research Workforce Strategy to ensure we have the

skills we need

· and by providing secure, quadrennial funding to the CSIRO.

Inspiring Australia

Cementing and extending Australia’s advantage in science isn’t just a

challenge for scientists; it is a challenge for the nation.

We need:

· workers who can handle advanced technologies

· citizens who can make informed decisions about scientific questions

· and communities that can use the products of science to increase

opportunities and improve their quality of life.

We need to encourage young Australians to study science and pursue

science-related careers.

This is why Labor will invest $21 million in Inspiring Australia, the country’s

first ever national strategy for science engagement.

Inspiring Australia will:

· recognise achievement through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

and the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes

· support National Science Week - this year’s festival begins in just a few

days’ time

· unlock Australia’s full potential by supporting science activities for …

- young people

- outer-metropolitan and regional areas

- and Indigenous and remote communities

- as well as for our capital cities and the community at large

· and connect with mainstream and new media - including by supporting

media training for scientists and support cadetships for future science

communicators.

Our aim is to get Australians more engaged in science, to increase

awareness, and to deepen understanding.

Square Kilometre Array

There is no question that iconic projects like the Square Kilometre Array

make this task much easier.

The SKA will shed new light on the origins of the universe and help us

understand our place in it.

No one who takes a close look at this hugely ambitious project can fail to be

inspired by it.

At the same time, the SKA promises to deliver some very down-to-earth

benefits.

It is expected to generate $13 billion worth of economic opportunities over

its fifty-year life - in supercomputing, fibre-optics, education, non-grid and

renewable energy, construction, manufacturing, and more.

Australia and New Zealand are working with the international community to

achieve the best possible SKA.

We want to create an instrument that achieves maximum returns to the

global community by supporting maximum discovery.

The site for the SKA will be chosen in 2012, and Labor will continue to work

with the international community on the site-selection process - including

by making sure everyone understands the clear scientific advantages of

basing the telescope in Western Australia.

The future

These are important commitments, but of course they are only part of the

story.

The reforms and investments of our first term will go on bearing fruit for

years to come.

Our improvements to the indexation of block grants will deliver an extra

$2.6 billion to universities from 2011 to 2015.

Sustainable Research Excellence in Universities - Labor’s new scheme to

support indirect research costs - will deliver another $1.1 billion or so over

the same period.

Realistic funding growth is now built into the system, and Labor will continue

to explore new ways to extend Australia’s research and innovation capacity.

And our opponents?

All we know is that they are refusing to rule out cuts to the ARC and the

NHMRC.

All we know is that they expect people looking for an education to “invest in

themselves” - as Joe Hockey told the National Press Club in May.

This is not the time for a return to the past.

It is a time to embrace the future.

The future prefigured in RMIT’s Design Innovation Hub and in this

laboratory.

A future rich in opportunity, discovery and hope.

It is a future I can’t wait to see unfold, so let me conclude by saying how

pleased I am to declare RMIT’s wonderful new Microscopy and Microanalysis

Facility open.