Remarks at launch of the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, University of Adelaide




Simon Birmingham:     Thank you, and thanks very much to Professor Sue Thomas, chief executive of the Australian Research Council, to Vice Chancellor Peter Rathjen, DVCR Mike Brooks, indeed, of course, particularly to Professor Jiranek, is director of this centre. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests all, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today, particularly to be here with my colleague, my parliamentary colleague, the local member for the electorate of Boothby, Nicolle Flint. Good wine, like good company, keeps us coming back.


And with that, after having been here with Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, just a couple of weeks ago immediately after the Federal Budget when we were celebrating and noting the $1.9 billion investment commitment we’ve made in the last Federal Budget towards research infrastructure, towards ensuring that the type of materials and equipment that is necessary for outstanding research is available for entities like this into the future. It was building upon a commitment we’ve made earlier towards the operational costs of our national collaborative research infrastructure programs to ensure there was 10 years worth of certainty with that operational funding. We’ve now got a 10 year investment plan for infrastructure, and of course today we’re celebrating another key piece of the puzzle, another key piece of the puzzle. We support of course the operational cost, the infrastructure cost, but also the training of the next generation of researchers who are going to drive in this case capabilities in relation to wine industry research to the next level.


For those, and there are some here today who’ve known me a long time, for those who know a little about my background, you know that immediately prior to entering the Senate, I had the great pleasure of spending around five or six years working in the wine industry at another University of Adelaide site that hosts the Winemakers Federation offices. And many people, one of the most challenging questions I face in politics tends to be when people give the detailed introduction, they go through and say ‘Senator Birmingham has taken a masters in business administration, he did this, he did that, he used to work in the wine industry prior to coming in’. And people say: why the hell did you leave the wine industry to go into politics?


I usually have to explain to them that tragically, my job with the Winemakers Federation meant that I learnt a lot more about wine taxing than I did winemaking, and wine taxing is the much more depressing part of the discussion, compared to, of course, the wonders of winemaking. Which is part art, part science, and here we are, well and truly celebrating the science. And perhaps it’s because of that background and the engagement that I have had with institutions like the Australian Wine Research Institute who for decades, more than 50 years, have been there transforming the way in which our wine industry looks at itself, behaves and operates, and transforming it well and truly for the better. But when I think of our research investment and the difference it makes. Some of the most tangible examples I can think of are clearly there in relation to the entire value chain of the wine industry, the way in which we grow grapes, the grapes can choose to grow, the way in which they’re irrigated, the way in which of course they’re cared for, the way in which they’re harvested. Then you take those grapes off. The way in which they’re produced into wine, the way in which it’s stored, the way in which the bottles are closed, the way in which ultimately we decide how we market into different countries. All of that has been shaped and influenced in very [indistinct] ways by research breakthroughs that have been done in collaboration between industry and great researchers, particularly those at the University of Adelaide but also elsewhere. And I acknowledge the other university research partner here in Charles Sturt University, but all of the many other partners who are making this centre for the – Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production a possibility.


Research breakthroughs have made the Australian wine industry the success it is today and they will underpin its success into the future, and that will happen because of the strong commitment of industry, who partner with our researchers, and because of the outstanding calibre of the people who choose to pursue research in this field. I’m thrilled that we’re able to provide $4.5 million in support through the Australian Research Council for this new Training Centre in Innovative Wine Production. But it comes on top of $2.4 million received for previous training centre work, but that ultimately what it’s going to do is ensure that an industry that is one of our national treasures in terms of the exports that it generates, and the pride that it produces, and the product that we all enjoy, is going to be an industry even stronger in the future because of this type of investment.


Thank you very much to those who have worked so hard for so long to date to help ensure that we are a global leader in terms of wine research, knowledge and production, who have bid into this process to ensure that the next generation of researchers are trained and capable to be able to keep us at that global forefront. Congratulations and it’s a delight to be able to be here with you all today. Thank you.