Speech at CTLab opening, Canberra

Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much Brian, the Vice Chancellor. It’s wonderful to be back here at the Australian National University. It’s always a delight to visit Australia’s National University and the one university that, as Federal Minister for Education and Training, I don’t just have the primary funding responsibilities for but of course also have primary governance responsibilities for. And it is of course an exemplar to all of our institutions of research excellence, excellence in engagement and collaboration, as well as excellence in teaching and learning.

To Martin Ferguson, chair of the CO2CRC and Tania Constable, chief executive, thank you for the opportunity to come and share in the celebration of your work and acknowledge the fabulous progress that you, more importantly your teams and researchers, are managing to deliver in your very important area of work.

As we heard from Associate Professor Sheppard before who managed remarkably to both, I think, deliver an appreciation complexity of the work that you’re undertaking but also translate that into simpler terms for us late people to understand what it is that you are aspiring to do and the consideration and the evaluation of complex layers of sedimentary rock and how it is that we can influence the effectiveness of CO2 storage in those facilities, thank you for encapsulating that, but of course, importantly for the work that you are doing and all of those who are working alongside you.

And as we heard from Martin (*) [indistinct], there is a real appreciation here on how it is that the work that is occurring at the CTLab actually translates into incredibly important potential benefits for Australia, for the world, for developing economies, for this continued reliance on energy availability means that we must all work together to support the (*) accessing cost-effective energy solutions but cost-effective energy solutions that are also environmentally sustainable and dealing with the emissions that come with those pathways.

This process really is one that is aligned very neatly with a number of the Turnbull Government’s priorities. The National Innovation and Science Agenda seems to provide enhanced incentive for collaboration between our university and our researchers and industry, to ensure that we take what is a global leading role in the development of research, publication of research and turn that through collaboration into greater opportunities for, ultimately, innovation and commercialisation attached to that research, and we see here as we have through the CRC structures over the years, great examples of collaboration already built in to the model of research undertaking that ensures universities and researchers are working hand in hand with industry towards shared objectives; objectives that can change over time and adapt depending upon the research findings, but ultimately is giving the greatest possible chance for that research to be taken up and actually utilised in terms of positive outcomes.

Equally, there’s alignment in terms of not just the collaboration between the university and industry, but also the collaboration across universities, across different research disciplines, the multidisciplinary approach that’s taken place, and the utilisation of different infrastructure that we’re backing as part of our National Innovation and Science Agenda. Our support for NCRIS, the National Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Scheme, is now getting a decade of certainty, with the support for infrastructure but importantly the researchers with the increased facilities. And to hear that CTLab work is engaging here on the ANU campus right alongside the supercomputing facilities that are so integral to so many disciplines of research study is a great example of how it is that we’re leveraging support from multiple different areas of research capability to get the best possible outcomes. 

There’s equally very strong alignment in terms of our environmental policies and, as Brian acknowledged in the introduction, my start with the executive wing of Government, as such, was as the Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and our Government’s approach to emissions reduction is very much a technology-neutral approach. It’s a recognition there are opportunities for efficiencies. There are opportunities for substitution. There are opportunities for storage. There are different approaches that can provide the best and optimal outcome in different circumstances, and it is highly likely that if the world is to meet the ambitious targets set in the Paris Accord, then we will ultimately need all of those different fields to actually be coming together to successfully ensure that the energy demands the world has, the growing demands that Martin spoke about, will actually be realised. But realised in an environmentally sustainable way where we are delivering energy in an ever more efficient way, where we are achieving substitution to renewable sources or elsewhere where that is viable, economically affordable, but where we’re also ensuring that those traditional energy sources become cleaner – greener, if you like – because of our capacity to be able to capture and store their emissions.

So, across a range of different fields, we see in this project alignment with our Government objectives and that’s why I’m so very, very pleased to be here today. Most importantly, it’s not about the opening. It’s about what happens, and I’m not going to delay proceedings further because I’m particularly excited to conclude with the opening and get down to the lab and actually see the facilities that we have, speak with some of the researchers, and celebrate with them the capabilities we have here in Australia to provide world-leading solutions that can actually help the world address this critical challenge in relation to our emissions levels.

Well, it’s my pleasure to officially declare open CTLab, the National Laboratory for X-ray Micro Computed Tomography, and thank you all very much for your commitment and work that will make such a great difference hopefully to Australia’s search capabilities, our industry potential, and ultimately solutions for the whole world in a very challenging area. Thanks so very much.