Speech to Science Meets Parliament Breakfast, Canberra

Simon Birmingham: … it’s fabulous to see you again. I’ve not only had the wonderful pleasure now of being back at Adelaide Uni on multiple occasions as minister, but of course in particular have had the pleasure of being back on numerous occasions to visit your Centre of Excellence, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, and to meet some of the incredible researchers that you have there and to witness some of the outstanding breakthroughs that have occurred. I acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues, at least those that I can quickly glimpse in the room, and my Assistant Minister Karen Andrews, and Richard Marles, and Nicolle Flint, and Terri Butler, and anybody else who I’ve missed. But I cordially welcome to Canberra, lately(*) welcome now all of the scientists and researchers who have joined us for Science Meets Parliament over the last couple of days. It is one of those truly wonderful events that absolutely raises the intellectual capacity of Canberra at the time that Science Meets Parliament. It elevates the conversations that are had in Canberra as well sometimes. 

But for us it is, in all seriousness, a great opportunity to engage with people often on issues that we may not have spent a lot of time thinking about; frequently on issues that we might struggle to get our heads around. But quite frequently on issues where we’re able to see opportunities: opportunities for the future, opportunities that can shape and change and influence the way we develop public policy, the way Australians live their lives, the opportunities Australia has in the future to see new economic environments created and new economic opportunities established with new social services developed or better ways of absolutely doing things. And on visiting Mark’s Centre last time, I found myself putting a probe into a tomato.

But of course the probe is a probe that if not being used by ministers on a tomato, is being used by neurosurgeons on brains, and with that is new technology, new camera technology attached to this brain probe and that enables scientists to be able to identify blood vessels within the brain more effectively, the surgeons to be able to do so, and for them of course in undertaking such delicate surgery to be able to know and find a safe pathway to do the work they have to do on the brain, without of course the number one threat, the number one threat they face during that surgery being realised, is the rupturing  of the blood vessel. It’s an incredible work, and at such fine level and scale that we see that, that occurs across so many different fields and disciplines of research. 

So really today is a chance just to meet with friends at the Adelaide University, to congratulate you in particular on your work, and I know this morning we’ve heard from a number of different researchers, and that we’re proud to back you, to back you strongly. Through just my portfolio alone in Education and Training, we’re committing some $11 billion over the next four years to different research initiatives and undertakings, and of course it’s complemented across government with significant other research undertakings in fields of Health and Defence and Environment and areas that all of which rely heavily on our outstanding and incredible research institutions, many of which of course are based at and supported by our wonderful universities in Australia. In the case of University of Adelaide, we’re pleased that this year alone, that we’re providing some $89 million across our two new research pop grant programs, the new research support program, and supporting systemic costs of research, and the new research training program importantly supporting the training around the next generation of researchers. But that of course sits alongside a number of other funding streams, including those that support around 170 different ARC projects that the Adelaide University is a core partner in the industry.

So congratulations. Thank you. A very heartfelt thank you from me as the minister for the work that you do, the leadership you provide, and for the advances that you make which will ultimately make the lives of Australians and others around the world richer, healthier, more satisfied and successful in years to come. We want to continue to work with you. The backing of research in Australia is well and truly a bipartisan, collaborative effort as evidenced by those from all sides of politics who are here today, and the fact that we all want to make sure that you are able to do your best and you are able to realise the types of opportunities that will make a profound difference to our nation and the world in future. Well done. All the best, and look forward to the chance to quickly chat again with some of you. A few new faces in the room, and certainly a few familiar ones as well. Thanks very much, Mark. Thank you all.