House debates

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Newcastle Electorate: Innovation

4:44 pm

Photo of Sharon GriersonSharon Grierson (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

In many speeches to the House I often find myself making special mention of innovation in Newcastle, and that is for very good reason. Over the past few years, Newcastle has gained a well-earned reputation as a centre for innovation across a wide range of industries and sectors, reflecting its economic strength and diversity. If it is not a new announcement regarding clean energy or an advance in medical research, it may be a current or former Novacastrian making a name for themselves on the national or international scene.

A recent example of that is the appointment of former Director of the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, Nick Mitzevich, who is now taking up a corresponding role at the Art Gallery of South Australia, following in the esteemed footsteps of the now Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Ron Radford. For somebody who has only just nudged 40, as Nick is, taking up the role of director after only two major gallery appointments is a recognition of the quality of his work. He is very well regarded for his innovative approach in attracting new crowds to galleries. After cutting his teeth at the Newcastle gallery, Nick was very successful at the gallery at the University of Queensland in attracting record numbers of crowds, particularly online crowds, with his conceptual, youth oriented approach. I know that Nick will be just as successful in his appointment to the Art Gallery of South Australia and I wish him all the best in his new role.

In the education sector, a particular high school engineering program, the Science and Engineering Challenge, which was developed at the University of Newcastle, will this week see the participation of its 100,000th student. Established in 2000, the challenge encourages high school students to pursue careers in science and engineering. It has actually been very successful in increasing the take-up of maths and science subjects by senior students throughout Newcastle and the Hunter region. It teaches students team work and problem-solving skills in practical engineering activities. It now has been rolled out all around the nation. I congratulate all those involved in making this program such a success. The University of Newcastle has also been very well recognised in the innovation field in other areas.

I can turn to a much wider scale of innovation success when I look at the Hunter Central Coast Innovation Festival, hosted in Newcastle, which was held last month. The festival provides a unique opportunity to hear about or see products, services, equipment, technology, science and engineering innovations emanating from this region and its highly skilled, dedicated and inventive workforce. Regional Development Australia-Hunter managed the project this year, assisted by some funding from the New South Wales state government through Industry and Investment NSW and through the federal AusIndustry initiative. AusIndustry has been sponsoring the Australian Innovation Festival since 2002, and it does a wonderful job in it.

I congratulate all the sponsors, supporters and organisers of the event, particularly Neville Sawyer, chairman of the innovation festival board. Now in its third year, the festival’s main theme—building sustainable businesses—aimed to highlight the importance of innovation in meeting the challenges of the current business environment. Almost 50 events were held as part of the festival, from public forums to TAFE and university open days—even a paper plane throwing competition. I was pleased to speak at a clean coal symposium held as part of the festival, to which people from all around the country came to share the latest information in clean coal innovation. I was also pleased to be at the final event at the innovation festival and to speak there on the closure of the festival at NBN Television studios in Newcastle, where the amazing new technology of TV stations of today was showcased. Again, I congratulate everyone involved in the festival.

Overall, the Rudd government has been incredibly supportive of innovation in Newcastle. Of the $1.37 billion that has been spent in my electorate so far by the federal government since its election in 2007, a total of $116,695,883 has been spent on research and innovation. It is an amazing amount of money and it is an amazing foundation for the growth of innovation in my electorate. Only last week I spoke of some of the clean energy innovations, and I will not revisit those except to again congratulate Newcastle on its SmartGridCity initiative, one that I am hoping will be very successful.

I also make mention of the recent success of University of Newcastle Professor Behdad Moghtaderi and Dr Elham Doroodchi on the television show The New Inventors. Their invention, known as Granex, is a revolutionary new form of geothermal technology and won over the judges’ panel in April. I am very confident that, with this sort of support from the Rudd government, Newcastle will continue to build its reputation as a centre of innovation. (Time expired)


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