I rise to make a contribution on the Deakin University annual report for 2014. Deakin celebrated its 40th anniversary in this reporting year. It has grown from a small regional university into a world leader during that time. It is in the top 3 per cent of the world’s universities, and it is at the cutting edge of bringing industry and research together. I do not think anyone could contest that in any way.
The Australian Future Fibres Research and Innovation Centre is an extremely fine example of this, especially its Carbon Nexus research facility that has established research contracts with automotive supplier Multimac and Korean fibre producer Kolon. The report goes on to outline a collaboration between two Geelong-based companies, Cytomatrix and AustEng, which led to a scalable machine to produce nanofibre. The success of this collaboration has led to a joint venture between Swiss textiles manufacturer HeiQ Materials AG and Cytomatrix to form HeiQ Australia, which is to be located at the Waurn Ponds campus.
This fantastic result was funded through the Skilling the Bay program.
A $65 million partnership between Deakin and the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre will trial new magnetic technology at the Waurn Ponds campus, and the Cotton Rural Development Corporation has funded research into novel spinning technologies for high-quality Australian cotton yarn. Deakin is proving that bringing researchers and industry together can create jobs for the future. Geelong can stay at the forefront of manufacturing by bringing science together with a highly skilled workforce. Geelong has both of those things.
Regrettably, the report does not contain only good news. Page 16 of the report highlights an $8.7 million decrease in state government financial assistance. Not content with ripping $1.2 billion out of the TAFE system, the Liberal-Nationals coalition continued its war on education by attacking one of Victoria’s finest higher education success stories, all of this in a city facing the closure of the automotive industry and which has already seen the closure of the Alcoa plant in Point Henry.
The state’s second-biggest city faces unprecedented challenges with its manufacturing industry under siege. Deakin University has stood up to this challenge and set about creating the jobs of the future for the highly skilled workers of Geelong. It set about marrying research with industry to create much-needed jobs while the Liberal-Nationals coalition government cut funding. As if this was not bad enough, the latest federal budget has cut $263 million from the Sustainable Research Excellence program. Deakin vice-chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander was quoted in the Geelong Advertiser as recently as 15 May as saying that the result was ‘disappointing’ and that it ‘would harm Australia’s ability to compete as a skilled nation in the future’.
If the budget is passed, it will mean a $50 million a year cut to Deakin’s budget. It seems that Liberal Party members do not get science and that they hate job creation. The 2014 Deakin report is a story of success in blending research and industry to create jobs. But the failed Napthine government wanted nothing to do with it, and the Abbott government is attacking it outright. To quote the vice-chancellor, again in the Advertiser, ‘Hopefully sanity prevails’. I hope so too, and so does the Andrews Labor government, because this government believes in science. We believe in high-end skilled jobs, and we also believe that there is a place for manufacturing in Geelong.