Speech - Opening of New Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research - Melbourne - 22 November 2012
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22 November 2012
We’re honoured to have Dr Barry Jones here with us today, and Barry wrote in his memoir that when he first started talking about biotechnology in the late 1970s, only two or three of his parliamentary colleagues understood what he was talking about.
Indeed when Barry raised the lack of science coverage with the then editor of The Bulletin, he received the disappointing response – “When I hear the words science and technology I close up my typewriter”.
This distinguished gathering – and this magnificent building – show how far we have come in just half a lifetime.
Today we understand completely the fundamental importance of science and medical research for Australia’s future.
We know that so many of our social and economic problems will have a scientific response at their core – from chronic disease and climate change, to biosecurity, food production and water policy.
Medicines are now Australia’s biggest research-intense goods export, and are helping to build a stronger, more competitive and more productive economy.
We are proud to be supporting Australia’s best and brightest health and medical innovators as they undertake their world-beating research.
It is the only way that we can achieve better health and quality of life.
Research underlies the medicines we take and the treatments we undergo, and enables our doctors to provide us with effective care.
It also underpins a strong economy through an able, healthy population and by generating wealth.
We must come to respect our researchers as much as we lionise our sporting stars.
We must value our research facilities just as we treasure our sporting venues.
So it is entirely fitting that the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research should have this stunning new home.
The Institute is Australia’s oldest medical research institute – founded in the year of ANZAC – 1915.
And it has become a by-word for public confidence and trust.
More than 650 researchers work here, and this new facility demonstrates in built form the admiration and thankfulness we feel for them.
At $100 million, shared jointly between the Commonwealth and State governments, it is a significant public contribution.
But I know the people of Victoria and Australia would not begrudge a single cent.
We should acknowledge with gratitude the exceptionally generous gift of $30 million which completes the funding of this landmark project.
The new wing effectively doubles the Institute’s capacity for laboratories, offices and centralised facilities.
That means more research into causes and treatment of some of the most persistent and destructive diseases of today – a variety of cancers, infectious diseases including malaria, HIV and hepatitis B, and autoimmune diseases.
One of the interesting additions is an insectary – a laboratory where researchers can keep live mosquitoes and investigate the malaria life cycle.
That’s critical given Australia’s deep commitment to malaria prevention in the Asia Pacific region, where more than 40,000 died of this disease every year.
This will be a place of healing and hope.
We know that from the achievements realised here at this facility and by individuals in this room.
Like Professor Metcalf’s discovery of CSFs (colony stimulating factors).
Benjamin Kile’s work in molecular genetics for which he received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year in 2010.
Or Professor Alan Cowman’s internationally recognised malaria research.
The quality and commitment of the Institute’s staff has never been in doubt...
... as seen in the latest NH&MRC round where Walter and Eliza Hall received the highest amount of any independent medical research institute in Australia.
Now they will have the equipment and facilities to match.
Mr Premier, ladies and gentlemen
This expansion and upgrade will help to ensure that this great Institute remains at the forefront of biomedical research not only in this country but on the international stage.
It’s a reminder that we should be ambitious – for our nation, for our future and our place in the world.
Medical research lies at the heart of that ambition.
To be an innovative and creative nation.
A nation that values knowledge and learning.
To be the “clever country” that Bob Hawke and Barry Jones knew we could become a quarter of a century ago.
Today’s opening shows it can be done – through partnership, shared commitment and a vision for something above the ordinary.
The Australian Government is very pleased to support the Institute and to have contributed to its new building, which will consolidate your position among the best and brightest in Australia and the world.
I am deeply honoured to join for these celebrations today and to share with Premier Baillieu the happy duty of declaring this splendid facility open.
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