Announcement of co-patrons Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest

Speech

WTS003/2015

25 March 2015

Mural Hall, Parliament House

Firstly I would like to acknowledge:

  • Mr Stephen Durkin, Chief Executive, Engineers Australia
  • Mr Rolfe Hartley, Chairman of the Jury, Freefall Experience Design Ideas Competition
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemen

I am honoured to have been asked to announce the patrons of the Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest.

Today's announcement is a salute to Engineers Australia's past and its well-directed vision to the future.

It also celebrates the fundamental importance of engineering, science and innovation to our country.

What engineers do genuinely impacts people's lives, which unfortunately isn't recognised nearly as well as it should be.

Engineers apply scientific solutions to practical problems to deliver an outcome they know is needed now—or will be in the future.

That's why I know so many of you appreciate the Australian Government's unprecedented investment of over $50 billion to build the infrastructure our nation needs to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

The rising tide of demand—especially from our Asian neighbours—means we have to move ever-growing volumes of produce from mines and farms via roads and rail to ports in the most efficient way possible to compete on a global market.

So much of our future depends on it.

Like you, we know that dynamic changes to just about every facet of life are inevitable.

Engineers are known for creating a culture of learning through research collaborations and training exchanges.

They are driven by innovative thinking to generate ground-breaking technologies. And they thrive on partnerships with other disciplines and industries.

In 1926, with just five years under its belt, Engineers Australia was one of the first organisations of its kind to get involved in planting trees to beautify the national capital and contribute to Walter Burley Griffin's garden design concept.

Sheep were moved off Canberra Avenue in Manuka to be replaced by trees, one of them the Pin Oak.

I can only imagine what The Country Party thought of that back in the day.

Ninety years later, in 2009, Engineers Australia again contributed to Griffin's grand plan for Canberra.

The Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest, established in partnership with the National Arboretum, recognises the continuing contribution of engineers to the development of Australia.

But Engineers Australia didn't stop there.

The Freefall Experience Design Ideas Competition announced by my colleague Jamie Briggs in 2013 called on the best engineering minds to mark the achievements of their profession with a feature installation in the Pin Oak Forest.

As a Queenslander, I am delighted that the winning entry from 33 outstanding entries is Queensland engineering firm Bligh Tanner.

As an Australian, I am enormously proud that the winning design acknowledges one of the nation's and engineering's crowning achievements—the cochlear implant which has transformed the lives of so many in Australia and across the globe.

And its title ‘Freefall’ thoughtfully reflects the cultivar specifically designed for Canberra in the 1960s which populates many of this city's graceful tree-lined avenues and the Engineers Australia forest at the National Arboretum.

In 2019, when Engineers Australia reaches its centenary, Freefall will take its place amongst the pin oaks and become a destination and unique experience for Australians and international visitors.

This magnificent venture couldn't have two better patrons to guide its development.

I am delighted to announce Professor Brian Schmidt and Dr Chris Roberts as co-patrons of the Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest.

These two names represent an inspired and absolutely fitting choice by Engineers Australia—a marriage of science, engineering and business.

Professor Schmidt, who unfortunately couldn't be here today, is currently Distinguished Professor, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and astrophysicist at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory.

He is leading the SkyMapper telescope Project and the associated Southern Sky Survey. In 2011 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the accelerating universe.  

We are most grateful Professor Schmidt calls Australia home.

Hi co-patron, Dr Chris Roberts is the CEO of Cochlear—a great Australian success story.

He has been at the forefront of the company's success since 2004.

Dr Roberts has a background in chemical engineering and is well known for his commercial acumen and his outstanding contributions to the community and to health and medical research.

Together these two men will use their immense talent, drive and business acumen to steer the Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest into existence.

On behalf of the Australian Government I thank Engineers Australia for dedicating a tree in the forest to federal parliamentarians past and present who have been engineers.

My former Nationals colleague John Forrest was among them. And that legacy continues today through Keith Pitt, the Hon Karen Andrews and Senator Dio Wang.

So, it is a great honour that I accept on their behalf.

Finally, I again thank Engineers Australia for inviting me to be part of this announcement.

It is another milestone in Engineers Australia's distinguished contribution to the nation's capital and to the nation.

And on behalf of the Australian Government I offer my congratulations and my gratitude to Professor Schmidt and Dr Roberts for taking on the role of co-patron of the Engineers Australia Pin Oak Forest.

The project could not be in safer and more productive hands.

Thank you.