11 December 2003

I would like to congratulate all graduates on your achievement.

This is the culmination of years of hard work, sleepless nights and living off the smell of an oily rag … it’s a bit like bringing up children really!

For those of you still living at home, your parents will finally be breathing a sigh of relief because you can now go out and get a real job!

Seriously though, all of you should be very proud to be graduating from the University of Queensland and I’m sure your families and friends here tonight share in that pride.

I’m also proud of you because you represent Queensland’s future and some of the great changes happening here.

That is why I am deeply moved by the Honorary Doctorate in Science awarded to me tonight.

Last time a Premier was awarded an Honorary Doctorate here it caused a bit of a ruckus, I hope this occasion has people talking for different reasons.

I want people to think about how far we have come in Queensland, particularly in the last few years.

When I graduated with degrees in Arts and Law back in the dim, dark seventies, I wanted to do something that would make a difference to people’s lives.

I wanted to improve our standard of living and make the ideal of the fair go more of a reality.

Those ideals and ambitions still drive me in my role as Premier and are behind my vision to transform Queensland into the Smart State.

And this is what this Honorary Doctorate is all about.

It is really nothing to do with Peter Beattie.

It is recognition of the way my Government is shaping the new Queensland; as a place where ideas and innovation are encouraged, recognised and rewarded and where science no longer takes a back seat to sport or the arts.

I wish to thank you, Vice-chancellor, and the University Senate, for conferring this Honorary Doctorate upon me.

John, I’ve found you to be an outstanding sounding board for many of the ideas which have become part of the Smart State strategy.

You’re not too bad at twisting arms either when it comes to securing funding!

The University of Queensland and our other universities are helping to drive the quiet revolution that’s taking place.

World-class facilities such as the Queensland Bioscience Precinct, which houses research facilities for the CSIRO, the Department of Primary Industries and the University’s Institute of Molecular Bioscience, are sending a potent signal to the rest of the world about the new Queensland.

The Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, and the Sustainable Minerals Institute, both of which my Government is helping fund, and the Queensland Brain Institute, are building on the University’s reputation as an exciting research hub.

We are starting to reverse the brain drain and we are getting the message out there that the Smart State is the place to be when it comes to disciplines such as biotechnology and information and communications technology.

I know some of you who have graduated tonight will pursue further studies overseas.

You should broaden your experience and take advantage of opportunities which come your way.

But I want you to come back to Queensland and put that expertise to use, I want you to take advantage of the investment my Government is making in research and development.

In 2000-01 my Government spent just over $240 million on research, a quarter of all national spending.

That works out to about $66 a head. New South Wales spent $42 per person, and Victoria $39 per head.

We are punching well above our weight but we are being short-changed by the Commonwealth which spends less than $33 a person in Queensland supporting research, or less than half the national average.

Private sector spending is improving and in fact, the amount spent on R&D by Queensland businesses jumped by 41 per cent from 2000-01 to 2001-02.

But more investment is needed. The sad fact is that the Australian Industry Group says many Australian businesses spend more on their electricity bills than they do on R&D.

My Government supports research through the Smart State Research Facilities Fund and commercialisation through programs such as BioStart, ISUS, Ideas2Market and incubators such as i.LAB.

I’ll continue to fight for a fairer share of Commonwealth funding because R&D spending is an investment in people like you.

It’s an investment in people like Professors Julie and Gordon Campbell from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Research in Vascular Biology.

They have found that by placing a piece of plastic tubing inside a mammal’s abdomen, cells can grow over it and form a living tube of tissue.

Their research potentially means that one day we could be growing and harvesting our own blood vessels to replace diseased arteries.

Imagine what that could mean for Queenslanders with heart disease.

And that’s what the Smart State is all about, using research like this, using our brains to improve the lives of Queenslanders.

I will also push ahead with reforms to our education system because that is where the scientists of the future will come from.

I am proud of the reforms we have introduced;
• the prep year trial
• Education and Training Reforms for the Future ensuring 15-17 year olds stay on at school or undergo vocational training
• Our Middle Phase of Learning State School Action Plan, which aims to inspire young people to keep learning and to provide a smoother transition to senior school years.

I also want to encourage a culture where science is celebrated in our schools.

When I was at school, science had a daggy image.

I was more interested in Rugby League tables than the Periodic Table of Elements.

I’m still a football tragic and while that’s okay, I want our kids to start thinking about other past-times from an early age.

My government’s new state-wide Science on Saturday program aims to encourage students to start thinking about science from the age of seven.

Our aim is to have kids spending their spare time in the lab as well as on the sporting field.

Perhaps if someone had made me realise science could be just as exciting as packing down in a scrum, and probably a lot less risky, I mightn’t have become a lawyer!

It’s not just the schoolkids we want to inspire; I also want the wider community to understand the role science plays in our daily lives.

I want Queenslanders to get behind scientists the way they get behind our sporting teams.

I want them to realise we rank amongst the best in the world and that it is extremely competitive out there.

That’s why we announced the appointment of Emeritus Professor Peter Andrews as Queensland’s first Chief Scientist on Monday.

He’ll be giving my Government advice about how we deal with the future, about being competitive and creating jobs.

He says with science there’s a triple bottom line; economic welfare, social welfare and environmental sustainability.

He will help us make our scientific gains relevant to everyday Queenslanders.

Peter Andrews will provide us with a link between research and commercialisation.

Academic qualifications are wonderful but it is just as important to commercialise the ideas and intellectual property they represent.

Turning those ideas into a pill a patient can take or an artificial artery for someone undergoing bypass surgery is when they take on real meaning.

Commercialisation of ideas is being achieved through partnerships we have with our universities, like UQ.

Those partnerships are helping create the critical mass of research facilities and brainpower which will hopefully attract a major biopharmaceutical company to the Smart State.

I’m talking about a company which could do for biotechnology what Boeing has done for aviation here.

That’s why Queensland’s strong presence at Bio2003 in Washington was so important.

I make no apology for promoting Queensland on the world stage, that’s why I have made a point of attending the Bio conferences, the world’s largest biotechnology conventions, each year for the last few years.

I have also invited the leaders of the Opposition parties to Bio because I wanted to send a clear message that the development of our new industries is bigger than politics.

I want science to be valued regardless of which party is in office.

Queensland has entered an exciting new era.

It is a state where education, innovation and ideas are encouraged and rewarded.

It is also recognised as a place of tolerance, a multicultural society where differences are celebrated.

I would like to think that in 50 years time, when many of you are putting your feet up in retirement after long and distinguished careers, that people will look back on this period as a critical point in Queensland’s history.

People will talk about how, at the beginning of the 21st Century, Queensland decided that its future lay in education and ideas.

It will be seen as the moment in our history when Queenslanders understood that was a world worth moving into and they put themselves ahead of the game.

It was the moment where we no longer relied purely on our natural resources and decided to use our people, our brains to do something which had never been attempted in this country before.

That’s what I hope people talk about when they look back on the Smart State strategy.

All of you have the opportunity to be part of that transformation.

I hope you enjoy the journey.