Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (12:45): I rise to speak about the official opening of the National Life Sciences Hub on 21 September at the Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga campus. On that particular occasion I was joined by the member for Cunningham, the Hon. Sharon Bird, Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills.

I welcomed her to that very important event. There were some fine people present: Chancellor of CSU, Lawrie Willett AO; Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann; Associate Professor Heather Cavanagh, who is the acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science; Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration Professor Ken Dillon; President of the Eastern Riverina Science Teachers Association Anthony Hogan; CSU PhD student Dr Ray Cowley; and the former member for Riverina Mrs Kay Hull.

We were there to officially open the National Life Sciences Hub, which is an amazing facility. NaLSH is undoubtedly an extremely important project for CSU. It is dedicated to research which serves our communities, and clearly agriculture, animal science and the environment are critical areas for our communities. I have here Professor Vann's speech notes in which he indicates that:

Some of the challenges facing us are global: meeting the demands of a growing world population whilst protecting the ecosystems which support us. In turn, this creates national priorities in agriculture and animal research and I think it's worth remembering that agriculture is one of the industries along with resources which means that 2/3 of Australia's exports are derived from rural and regional areas. To meet these global challenges we need a new generation of highly qualified fundamental and applied scientists. CSU is meeting that challenge. It has particular strengths in life sciences: plant and animal sciences, food production and security, animal health, and water and environmental sciences.

As a National Party member I am pleased to say that our shadow agriculture minister, John Cobb, the member for Calare, has food security in his portfolio title. Professor Vann continues:

Over the last two years we have been making a very significant investment in research capability with $10 million per year off the top investment. NaLSH will go with this investment in human capital to provide a completely new level of capability and grow national educational and research excellence in these critical areas.

We need to integrate fundamental research with existing applied research and teaching. We need to build linkages between researchers, students, industry and producers—

and this building will do it. It is half a hectare of the most magnificent research laboratories. It gives students the very best environment in which to learn:

NaLSH will strengthen those linkages, building the critical mass to extend undergraduate and graduate training and improve interactions across our partners in Australia and overseas.

That is according to Professor Vann and he is correct. He continues:

Importantly, integration of plant and animal science facilities will promote increased collaboration across disciplines leading, we hope, to novel research and innovative solutions—

the answers for the future. As he points out:

Research is a social and community activity. Excellence and innovation in learning and research, and 'out of the box' ideas happen where both spontaneous and structured interactions between researchers can occur.

And they will occur at Wagga Wagga because of this marvellous facility.

Professor Vann noted—and the member for Canberra should listen to this:

… this project would not have been possible without the support of the Federal Government through the Education Investment Fund.

I know that quite often on this side of the House we are critical of the lack of investment in key portfolio areas but

I have to say, and I am sure the member for Fraser would agree with me, that higher education is very important. I am pleased to say that the government has come on board with this particular project to help CSU make it a very important reality. As Professor Vann noted:

Technology is critical. NaLSH has integrated collaborative ICT, such as microscopes that can be shared over the networks. This will further expand CSU's distance and digital learning technologies to agricultural disciplines, broadening engagement with students, and between students and researchers. It reinforces and advances CSU's strategic commitment to technology that enables learning and collaborative research over distances.

This is very important to CSU, which has campuses and sites right around the globe. I acknowledge and praise the government for coming on board with CSU and I praise the member for Cunningham, who was very good on the day. She pointed out that this is an important regional facility and it will do great things in the future.

Cristy Houghton