ADJOURNMENT;Intelligent Island Program – 16 Mar 2009

I rise to speak tonight about CSIRO Tasmania’s Information and Communications Technologies Centre. Recently I visited the centre, which is based in Hobart. It is funded jointly by the Australian government Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research through the Intelligent Island Program and the CSIRO. The Intelligent Island Program is administered by the Tasmanian government Department of Economic Development and Tourism, or DEDT. The funding package is worth $30 million over five years, with both the government and the CSIRO providing half the funding. The CSIRO has a number of research groups: climate adaptation, energy transformed, water for a healthy country, wealth from oceans, preventative health, food futures, light metals, niche manufacturing and minerals down under.The CSIRO ICT Centre aims to maximise the impact of information and communication technologies in an innovative way for Australian industry and society in general. The centre is working towards ensuring that Tasmania is competitive at an international level in the ICT field. The Intelligent Island Program was introduced in 2006 to ensure that Tasmania’s ICT and ICT-enabled industries continue to grow and develop. This is necessary to ensure that Tasmanians have access to the best technology available.

The ICT centre currently has approximately 30 research staff, many of whom have international experience. CSIRO researchers are rated as being in the top one per cent of computer scientists in the world. In conjunction with the University of Tasmania, scholarships will be provided to give 10 PhD students the opportunity to work with the CSIRO researchers. The scholarships are worth $12,500 a year per student and run for three years. Such scholarships will help attract top students to the University of Tasmania. All of the people who come to Hobart to study and work at the centre contribute to the Tasmanian economy and each project also has a flow-on effect. The CSIRO receives funding under the government’s Australian Growth Partnerships, and this allows the CSIRO to support small and medium enterprises in related areas so that they can access the research and facilities of the organisation. In turn this gives the SMEs the opportunity to achieve greater results sooner.

Australian Growth Partnerships facilitate job growth and creation ability as well as increasing gross domestic product. National exports also increase, and a market perspective instead of a purely scientific approach is used in relation to the commercialisation aspects of their research. The CSIRO benefits from an increase in engagement of small and medium enterprises and the many benefits associated with this.

The centre undertakes research into projects of national significance such as water resource information systems, tailored wellness information delivery, genomic research, marine observation, aquaculture efficiency and energy management. Staff are encouraged to develop entrepreneurial skills through a partnership with the Australian Innovation Research Centre.

The CSIRO ICT Centre works with other CSIRO researchers throughout Australia to improve current technology and to create new systems with the aim of improving the way people live their daily lives. Developing new medical technology is an important part of the centre’s work. To date, the centre has set up a system to support the community in its fight against obesity and the many health problems associated with this issue. This is done through a partnership with Verdant Health and looks at the ways mobile phones can be used to enhance compliance with weight management programs. The technology can be used for other health conditions such as diabetes, which I know is an issue of great interest to many senators. The centre is also working with the Cancer Council of Australia to promote healthy eating and a tailored bowel cancer screening tool. Efforts to identify genes that lead to colorectal cancer and neurodegenerative diseases are also being made.

A high-speed connection known as EchoCardiographic Healthcare Online Networking Expertise in Tasmania, or ECHONET, is used between the cardiac units of the Royal Hobart Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital. This has been developed in order to make consultation between doctors easier. It educates doctors better and also limits the number of patient transfers. This not only improves patient care and provides learning opportunities for doctors but also has considerable economic benefits. ECHONET received a special mention in the Australian Telecommunications Users Group National Broadband Awards in Health. This award was for giving the North West Regional Hospital intensive care unit the opportunity to improve diagnosis and care through the use of ECHONET. I am sure Senator Bushby is interested in hearing about the benefits to Tasmania.

Looking after human health is just one part of the work being undertaken. Other projects are of equal importance, and they all impact on the community in one way or another. One project that has already been completed is an upgrade of the Australian plant pest database, which improves the detection and management of the pests that attack plant life. This database contains information about the diseases as well as the geographical areas pests can be found in. It is essential technology to limit the damage these diseases may have on the plant life, and in turn the economy.

The centre is working with energy providers to analyse usage patterns and to improve the level of efficiency. It is also aims to provide residential users, who account for 15 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, with the same management procedures currently only available to larger consumers. We all know that the electricity generation and transport sectors are integral to the economy and our everyday living. The two industries represent 50 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse emissions, and therefore effective management is essential to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The program will also have an impact in the future on energy and road transport costs for both individuals and businesses.

Yet another project has also been developed to predict weather patterns to allow for an irrigation schedule to be set at the Elliot Research Farm near Burnie, Tasmania. A hydrological sensor web test bed is being built for the South Esk River in the state’s north-east. This system will be able to predict water flow. Mitigation of flood risk and more sustainable allocation of water during times of limited supplies also form part of the water usage research. It is hoped that by 2025 the social, economic and environmental benefits of Tasmania’s water will have increased tenfold. The increased use of low-emission distributed energy, generated close to the user, is considered an important way to respond to Australia’s growing energy demands in a low-cost, low-CO2 way.

The Wealth from Oceans Flagship program is focusing on the Derwent and Huon estuaries and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. These regions have pristine wilderness, urban development, industrial activity and agriculture as well as aquaculture and tourism industries. The aim here is to find a way for these industries to coexist and to do so with limited damage to each other and the water quality. The CSIRO has set up the Tasmanian Marine Analysis Network as a way to cost-effectively and automatically observe and analyse the environment. Underwater sensors are being developed to achieve this and to also help with the sustainable management of the growth of the various industries. The data gained from this program will be of benefit to both state and local government as well as aquaculturalists and environmental monitoring and marine management agencies.

The centre aims to inform, interface, involve and invest with other stakeholders in the hope of achieving the best possible results in its endeavours. Partnerships with a variety of stakeholders have been set up and collaboration is just as important to innovation as ideas and science. Collaboration allows life’s big challenges to be met with vigour. The centre has partnerships with the Powercom Group, the Tasmanian Institute for Agricultural Research, Hydro Tasmania Consulting, Verdant Health, Insight4 and AQ1 Systems. The centre is open to new partnerships, and organisations are keen to work with the CSIRO because of the quality of its staff.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the CSIRO is a wonderful organisation and the work done at the Tasmanian centre is a valuable part of the national researcher’s work. Anything that can be done to sustain our environment into the future must be done, and Tasmania is certainly contributing its fair share to the research being conducted in Australia. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Stephen Giugni for showing me around and explaining the versatile work undertaken. I thank the Senate for its attention.