Media conference in Cairns

6 October 2021

WARREN ENTSCH: Okay, are we right to go everybody? Yeah?
Well, first of all, thanks very much for being here today, and surrounded by some very wonderful, very capable people and focusing very much in the biosecurity in the agricultural, and of course, our Indigenous ranger section. Now, beautiful day for us to make announcements. I'm wonderful to have Minister David Littleproud here in our beautiful city and- but there's a rule that we always make when we invite these senior ministers to Far North Queensland. You need to come bearing gifts. And I have to say to you that David never, ever, ever disappoints me. It was only recently he didn't get a chance to come up here, but made a phone call to me to tell me about some funding he had arranged for navua sedge. It was quite a battle to get that funding, but I thank you very much for delivering on that. It was very significant and it's going to make a huge difference. I think what we're doing now though is going to make a big difference in a lot of areas and so- particularly in relation to the fabulous work and the capacity of our Indigenous rangers and of course, again, the great work that's of what's been happening in JCU.
So I'm going to hand over to you, David. Thank you for being here, and I look forward to standing back and listening to these announcements.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, thanks, Warren. And it is great to be back in Cairns. And can I say, I do come bearing gifts. In fact, $20 million, of which $2.5 million will go to JCU. This is part of our commitment towards our innovation program. We are modernising our innovation program. We are decentralising it, bringing it out to regional universities so that they are closer to farmers. So the adoption of that innovation, that science, and that technology, farmers will take up. They'll be more profitable and in fact be more resilient. So what we're announcing today, the $2.5 million, is the next evolution in our innovation system, taking it away from just being about drought hubs. It's now innovation hubs. There's $1.1 billion worth of research dollars between the Australian taxpayer and levy payers across 15 commodity groups that go out every year. What I'm saying is I want to ramp JCU up and the other seven innovation hubs around regional Australia in these universities. I want to ramp them up, give them the capacity to be able to compete and to attract the best and brightest on top of what we've got behind me here to be able to partner with our research development corporations to make sure, not only is that cutting edge research and technology being taken right place here in Cairns or in the Node in Townsville or even out around into the Gulf, but also we're attracting that dollar into the future, and we're giving a pathway for the next generation of young North Queenslanders to come to uni right here in JCU, to be able to get a pathway in agriculture and research. This is the next jobs, the next generation of jobs in agriculture, and I've got to say we have lost generations of young people from regional rural Australia, particularly from Northern Australia. It's time to bring them home. It's time to bring them home into agriculture. Agriculture is sexy again, and it's not just about being on the land, it's actually these jobs, the new exciting jobs that are that we are putting out there in front of our farmers and giving them the tools to be more profitable and more resilient. And no better place than JCU. Can I say, JCU has been at the cutting edge of research and development, and now we are entrusting them to go forward and to attract more people, more research, and attract that research dollars to take it away from the big capital cities and put it right here in Cairns, put it right in Townsville and ride across regional Australia, and I can think of no one better than JCU. So, Stewart, congratulations. Well done, mate.

STEWART LOCKIE: Thank you. Thank you, David. Look, on behalf of James Cook Uni and all partners in the Tropical North Queensland Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, let me say that we very much welcome this announcement because as the Minister has said, you know, what's this all about? This is about people. This is about backing regional people, backing their ideas, helping them to work together, putting together that social infrastructure, that institution infrastructure, that knowledge infrastructure, and the funding to enable them to put their ideas in practice. If you look at Australian agriculture over the years, sure, Australian agriculture has been about wool, it's been about wheat, it's been about things that are much more important in this part of the world, like avocados and mangoes and sugar, but it's also been about ideas. It's been about intellectual property, it's been about clever people coming up with good ideas that have changed the world and which have driven food security and agricultural productivity worldwide. So what we're doing here, I think, is critical for this community. It's critical for the futures community, but it's addressing issues that really have currency and leverage on a global basis. We really look forward to working together with all our partners in the region and with the hubs around the country. You know, this is really about people working together, backing ourselves by working together, and getting it out in the regions closer to where the research uses are and where the people are going to implement this sort of stuff up.
So again, Mr Entsch, Minister Littleproud, thank you. Thank you. It is always good to see you. You are welcome to come here without gifts.
[Laughter]
You know, a pair of- a pair of boardings and thongs. You know, a floral shirt is all good. But if you bring gifts, all the better. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Sorry, Stewart, just before you go, can we just get your full name, spelling, and title?
[Laughter]

STEWART LOCKIE:  You asked for it. It's Distinguished Professor Stewart Lockie, S-T-E-W-A-R-T-L-O-C-K-I-E, Director of the Cairns Institute at James Cook University, Fellow of the Academy of the-
[Laughter]