Premier Barnett outlines science priorities for WA at Science on the Swan Conference


Premier and Science Minister Colin Barnett released Western Australia’s Science Statement outlining the State’s priorities for scientific research.

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The document – called Growing Western Australia – articulates the areas of science that the State Government believes should be prioritised to exploit WA’s natural advantages, resources and build on existing areas to broaden the State’s economy.

Speaking at the inaugural Science on the Swan conference in Perth, Mr Barnett said the document aimed to direct scientific effort to capitalise on WA’s unique advantages and increase community awareness of the State’s scientific capabilities and the importance of science to its economic and social well-being.

The conference brings together all five of WA’s major universities (The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University and The University of Notre Dame) in partnership with the key teaching and research hospitals, the medical research institutes of WA and the State Government through the Department of Health and the Office of Science.

“Science is fundamental to our society and affects every part of our life, from the food we eat, the medicines we take and the technology we use,” the Premier said.

“As we look forward, science will continue to be at the heart of our prosperity and health.  It is the key to unlocking WA’s potential.”

Mr Barnett said WA had well-developed economic strengths around key commodities in minerals, energy, agriculture and fisheries, as well as unique biodiversity and some of Australia’s most important environmental assets such as the Ningaloo reef and the Kimberley.

He also said WA was also well placed in the Asian region with established economic relationships which could be leveraged to further build scientific collaborations.

“We need to continue strengthening our collaborations and create genuine partnerships between universities, research institutes, industry and Government, locally, nationally and internationally,” he said.

“While WA’s potential is huge, resources are finite and it is important to set priorities in order to focus effort on areas of comparative advantage.”

Mr Barnett said the State’s economy is based on five priority areas, including mining and energy; health and medicine; agriculture and food; biodiversity and marine science, and radio astronomy.

“By focusing on these areas, we can achieve tangible goals, such as increasing crop yields and ensuring sustainable food supplies, lowering the cost of mining and finding cures for medical conditions,” he said.

Mr Barnett said the statement was only a starting point which would later be complemented with the development of long-term strategies that build on the identified capabilities.

“Achieving this requires industry, universities, research institutes and Government to work together to identify, invest and deliver on strategies that take full advantage of our opportunities,” the Premier said.

“This is a statement for all of Western Australia, not just the State Government.  It is a clear signal and recognition of the role that science plays in a modern, sophisticated economy and a safe, healthy society.”