LIDAR Conference in Cairns, 6th June 2012

Thanks Gary and Good morning ladies and gentlemen, members of FunGIS (FUNGIS not FUNGUYS).

It is an honour to be here this morning to open this workshop on this amazing measurement technology, LIGHT DETECTION AND RANGING, Lidar (LIE-DAR).

In this wonderful part of the world of rainforests, reefs and safannahs the uses of Liedar are boundless.

Imagine how history may have been different if Captain Cook could have avoided the Barrier Reef by using LIEDAR technology.

Captain Cook, as he sailed up our east coast in 1770, spent laborious days taking sightings of the sun, correlating those with his chronometer to discover where he was, painstakingly drawing up charts which, remarkably, were so accurate that some of them are still in use today. But how much easier and more accurate would have been his work, if he could have seen Lidar, which is so much more than todays ultimate mapping tool.

Lidar is used by a wide range of interests because the technology can be used for a wide range of purposes: land surveying; geology and mining surveying; mapping the atmosphere and its temperature; hydrography mapping the coastline and hidden underwater features; clouds; forest management; intensive analysis of what is mapped and its relationships; archaelogy; earthquakes; volcanoes; and so much more.

The technology is used by governments and agencies around the world to identify opportunities and challenges in almost every field.

It is particularly important in Northern Australia, where distances are so vast and population so sparse, this technology can, remotely, identify a single molecule and its relationship to any other ... a valuable tool. It is also useful for meteorology, a science we rely heavily on in this region where cyclones and other natural disasters are an ever-present threat.

This workshop is presented jointly by the Far North Queensland GIS Group, and the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute and it is an invaluable forum from experts in the field in this part of the world to get together and compare notes, to find out where this remarkable technology is likely to go in the future and the latest developments in the industry.

All of you present for this workshop know a great deal more about this technology than I do, but none of you is more interested than I am in its possibilities for use in developing Northern Australia and the implications for the possible military use.

In government, we need to be able to link all kinds of information relating to people and places and how they are used for instance where we are, where we need to to get to what we want and how long it takes to get there. Particularly in Northern Australia, this kind of information is vital in order to make decisions about where roads, factories, military facilities and so on should be built for the most efficient use of resources and to be most convenient for the people who are to use them.

And this is the kind of information that spatial science can provide for us with this Lidar technology.

In the past, as Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, I have had some small exposure to the way Lidar can help achieve government goals for the productive and beneficial use of our natural resources.

And as we approach the next federal election I increasingly look forward to using your work to help what I hope and expect will be a Tony Abbott-led government to implement policies we will announce for the sustainable development of Northern Australia.

I never tire of telling people in the south that although we have less than five per cent of Australias population, we in the North produce around 40 per cent of Australias export earnings.

We plan to develop the North to produce more food for an increasingly hungry world and this will require better and new water storage and management techniques, better identification and use of natural resources, better servicing infrastructure in roads, bridges, railways, and air and sea ports. We also need to value add to our mineral resurces and this requires planning and leadership.

Across the top of Australia we have or did have before the crazy live cattle export ban a productive and under-exploited beef industry. We have sugar and horticultural industries and the land and water for much more. We have people and entrepreneurs, indigenous and non-indigenous, and we have a mineral industry that if encouraged, rather than discouraged, can cement Australias economic future.

And those of us who live in the North are only too well aware of the crucial role this part of the country plays in the security of our country.

Sadly, the bright future so obvious a few years ago has been dimmed by poor management decisions from the top.

From a position where had savings of $60 billion a few short years ago we are now wallowing in debt to the tune of almost $150 billion, and were borrowing $100 million a day and by 2015 well be paying $22 million a day in interest.

The once great northern beef cattle industry is on its knees, the tourism industry is languishing under increased input costs, inflexible labour conditions and more taxes like the recently announced increase in the Passenger Movement Charge on all inbound tourists.

And the goose that has laid the golden eggs is being threatened with new taxes and red and green tape and an increasing exposure to sovereign risk that will make exploitation of the vast mineral resources of Africa and South America look much more attractive to international investors than investment in Australia.

And while there is still interest in new projects in Australia, much of that comes from an understanding and hope by the mining industry that the government will change sometime with the next two years. Mining executives can also read Opinion Polls.

And Australias productivity and competitiveness are about to take an even greater hit with the introduction, in 27 days, of the worlds largest Carbon Tax to address what is almost the worlds smallest country emission of carbon gases.

But there is a better way.

And in the North, for sure, the skills and expertise your profession will add / will help us implement our ambitious plans to develop and secure our country.

I look forward to working with your profession in the big tasks ahead.

These goals can only become reality with good planning and good knowledge and Lidar will be an essential tool in that progress.

With that i am delighted to declare your conference/workshop open!

Work well and study hard at your conference and in your future activities.


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