Opening of the Australian Institute of Health and Medicine at JCU in Cairns


Mr Chairman, Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Minister, other distinguished guests.

The facilities here are excellent and congratulations to the architects builders the operations people and those who staff this wonderful addition to the university and to Australia’s research capability.

But these things just don’t happen, although, at times it’s easy to overlook just how these initiatives are initiated.

I asked organisers if I could say a few words today just to congratulate the University on its successes and its lobbying prowess.

I well remember how the university back in the first years of the Howard government did a wonderful campaign,  with a little help from then member for Herbert Peter Lindsay and myself, to establish the first non-capital city medical school at JCU.

I then remember many other lobbying efforts by JCU to provide Commonwealth government assistance for many health initiatives not the least of which was for the addition of the Dental School here in Cairns.

But the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine had an interesting gestation.

Prior to the 2010 election, after a lot of the lobbing by university leaders to Peter Lindsay and myself, $40 million of the then suggested total cost of $120 million was included by then federal opposition as a 2010 election commitment.

As a result of that, the then state opposition made a similar commitment of $40 million, and when the Newman government came to power that $40 million was made available.

But sadly for me, and the University, after the 2010 election, the then Opposition was still the opposition, so Commonwealth money was not immediately available.

For three years the university kept up its lobbying.

As we approached the 2013 election that lobbying intensified to Warren Entsch,  Ewen Jones and myself.

I had been in touch with Campaign Headquarters all through this period but was being told that no commitment could be made until all the election promises had been costed to see if there was any money left in the barrel for this project.

I well remember the Friday fortnight before the election, Campaign HQ  eventually rang me and said yes we’ve done the sums and we can find the $40 million

But they said - we need a proper written policy fully supported by facts and figures  - and we need it by the day after tomorrow!

I will never forget that Saturday when Professor Ian Wronski came to my office and spent the whole day writing out the policy commitment with all the supporting facts and figures; which was down to Campaign Headquarters Sunday afternoon, so the announcement could be made the following week.

And, as they say, the rest is history.

This is just one example of the huge effort that goes on behind-the-scenes to achieve the sort of successes and advances that James Cook Uni  has achieved over the years

We don’t often think about the effort that goes into that,  but today I just wanted to acknowledge the clever and passionate lobbying work of the two Chancellors, the Vice Chancellor and her deputy Vice Chancellors and indeed senior staff and the Council of  the University which have all been involved in these types of sensible and mature campaigns to build what is now rightly seen as a world leading University in the field of Tropical Health and Medicine


Congratulations to all.

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