I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Yugambeh people of south-east Queensland.
I pay my respects to your Elders, past and present, who have kept law and language and culture strong in this land through the vastness of time.
It’s terrific to be at Bond University today.
Bond is one of the 39 world-class universities who are members of Universities Australia.
Every time I visit one of our campuses I am reminded how universities change lives for the better. And that is certainly the case here.
Professor Tim Brailsford, Vice-Chancellor of Bond University, is here today and I thank him for hosting us. His high energy leadership is a key part of the success of this great university.
Today I want to talk to you about education and research and how they bring China and Australia closer together.
But also how they help solve the challenges both nations face – and set us up for success and prosperity.
But first, I want to tell you about a very productive friendship. Dr Jian Zhou and Professor Ian Frazer – a young man from Hangzhou, China and the other from Glasgow. Ian Frazer recruited his friend to the University of Queensland.
Together they invented the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil.
It is difficult to describe how important this is. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women, after breast cancer, with more than half a million new cases reported worldwide every year.
Right now half of these women die – 250,000 each year.
In Australia, 900 women are diagnosed and 250 die each year.
In China, the figures are much worse.
In 2015, there were almost 100,000 new cases reported, and 35,000 Chinese women died.
That’s three Chinese women dying every hour in 2015.
But Gardasil is turning the tide.
The latest version of the vaccine, Gardasil 9, now protects against 93 per cent of cervical cancers.
The vaccine also protects against other cancers found in the head and neck.
Australia was one of the first countries to start free, ongoing vaccinations to 12- and 13-year-olds.
We are already seeing major benefits and cancer rates are expected to plummet.
Not surprisingly, China is also adopting Gardasil.
In March this year, the Government approved the roll out of the vaccine. It’s now available to women under 45 in Shanghai – a city with a population almost the same size as Australia.
And they have similar high hopes for the results.
So, the Gardasil story is one of strong collaboration between China and Australia – between a Chinese man and a Scot who calls Australia home – with fabulous results.
As Chief Executive of Universities Australia, I see stories like this every day.
All of them point to the extraordinary progress we can make when we work together, person to person, across national boundaries.
Here at Bond, researchers are working with Chinese colleagues to develop 3D-printed small exhibition centres.
This will provide a cheap and safe alternative to traditional building materials.
And after use, the energy efficient structures are then donated to Ya’an Polytechnic – located in a province where earthquakes are frequent.
You can imagine what having access to materials you can literally make on a printer means in these regions. I’m sure Tim can tell you more.
Other joint projects are helping make sure both our countries can keep feeding our growing populations.
In China, where there are over 1.3 billion mouths to feed, this is hugely important.
For example, a University of Queensland project, funded by the Queensland-Chinese Academy of Sciences, will help Australian and Chinese farmers predict crop yields from space.
They will use satellites and physical modelling to give farmers information at the field level that they need to estimate yield.
Farmers in Australia and China are increasingly vulnerable to volatile weather conditions – as the terrible drought on our east coast currently shows.
And Queensland is more exposed than any other Australian state.
Rice is China’s largest crop. It is also important here.
It’s also highly vulnerable to climate change.
The joint project will help develop vital new technologies and methods that help our farmers deal with these climate risks and extreme weather conditions during cropping season for important foods like rice.
Australia and China collaboration is not just helping feed people – it’s also powering each country.
Earlier this year UNSW Professor Martin Green became the first Australian to win the Global Energy Prize for his work on solar panels. Basically, he’s made them more efficient and cheaper.
Martin has also trained over 100 PhD students — many from China.
One of his former students took the solar panel technology home and now manufactures the panels in China.
And he’s not alone. Many of China’s largest solar power companies started as Australian/Chinese ventures.
This know-how and tech are helping China generate clean, efficient and cheap energy in a time when renewables are becoming more and more important for us all.
This spirit of entrepreneurship isn’t just inspired by joint research that connects with business; it’s also driven by education.
Australia’s world-class universities educate the majority of the 560,000 overseas students who study here from a vast array of countries.
Many of these students are from China.
This vital exchange goes two ways.
The Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, sees students take on exchange and professional placements across the Indo-Pacific, the most popular language is Mandarin and the most popular study destination is China.
And private endowments also boost collaboration.
The Ma and Morley Scholarship program at the University of Newcastle sees Australian and Chinese students study in each country and challenges them to step outside of their comfort zones.
The $26 million fund was set up by Alibaba founder Jack Ma and named after long-time Australian mentor and friend Ken Morley.
As a teenager Jack met Ken when he was touring China with the Australia-China Friendship Society.
Launching the scholarship Jack Ma said: “I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth. The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world.”
Jack Ma is one of thousands and thousands of ambassadors for Australia that have grown from joint endeavour – based in education and research.
When Australian and Chinese students study in the same classrooms they learn from each other.
They exchange ideas and develop deep understanding of each other’s culture, laws and history.
These long-lasting social, economic and political ties bring us all closer together.
They build relationships that help us do business and identify common interests.
Students from Australia and China are already doing this in new and exciting ways.
Take for example Meng Yao who is doing a Masters of Business Administration, but also managing a global staff of 22 people in an education company she set up.
Australian universities are already well placed to help students like Meng.
Australian unis are the driving force in Australia’s startup economy – worth some $160 billion to the economy.
Four in five startup founders in Australia are university graduates, with more than 100 programs at Australian universities to support startups and around one in five founders coming out of an acceleration or incubation program.
There’s also a growing list of university programs and courses that help students learn the entrepreneurial skills they will need to turn a clever idea into a new business.
Finally, both Australian and Chinese students need hands-on workplace experiences.
Universities are doing great work with this already – but we cannot provide opportunities alone.
This is where business comes in.
Our world-class universities are creating the globally literate and savvy graduates you need to work and succeed in one of the world’s most dynamic, complex and rapidly-changing places – the Asian region and beyond.
Australian universities are producing some of the best talent around, they are Asia-literate and highly educated. These are the global citizens that will shape the future. They will have careers and impact that people of my generation can only dream of.
So if you run a business, get in early. Work with your local universities to offer placements and internships before graduation. This is the Work Integrated Learning we know has enormous benefit for students and employers.
You might just play a part in bringing together the next Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou.