I’m very sad that I can’t attend the opening of the iLAuNCH program in Toowoomba; parliamentary duties call me away. However, this is one of the most important programs, one of the most important steps forward, in Toowoomba’s long history. I think it will even come to surpass inland rail and Wellcamp Airport itself: $180 million of UniSQ-led collaboration, over 20 industry organisations and three universities. I’m very proud that $50 million of federal funding was secured under the last coalition government. To have played some small part in that is something I’m going to reflect on with pride for many years to come.
I first heard about this project after being out of the office. When I came back there was a slew of messages on my phone from Geraldine Mackenzie, Trevor Watts and Scott Buchholz. Trevor Watts’s message was, ‘Mate, you need to get in touch with Geraldine’; the message from Scott Buchholz, the member for Wright, was, ‘Brother’—that’s how it started, of course, for anyone who knows him—’you need to call Geraldine.’ And what Geraldine laid out was a masterclass of how to inspire someone to get behind a project. What she laid out wasn’t just a vision for UniSQ; it was a vision for Toowoomba and for Australia. This was about bringing a new field of research to Toowoomba, new careers for Toowoomba kids and new opportunities for businesses in Toowoomba to get involved in space engineering.
The idea of Australia establishing our sovereign rocket launch capability and for this to be based in Toowoomba is something that 20 years ago we would never have thought of. But Geraldine sold it as if it were inevitable—this power that she is, getting people to get behind her. She deserves recognition. And I’d like to thank Peter Schubel for his part in laying out that vision. I think Peter identified very early that I am at heart a classic engineering nerd. Peter did a great job in laying out the opportunities that engineering can provide to the next generation of Toowoomba kids—the projects they can work on, the travel they can do, the ability to throw themselves into complex challenges—and the idea that this is all in front of them. I thank him for his work. I also thank the new executive director, Darin Lovett, for his continued leadership, and I thank John Bell and his team, who did so much hard work in pulling this project together, putting the application together and getting that funding.
This is the right time for a project like this to be hitting Toowoomba. We’re growing. We’ve got so many exciting things happening, and the linkage with our defence industry in the area is going to be so crucial. We’ve seen the Wellcamp Defence Precinct draw Boeing in to Toowoomba. We’ve seen companies like JRS—local companies—get involved with that. We’re growing our manufacturing capabilities. And I just want to thank John Dornbusch. I want to thank the current government for their continued support of this great program, and everybody involved, and I wish them all the best for a successful future.