2017 International Science, Mathematics and Informatics Olympiads

19 JUNE 2017






Can I begin by welcoming you all to Canberra. I know it’s cold and that would have irritated you a bit, but it’s fantastic that you are here – you add real lustre to the place.


Can I thank you Peter for what Optiver is doing through your work. When I first met Peter I thought he was one of the people going away on the trip. It actually is a tribute to the company that a person like you – a relatively youthful person – can be in charge of the education component.


Having read a bit about Optiver I really admire the emphasis you have put on education and mentoring and the focus you have on technology because for me the future of this country is in how we harness our science, our technology and our maths.


And the other attributes that Peter sort of alluded to briefly on the way through is our soft skills. Having a capacity to relate to other people, having a focus on design thinking and all the other things related to how we relate to our fellow man and that is very important with our emotional intelligence as well as that other sort of IQ that we are lauding today.


Can I say in that regard it is fantastic to have the Maths Trust here, ASI and to have Ian Chubb here – the patron of ASI. He is a great Australian; he was our Chief Scientist.


I am working with the Chief Scientist now who is on his way to becoming a great Australian, but Chubby you stood up for the importance of STEM in Australia and you also stood up to telling truth to power, being frank and fearless in your advice and we live in a world where increasingly we have to make sure that the scientific method is respected.


We should only deal with ideas that really have a proper grounding – not only in theory but in observation and practice. Beautiful theories are slain by ugly facts every day but that is part of the scientific method. It is having a certain skepticism, but then on the basis of that method, on the basis of peer review, coming to solid conclusions and moving on from there.


And all of you young people who are going to be participating in these Olympiads you have been going through various forms of looking at these theories in these various fields, how those theories are applied.


You are working on the scientific method as you go, you are going to be great Australians in the future, you are blazing a trail for you fellow Australians and that is very important and it’s very exciting what you are doing.


And it is important to follow your passion. You know the one thing I always say to any kid is do not just do what your parents say you should do. Do what you really want to do or what you feel you are good at. Someone reminded me on that way in that we do a lot to celebrate our sporting champions.


Well we are working on an innovation society with an innovation mindset and global outlook where in the future we will be able to celebrate our scientific champions in the way we celebrate our sporting champions because that is what will secure the future of this country.


It’s not what is in the ground, it’s not what is in our factories – it is what is in our heads and that is the 21st century.


The job of government is to help you with that process. In part we have done that by helping to finance some of the activities that you are going to be involved in. We are doing it by making best use of all the available talent. That is why we have our program of putting more women into STEM, making sure as many young girls get the chance to go through and stay the course because we have to make the best use of everyone in our society and its fair – it is the right thing to do.


So all of that is important but on the way through – yes you have hard work ahead of you and you have gotten here by very hard work. Thousands of kids have been through these processes and you have come out on top. So you are the cream of the cream.


But on the way through also enjoy the opportunity to see these places you are going to, to learn a bit about their culture, put yourself in the shoes of the other person – that is an important part of life because we live in the world we cannot shut ourselves off from the world.


We need to accept globalisation and work with it and your role in the future because you don’t look at someone’s nationality when they have done a theory in the right way, whether that proof is the right proof – you look at the proof itself. You judge the person by what they do not by who they are or where they come from.


You are going to have a great time; enjoy the places you are going to. The one that particularly attracted me was the one in France…I thought that one was pretty good. I am not sure which group is going there.


Rio looked pretty good too, it could be a bit chaotic sometimes on the streets you never know, but look have a great time. You deserve it and you have had great success and I hope when you come back as with the last set of Olympiads we can say every one of our Olympians won a prize, got something because we are the best.


And my aspiration for this country is that when we set ourselves to a task, whatever industry sector it is in that we make ourselves the best in the world – not just match best practice but become best practice.


And your inspiration, the inspiration that you provide to the rest of us is what keeps people like me going in our jobs. To see there are people like you out there willing to take on big tasks, do big things, think big thoughts and really have a good time on the way through.


So thank you to everybody for being here today; thank you to the teachers, the parents, the schools who make all of this possible. We rely so much on you to help these kids get through it so thank you for everything you do, have a great day, enjoy Canberra and we will get on with those blazers.


Thanks very much.