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Senator Kim Carr's speeches


09 Dec 2011
Cooperative Research Centres logo 

Abbottsford, VIC

It's a great pleasure to be able to be with you today. It's a great pleasure to be able to officiate at the first social policy CRC that we have in this country.

We've had about 190 CRCs across the breadth of the program since it was created by a Labor Government in 1990.

The Commonwealth has spent $3.4 billion dollars in that time, and brought in much, much more in terms of the partnerships that have been developed.

However, this is the first time that we've undertaken a CRC in the social arena.

The reason we've done that is because when I talk about science I talk about it in the German tradition: the great cultural tradition whereby you talk about understanding the universe, making sense of the universe - in all its aspects and in all dimensions of knowledge.

So we have developed a view of science which brings in the social sciences and brings in the humanities - as an integral part of understanding how we're able to make a better life in this country.

We all understand how this country is changing - or at least I trust we do - and we have a grasp of the extraordinary rate of change.

As a student of history I look back at what happened in other societies over time; to how other societies have modernised.

Ironically, some would criticise us, saying, 'this is not real science; this is not an area in which we should be spending public money'.

I take the view that, from the very days of the Enlightenment, we have had this notion of humanity which is much broader than just the physical here and now, or a world of physical things.

You could look at the work we've done, for instance, in the Centre of Excellence for the Emotions which was established about the same time as this CRC was established. It's been criticised because it concentrates on understanding the way in which people feel.

Those same critics don't criticise the fact that the Minister for Arts yesterday was down opening up an art exhibition on Renaissance art which is all about religion and views of society.

That is seen to be acceptable. But if we were to talk about these types of questions - of emotional state - that is seen to be illegitimate. Well, it's an irony. Just for a minute, think about the way in which society has developed.

You could go back to the 18th century, and look at the American Constitution. What does it talk about?

In the US Declaration of Independence, it talks about 'self evident truths'.

It talks about 'unalienable rights'.

Rights of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'.

So there's a view - in the 18th century - that we could build a nation that had at its core the notion of the pursuit of happiness.

Yet, it's seen in some quarters to be illegitimate to be actually spending public money on the pursuit of happiness in the 21st century.

Now, I clearly reject that view.

Your Labor Government rejects that view.

We say that it's an integral part of science, and our understanding of society, that we have an appreciation of people's ideals and their dreams; to understand the ways in which technology can affect the pursuit of happiness. And that's frankly what you're all about here.

This is about keeping people alive.

This is about people being able to be full participants in our society.

This is about building a democratic culture in which everybody gets a right to participate.

It's about ensuring the quality of life, not just for young people, but for their families and for their communities.

It's about being able to advance that ideal through the research that you're undertaking. It's about reducing youth suicide, self harm, depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

It's about undermining social isolation which leads to these things.

It's about building a better country.

It's about building a better Australia.

For that I congratulate you and wish you very well in your efforts.


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