Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches


Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.


150 Lonsdale St Melbourne
12 November 1997

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary for the
Bureau of Meteorology

Thanks very much Dr John Zillman, the Director of the Bureau of Meteorology, to you and to Mr Charles Allen, Chairman of CSIRO, Mr Ben Okimoto, the managing Director of NEC Australia, Professor Patrick Obasi, Dr Gibbs, Dr Tucker, the honourable Jim Webster other distinguished scientists, researchers and to you ladies and gentlemen. I thank you all very much for coming along. I know you all have very busy lives and it's tremendous that you have seen fit to join the Bureau and the CSIRO in what is a very special and exciting occasion for us and for the Government of Australia.

Many of you will have some personal interaction with the computer, others of you vicariously through the organisations you are associated with reap the benefits of this computer.

It is an especially pleasing aspect of the creation of this new facility that there is increasingly close collaboration that has occurred between the CSIRO and the Bureau.

By pooling their resources, both organisations have access to technology which, separately, they could not aspire to. As a result, scientists from a wide range of disciplines and from all around the country, will have access to the high performance computing facilities they need to sustain the leading-edge research effort that is so vital to our national development.

I join with Mr Allen, Mr Okamoto and Professor Obasi in acknowledging and honouring the efforts of all those who have played a part in bringing the vision to reality.

As Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for the Bureau I am particularly excited by the prospects for improved weather and climate services that are expected from the introduction of this new facility.

I understand the Bureau expects to be able to increase the accuracy and range of its weather and climate forecasts as a result of improved numerical models running on the SX-4 Supercomputer. In particular the new models will result in improved prediction of smaller-scale features in the atmosphere and will assist in more accurately forecasting the development and movement of tropical cyclones, cold fronts and other severe weather phenomenon that impact so greatly and vitally on virtually all sectors of the Australian Community.

The power of the Supercomputer will also be used to generate improved graphical displays of the evolution of these weather systems as well as a range of oceanographic charts and forecasts.

Another important application will be in refining our understanding of climate change and thereby providing an improved scientific framework for decision-making on greenhouse response strategies.

And I take this opportunity to mention that Mr Moore, the Minister for Information, Science and Tourism and Senator Robert Hill, Minister for the Environment, would very much have liked to be here today but other Government responsibilities keeps them away.

It is also important for us to recognise that the impact of this new facility will extend to areas well beyond our own shores.

It has already been mentioned, that on the first and second floors of this building the Bureau operates one of three World Meteorological Centres of the World Weather Watch (WWW), under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The other two Centres are in Moscow and Washington DC. Data gathered by these Centres, and the analyses and forecast products that they generate, are freely available to the National Meteorological Services of more than 180 other countries around the world. The SX-4 will enable the Melbourne Centre to provide more accurate and timely analyses and forecasts to neighbouring countries under the World Weather Watch Programme of the WMO.

It is especially pleasing, and a great Honour to us, that the Secretary General of WMO Professor Obasi is with us here today on this important occasion. Australia has long played an active role in the cooperative international activities of the WMO and, perhaps even more than most other countries, we benefit from the free and unrestricted international exchange of essential meteorological data and products which provides the foundation of the WMO World Weather Watch.

We benefit especially from free access to the data from the Japanese and Chinese Geostationary Meteorological Satellites and the US polar orbiting satellites. I recently had the pleasure of signing a new bilateral agreement with Japan governing our cooperation in operating the ground equipment to keep the Japanese satellite on station north of Australia for the benefit of all countries in the region. I am pleased to say that the Review of the Operation of the Bureau of Meteorology, that was commissioned some time ago, recommended that the Bureau should continue to foster international cooperation between National Meteorological Services under the framework of WMO.

I am also pleased to highlight, by the opening of this facility, that Australia does, in a very valuable and significant way, repay some of the benefit we achieve from other countries like Japan and their GMS satellite. And I might say with some pride, that we do this not only with technology but also with human resources and I recognise the contribution which John Zillman plays as President of the WMO - and also our other people who play lead roles internationally - the likes of Dr Doug Gauntlett, Dr Greg Holland, Dr Geoff Love, Dr Mike Manton and Dr Angus McEwan - to name but a few! So I am very proud today, to say on behalf of the Australian government, that our people in the Bureau play such a significant role in world weather.

Some of you will be aware that during the recent serious fires in Indonesia the Melbourne Centre provided smoke dispersal forecasts to the National Meteorological Services of a number of countries in South East Asia. I understand the Bureau received several expressions of appreciation from those Services for these forecasts and I expect that these countries would be most heartened to learn that the installation of the SX-4 will enhance the Melbourne Centre's capabilities in this regard.

As well as addressing meteorological problems to our north, the new computing facility will enable the Bureau and CSIRO scientists to better understand and predict the behaviour of the oceans to our south. As Parliamentary Secretary responsible also for Antarctic matters, I am very pleased at the close cooperation that exists between the Bureau of Meteorology, the Antarctic Division and CSIRO's Division of Marine Research along with the University of Tasmania in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Environment; as also between the Bureau, CSIRO Division of Atmosphere Research, Monash University and other Partners in the CRC for Southern Hemisphere Meteorology.

Let me finally emphasise the importance the government attaches to this new national facility. It will play a major role in shaping the results of our national science effort generally and, in particular, our capacity to understand and predict Australia's weather and climate as we enter the next millennium.

I congratulate, very heartily, all those who have been involved in completing the installation program and I extend my best wishes to all the scientists in the Bureau and CSIRO who will use this new facility, in the national interest, in the years to come. On behalf of my friend and Colleague The Hon John Moore, Minister for Industry, Science and Tourism, and the CSIRO and on behalf of the Australian Government, I have much pleasure in declaring the Bureau of Meteorology-CSIRO joint High Performance Computing and Communications Centre officially open.

Commonwealth of Australia