Australia: The Whispers of Kookaburra

Our journey in Australia: between New South Wales and Queensland.

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WHAT IMPRESSED US THE MOST?
The pitch darkness of the night, the sky that it seems you can touch with a finger, the lighting almost absent in smaller towns, farms surrounded by beautiful soft green carpets for spotting the terrible deadly snakes, the hysterical laughter of the kookaburra that wakes you up in the morning, the rush for dinner because the kitchens close at 19.30. The pain in the heart, for fear of running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. The stop service interrupted by motorists who ask you: “Everything okay?” and the understanding that all our codes of order, distance, effort, work, suddenly become relative.

The Australia Telescope Compact Array is a radio telescope operated by CSIRO at the Paul Wild Observatory, 25 km west of the town of Narrabri. Because of the deep darkness that distinguishes the Australian outback, and as the roads are often not lit, it is not recommended to travel at night in order to avoid terrible accidents, especially with kangaroos and koalas. Typical Australian landscape, characterized by huge, flat, often desert lands punctuated by rare vegetation, and immense skies. Scattered small villages with architectural features reminiscent of the old Wild West. Places where the clouds seem to touch the ground, and if you stretch your hand out you have the impression of being able to touch them. Around 90% of the Australian population live on the coast. The Gold Coast region grew significantly after the establishment of the Surfers Paradise hotel in the late 1920s. The area boomed in the 1980s as a leading tourist destination and in 1994 the Gold Coast city local government area became the second most populous local government area in Australia, only after Brisbane. A wooden house lit up at night within the Vast Solar headquarters area, an Australian company active in renewable energies. Nocturnal insects are definitely a presence during Australian nights and can be very noisy, almost scary too. Overnight staying in camp tents at Sydney Observatory.

 

The nation is highly dependent on road transport. Australia has the second highest level of car ownership in the world. An extensive passenger rail network connects many rural areas to major cities. The mining sector is reliant on rail in order to transport its products to Australian ports for export. A series of floods hit Queensland at the beginning of December 2010. At least 70 towns and over 200,000 people were affected. Damage was estimated by US$ 2.38 billion. Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones. The Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,876 km with an additional 23,859 km of island coastlines. Deserts cover 18% of the Australian mainland. However, other areas are also considered to have a desert climate based on their rainfall and high temperature. While Australian farmers and grazers own 61% of the land, across the country there is a mix of irrigation and dry-land farming. There are three different categories of Australian roads: federal highways, state highways and local roads. The road network comprises a total of 913,000 km. Victoria has the largest network, with thousands of smaller arterials

Australia: Untamed Nature

Huge spaces getting smaller through connectivity.

Compared to New Zealand and the U.S, there isn’t as much scenic diversity in Australia, so it’s possible to drive over 600 kilometers a day without getting worn out. Wildlife is fascinating and there are a lot of weird things, some of which are hazardous to health, like saltwater crocs or snakes. The thing that may impress you most is the night: you will hear to an indeterminable number of different sounds, sometimes really strange, like the cry of a bird that sounds like a angry cat. The food in Australia is rich in influences from all over the world, but a special mention goes to a strange nourishment that Australians love: ‘Vegemite’. Vegemite is a spread that looks like tar, smells like yeast, and tastes like salt, and many Aussies smear it on crackers or bread.

HIGH LABOR COSTS
In general, Australia is quite expensive, especially if you stay in Sydney. For example, we paid AUD$70 for 4 hours car parking in the city. Labor costs in Australia increased from 101.10 index points in the first quarter of 2014 to 101.90 index points in the second. This is not good for production and the direct consequence is a huge manufacturing labor cost. Companies such as Ford and Holden have already closed assembly lines, and Electrolux have closed their refrigerator factory in Orange. The quarterly employment data from the ABS clearly show an industry in contraction, with the total number of people employed in manufacturing and the industry’s employment share falling sharply over the past 30 years, from nearly 17% of total employment in 1984 to just 8% as at November 2013.

BUSH? NO, THANKS
Most of the Aussies we met during our journey were really friendly, honest, open and trusting. Some might consider them to be “naïve.” It seems that they generally don’t like pretension and class barriers. Compared to America, there’s more emphasis on personal responsibility and independence, and less on litigation, and didn’t hear anyone bragging about their own personal success reciting data one after the other, and this is refreshing and allows me to think that they are also less focused on competition, in all fields.

AFTER SPENDING THREE WEEKS AND TRAVELLING 4,000 KM WHAT DID I BRING BACK?
Australia is a great country, still being an island, so we tend to think that insulation is the most appropriate term and the greatest fear of Australians. But it is not. I could use a similarity to define the business realities we encountered as platforms on land. Autonomous and isolated, but it is not. Australians have been able to build over time a close relationship with nature. A symbiosis characterized by simplicity, from no frills and a strong awareness of what is happening around them. The vast outdoors are greatly reduced due to the strong sense of belonging to a community that is revealed through persistent connections. The few distractions push them to concentrate on creativity and innovation, which generate motivated young people, while isolation from the rest of the world is mitigated by technology. Australia is therefore a country based on technological, social and innovative connectivity; and this is what makes it a great country.

Companies that we visisted

Vast Solar, Solar Energy, Forbes.

Engineer working at his desk on the porch

Engineer working at his desk on the porch

The Australian solar thermal power innovation company announced the construction of a 6MWth (1.1MWe) concentrating solar thermal (CST) power pilot plant near Forbes, New South Wales. The project, which will demonstrate Vast Solar’s low-cost, high-efficiency CST generation system, is mostly funded by private investment, with significant support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The first-of-a kind project, which includes three hours of thermal storage that will enable the plant to generate electricity day or night on demand, is expected to be operating to supply electricity into the national energy market by the end of the year. Forbes is the ideal place for the production of energy as it’s easy to connect to the line to spread energy throughout Australia. Not only that, the model chosen, focused on two elements, technology provider and know-how, puts them in contact with European, African and Asian business partners.

James Fisher, founder and Chief Technical Officer

James Fisher, founder and Chief Technical Officer

[W    vastsolar.com]

The Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Sydney.

Oyster-breeding tanks

Oyster-breeding tanks

By the end of this century, the world’s oceans will have a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide and will be several degrees warmer than they are today. Many species that live in Australia’s coastal waters will have to adapt to these harsh conditions in order to survive. It is known that such adaptation is possible, but it is still unknown which inherited genes can protect marine animals from the effects of climate change. Finding these genes will be crucial to manage the impact of climate change on important marine industries, such as oyster farming, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian economy every year. Australia is the center of temperature increases, far more than other countries, and for this reason a hub that includes the US, China and Europe is being created to analyze the effects of climate change on the coastal environment, for a global understanding.

Associate Professor David Raftos, Macquarie University

Associate Professor David Raftos, Macquarie University

[W    sims.org.au/research/current-projects/climate-proofing-the-sydney-rock-oyster-industry]

Tyrrell’s and De Bortoli Wines, Pokolbin Hunter Valley.

Marcus Bridges, cellar door manager at De Bortoli Wines, sitting on a barrel

Marcus Bridges, cellar door manager at De Bortoli Wines, sitting on a barrel

Established in 1858 by English immigrant Edward Tyrrell, Tyrrell’s Wines is one of Australia’s pre-eminent family-owned wine companies, with vineyards extending from their historic home in the Hunter Valley to the Limestone Coast (SA) and Heathcote (VIC). De Bortoli Wines is a third-generation family wine company established by Vittorio and Giuseppina De Bortoli in 1928. The couple emigrated to Australia from a mountain village at the foothills of the Italian Alps, near the historic town of Asolo. Bruce Tyrrell, owner, Andrew Pengilly, vineyard manager, and Marcus Bridges, cellar door manager, contribute to the success of the company today. The cost of maintaining the vineyards in the Hunter Valley is very high, considering that De Bortoli Wines spent over AUD$35,000 just for water in 2014. Notwithstanding, the company offers more than 200 different products. Hunter Valley is in fact a mega mall of fine wines, which allows manufacturers to connect directly with the end customer and to increase their visibility and therefore their prestige and the reputation of the brands and the wines produced. Consequently, the actual gain derives also from the sale of less prestigious wines.

Blackboard celebrating the company’s 150th anniversary

Blackboard celebrating the company’s 150th anniversary

[W    tyrrells.com.au    debortoli.com.au]

Emu Logic, Tooraweenah.

Emu egg storage

Emu egg storage

Penny Henley is the owner of a farm that has chosen to focus on breeding emus, offering a wide range of top quality products, including oils, soaps and lip balms, and also providing the region of Victoria with meat and eggs. Although 800 km from Sidney, the activity is growing due to the use of technology, particularly internet, which allows them not only to sell their products all over Australia but also to communicate with customers in Malaysia and in other parts of the world.

 Example of a grown up emu, weighing approximately 55 kg

Example of a grown up emu, weighing approximately 55 kg

[W    emulogic.com.au]

Australia Telescope Compact Array, Astronomy, Culgoora, Narrabri.

Glen Nagle, CASS visitor center

Glen Nagle, CASS visitor center

The Australian Telescope Compact Array is one of the world’s most advanced radio telescope centers. It is used for more than 100 different observing projects each year. The subjects studied include: the early stages of star formation, the late stages of the lives of stars’ molecules in space supernovas (exploding stars) and supernova remnants (the radio-emitting debris left by the explosions), magnetic fields in galaxies radio-emitting jets of material from black holes, and how hydrogen gas (the raw material from stars) is distributed in the local universe. As the sun and the black holes produce a lot of noise, the researches done at the observatory allow the better management of earth communications. Wireless is definitely one of the findings from these researches. Every year, the observatory welcomes researchers from all over the world, including the USA, Japan, Italy and Switzerland. The center bases its fundraising strategy on intensive public relations activity, so each year thousands of interested and curious people visit it. This allows it to increase its own prestige and therefore to receive research grants.

Radio telescopes  situated in the park

Radio telescopes situated in the park

[W    narrabri.atnf.csiro.au]

Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard, Coomera.

Yachts being prepared before launch

Yachts being prepared before launch

The company, run by Steve Sammes, general manager, offers facilities for berthing, maintaining and refitting boats of all sizes. Since its development in 2000, the purpose-designed marina, factories, showrooms and offices at the expansive facility are ideally located to serve the needs of all types of boat owners, ranging from jet skis to super yachts. Its rapid growth is due to the proximity to the Pacific, its competitive costs, and the creation of an area offering all services/products dedicated to the shipping industry. This has allowed the Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard to become, in only a few years, the biggest spot in the southern hemisphere and the largest in Australia for the services offered. While maintaining company’s main focus on domestic business, it is also part of larger organizations such as Super Yachts that have a presence in, for example,Thailand and Singapore.

One of the 150 artisans working on leather coverings

One of the 150 artisans working on leather coverings

[W    gccm.com.au]

CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Brisbane.

Peyman Moghadam, research scientist, working on the project HeatWave: Mobile 3D Thermal Mapping in Real Time

Peyman Moghadam, research scientist, working on the project HeatWave: Mobile 3D Thermal Mapping in Real Time

This lightweight mobile device can generate real-time precise 3D models of objects or scenes, overlaid with accurate temperature information. Currently a research prototype, HeatWave is expected to have applications in industries such as energy, building, manufacturing, construction, emergency services and health. The basic concept is that human plus machine gives a high performance workplace, going beyond the concept of the machine replacing man. Now the machine removes man from dangerous situations. This is the case of the HeatWave project, which allows the reading of data through an object’s thermal uniting vision 3D RGB to give a 3D image detail. So it gives humans the ability to carry out remote analysis, diagnosis and repairs, even in dangerous situations.

Emeli Hernández checking his own invention

Emeli Hernández checking his own invention

[W    csiro.au/Outcomes/ICT-and-Services/HeatWave-technology.aspx]

Willtony Brahman & Performance Horse Stud, Theodore.

Mary-Lou Pelling, owner, with one of her purebred horses

Mary-Lou Pelling, owner, with one of her purebred horses

Stud breeders have focused on the use of artificial intelligence to gain the best access to genetics and strengthen bloodlines. AI also helps to maintain a high standard of quality and to keep up to date with the new genetics available to breeders. In a huge space, where life is punctuated by animals far away from the cities, the entrepreneurial skill is in the attention to detail. In this case the selection of DNA through technology, the qualified staff and especially the volunteers from all over the world that the Pelling family, thanks to the internet, welcomes to the farm for various lengths of time throughout the year.

Brahman cattle

Brahman cattle

[W    willtony.com.au]

USEFUL LINKS

[W    australia.com    australia.gov.au    immi.gov.au]

Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Fall 2014