Thank you for the invitation to address this distinguished audience. I feel very honoured to do so.
I was keen to take up the invitation to speak on innovation in the inspection and testing sector because sustaining the current levels of growth in trade and investment in our region will depend significantly upon the effectiveness of the equipment used, and the skills and capabilities of the workforce in this sector.
Trust and confidence in global trade is based on trust and confidence in the Inspection and Testing Laboratory process, which again is very much based on the effectiveness of the testing equipment used and the skills and professionalism of the people using the equipment.
Your sector plays a critical role in facilitating global trade by ensuring compliance with international standards to ensure the quality and safety of goods moving across national borders.
As a service based industry poor skills and human error can often be the weakest link in the Inspection and Testing Laboratory process, and these innovative technologies that address this problem create significant value by again building trust in this process, and thus trust in regional and global trade.
One example from my own country is a start-up software company that is using video game technology to develop virtual reality (VR) simulations to train and assess both government and industry quarantine inspectors.
This technology is able for the first time to observe and objectively assess quarantine inspector skills and thus improve the effectiveness of the quarantine inspection process.
This technology creates an exact virtual replication of the real world inspection environment to train, assess and improve the capability of those working in this service sector which again provides trust and confidence in the quality and safety of goods being traded.
As this product is built on internet based cloud technologies, it can be accessed anywhere and can scale from training and assessing 5 inspectors to 5 million inspectors. It provides a platform to create universal agreed to standards for the inspection and testing process.
Standards which can underpin the success of the Belt Road Initiative and other cross border initiatives.
Another example is a milk exporter to China from Australia who sat down with the Chinese authorities, and jointly explored how the testing and inspection process could be improved with technology to facilitate trade in fresh milk.
They developed a tracking device which identified where every tanker of milk was at any time from when the tanker left the dairy factory in Victoria, Australia until the tanker arrived at its destination in China.
As well, at any time along the journey the temperature of the milk in the tanker could be assessed. If the milk temperature went above a certain level it could indicate a threat to the quality of the milk.
Furthermore, this tracking technology is connected at all times to the Chinese Customs computer system.
As a result of this innovative and collaborative approach, there have now been three years of air shipments, several times a week, without one rejection over the 3 years.
The efficiency and trust built as a result of this tracking technology has helped the dairy exporter, the Chinese consumer and helped the Chinese inspectors do their job in an outstanding manner.
Finally, let me say that innovation does not just imply technological innovation. Any change or process which improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the inspector’s responsibilities is innovation.
In the China and Australian Free Trade Agreement of 2015, China agreed to allow the import of live cattle from Australia for subsequent slaughter and provision of fresh meat.
This provision in CHAFTA was of great significance given the growing demand for protein in the Chinese community, and the capacity of Australia to meet a large part of that demand.
However, subsequently there has been difficulty in devising a satisfactory and workable health protocol to guard against any future diseases in Australian cattle unwittingly being transferred to Chinese cattle herd.
So the inspectors got together with the industry, led by New Hope Ltd in China, and the Hancock Group from Australia, to devise a solution.
The answer was to identify an island in the Zhoushan region where live cattle, after being quarantined in Australia for 30 days, are then shipped to the island and quarantined for a further period, before being slaughtered in a newly constructed killing facility on the island.
In this way the live cattle never leave the island, and can never have contact with the mainland cattle herd in China.
The only thing that leaves the island is fresh meat.
This is a highly innovative approach by the regulators which sees them carry out their responsibilities, while promoting a new trade which will see hundreds of thousands of cattle a year imported from Australia, providing high quality fresh meat.
Not only have the testing authorities in China facilitated this important new trade, but they have been critical to the formulation of this major “Belt and Road” initiative involving Australia and China.