Sun, 09 Nov 2014 - 22:00
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The Prime Minister's speech on JJC Bradfield

Last week’s Bradfield oration, delivered by the Prime Minister, was a fitting tribute to the visionary Australian engineer, Dr JJC Bradfield – the man after whom the electorate of Bradfield is named.

The Bradfield Oration was organised by the Daily Telegraph, to mark the enormous contribution made by Dr Bradfield to the city of Sydney, and to our nation.  His far sighted vision was critical to the provision of many facilities and services we use and take for granted today, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the city circle underground rail loop, and the electrification of the Sydney suburban railway system.

In the lead up to the Bradfield Oration, I was pleased to be asked by the Daily Telegraph to write an article about Bradfield’s legacy.  A theme I emphasised was the persistence displayed by Bradfield over his long career.  For example, he first publicly argued the case for a bridge to join the northern and southern shores of Sydney Harbour in 1903.  It would be over 30 years, and many twists and turns, before the bridge was finally built and opened. 

In his Bradfield Oration, the Prime Minister had some similar points to make, noting Bradfield’s combination of ‘dogged persistence, compelling eloquence and an inspiring vision.”  The Prime Minister spoke about the work the Abbott Government is pursuing in Sydney and around Australia on major new infrastructure projects, very much in the tradition of the long term vision of JJC Bradfield – including the WestConnex and NorthConnex motorways and the second Sydney airport. 

For more than forty years governments have prevaricated over the second Sydney airport: the Abbott Government has made a commitment to get it built.  Pleasingly, the Prime Minister suggested that, as we think about who the airport should be named after, Dr JJC Bradfield would be a very good candidate. 

Another pleasing aspect of last week’s Bradfield Oration was the announcement that there will be scholarships provided, in Bradfield’s name, for engineering students at Sydney University.  A remarkable feature of JJC Bradfield’s career is the extent to which his accomplishments were built on learning: he was a brilliant student, winning several university medals, and he was awarded the first doctorate of engineering ever granted by Sydney University, for a thesis entitled, “The city and suburban electric railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.”

Even more today than one hundred years ago when Bradfield was entering the prime of his career, we live in a society in which scientific and technological knowledge is critical to our prosperity and our future. So it is fitting that a new generation of engineers are going to be educated with the assistance of scholarships given in the name of Dr JJC Bradfield.  In time we can expect that they will dream up advances in our infrastructure that will benefit humanity in ways we can only dream about today.