CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS: Melbourne Innovation Centre

25 May 2016

Mr HUSIC(Chifley) (10:20): I want to dedicate my constituency statement to another electorate as I visited the member for Batmans electorate the other day. I was going to make a contribution talking about how good looking, svelte and fun he is, but since the standing orders stop me from misleading the House, they have sucked the fun out of this place. I did enjoy spending some time with Mr Feeney in his electorate. What was especially fun about it was that we got to visit the Melbourne Innovation Centre. It is located in Alphington and it is one of their three locations in Victoria.
The centre has some impressive staff, including CEO, David Williamson, who took us on a tour of the centre, which involved seeing a number of small businesses that have made a great start with a bit of help. One business we saw was Gourmet Lovers started by Theo Arapoglou. He runs the Melbourne business, Gourmet Lovers, which produces premium Australian olives and extra virgin olive oil, and it even secured a $1.5 million with Costco, which is huge. They cover the US, Canada and the UK with those sales. They started exporting to Europe in 2005 and later to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to access better sales margins through that process. Theo had found that the grocery market in Australia had a lot of pressure on margins as supermarkets went into battle with each other and the retail market became quite different, so Gourmet Lovers, in exporting their products, found a way to become more sustainable and profitable.
We also got to meet Eva from La Sirene Brewery. La Sirene is an artisanal brewing companyyou learn something new every daythat produces small batches of unfiltered and unpasteurised beer, which uses natural processes for their refermentation and extended maturation in the bottle. Another entrepreneur we met was Raoul Luescher who is the director of Luescher Teknik that produces carbon fibre bikes. He was employed previously by Boeing and the Australian Institute of Sport before starting his own set-up. He is doing terrific work.
The centre is assisting new, innovative enterprises to create the jobs of the future. It has been operating for 18 years and has become self-sufficient during that time. These are exactly the types of suburban based centres that require more support. They will help people find a way to get ideas off the ground and create new jobs. It is important from my perspective that innovation is something not done just in the inner cities and in our capitals but that suburbs and regions have a role to play. Under Labors regional innovation fund we looked to promote just that with $16 million to promote these types of centres to get the ideas and the jobs of the future.