Robots may hold the key to preventing an industrial crisis in a country whose geography makes many key jobs undesirable.

I knew Australia was big, but it didn't really hit me till I stood on a viewing platform hanging over a valley in the Blue Mountains.

As I watched the land fall away below me, giving way to a valley of forest that stretched to the horizon, I could feel thousands of miles of silence sucking me in like a vacuum.

Part of Australia's beauty is also its problem. Its untamed, uninhabited interior contains rich pickings, but there are few who want to go and get them.

"We have a labour shortage in the areas we want them, in agriculture, mining, and other primary industries," Sydney University's professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems Salah Sukkarieh told me.

"Most of the population likes living along the coastline, along the beach," he says.

It is for this reason, he adds, that Australia is at the forefront of field robotics.

In a country where wages and living standards are high, there is a genuine need to put machines into jobs few humans want to do.

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