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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7777


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (16:43): I rise to speak on the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018. Labor supports this bill, which has been introduced on the back of a government review of the Space Activities Act 1998 which was concluded in November 2016. The Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 aims to modernise our laws pertaining to commercial and scientific space activities.

The space activities this bill aims to modernise are launches from Australian territories, Australian launches from overseas jurisdictions, launches of Australian owned payloads, usually satellites, returns of vehicles from outer space, and for the first time launches of rockets from aircraft or launches of high-powered rockets.

It is important we modernise the act in order to capture some of the global expenditure in the space industry, which is growing at nearly 10 per cent per annum. From their research report on 13 November 2017:

Morgan Stanley estimates that the revenue generated by the global space industry will increase to $1.1 trillion or more in 2040, up from $350 billion in 2016.

Modern nation-states like Australia are more dependent on space derived services and data than we may think. In their white paper released on March 2017, the Space Industry Association of Australia note that:

For over 60 years space has played an important role in national affairs and our international relations. The Australian economy and the lives of every day Australians are underpinned by space-based technologies. Space derived data and services provided by a combination of government and privately owned systems have increasingly become embedded into the fabric of modern life providing the communications, geolocation and timing services upon which millions of individuals and businesses rely each day. These data and services are parts of the critical infrastructure which enables our modern society to function. They include satellite positioning and communication services, as well as satellite earth-observation and astronomy capabilities.

They go on to point out that:

Without space technologies:

Our ability to forecast weather and extreme weather events is immediately compromised, reducing the capacity to respond to emergencies such as bushfires and floods

Satellite communications, including Foxtel, Imparja, the National Broadband Network and general telephony, would be significantly affected, leaving Australia reliant on a very small number of undersea cables for connection to the outside world

Smartphones would not be smart anymore, with Google Maps, Uber and any other GPS based apps immediately useless

Telecommunications, critical in providing health and education support in remote communities would suffer

Farmers would no longer be able to use precision agriculture and the supply and delivery of food could no longer be co-ordinated through space-based navigation

Mining companies would lose a valuable exploration method

Air traffic would be disrupted

Financial transactions which rely on GPS satellites would slowly degrade and

Defence would lose satellite communications, intelligence satellites and GPS, critically affecting their ability to protect and defend Australia and its borders.

They're all important functions that the association pointed out regarding Australia's activities in space.

It can be easy to overlook the space technology involved when it encompasses our day-to-day activities. It is also hard to comprehend how our lives will be improved in the future with the advancements in space technology. That is what is at the heart of this bill. It aims to reduce barriers to the participation in the space industry by streamlining approval processes and insurance requirements for launches and returns. It provides that the insurance required for each authorised launch or return will be specified in subordinate legislation, the rules, noting that the amount will not exceed $100 million. This represents a significant reduction from the former requirement of the act of an amount no less than $750 million or maximum probable loss and is consistent with comparable requirements in other nations. Stakeholders have long pointed to the current legislative rules as being an impediment to both the development of launch facilities in Australia and greater participation in the emerging commercial space sector by Australian industry.

That being said, stakeholders were seeking a broader rewrite to this legislation than has been brought forward by the government. Melissa de Zwart, who is a professor at the Adelaide Law School at the University of Adelaide and a member of the advisory council of the Space Industry Association of Australia stated in her opinion piece published in The Conversation and many other news outlets on 12 June 2018:

More than a year after the legislative proposal paper was released by the DIIS, the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 received its second reading in the House of Representatives on May 30, 2018, with little fanfare or coverage.

Despite the lengthy period of consultation and the initial statements that an entirely new act would be drafted, this is a revision of already existing legislation. It does little to inspire confidence in the government's approach to the Australian commercial space industry.

Professor de Zwart went on to say:

As noted above, the changes to the Act are dwarfed by the content that is merely left in place. Operators previously complained of an Act that is vague, difficult to navigate, and with prohibitive compliance costs.

Most of the changes embodied within the bill are merely in name only. A "Space Licence" becomes a "Facility Licence" with the only substantive reduction in pre-licence compliance being that the licence is no longer restricted to corporations.

The "Overseas Launch Licence" is renamed the "Overseas Payload Permit", but is not matched with any substantive changes. This would see an Australian who wishes to launch a rocket overseas need a payload permit to launch their rocket.

Further, and of significant concern to commercial operators considering whether they should base their operations in Australia or move offshore, is the requirement for all permits to "include a strategy for debris mitigation".

She then went on to say:

It is not clear what form this should take or how stringently this must comply, for example, with standards such as Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The professor's commentary on this bill is pretty devastating. It was a typical contribution by stakeholders who aired their concerns in a quite comprehensive way. They have been concerned with the government's half-baked attempt of just amending the Space Activities Act 1998, given the degree of review, the input from stakeholders and the length of time spent.

To touch on further comments from stakeholders, there are common themes within the feedback. The bill simply updates much of the terminology and most of the changes are in name only. Operators have previously complained of an act that is vague, is difficult to navigate and has prohibitive compliance costs. They've also noted that an earlier Department of Industry, Innovation and Science recommendation to completely replace the existing legislation rather than amending it has been rejected by the government, and that's why we've got this bill that largely amends an existing act. Of significant concern to commercial operators considering whether they should base their operations in Australia or move offshore is the requirement for a strategy on debris mitigation. It's really unclear from this act how closely applicants must apply to these new standards—in particular, its relationship with the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. So there are some questions for the government to answer in their interactions with industry post this bill passing the House.

The bill also fails to regulate Australian activities while in outer space, as required by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty. Finally, from the common themes in the stakeholders' feedback: the role of the new Australian Space Agency in administering this legislation is unclear. Due to the stakeholder feedback, the Senate referred the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report, which was presented on 13 August 2018, which is stunning efficiency for the other place. The one recommendation from the committee was that the bill be passed, and that was backed by Labor senators. The Labor senators recommended that the Senate support the bill, noting its deficiencies and the lack of clarification from the government in a number of areas.

As to my home state of South Australia: everybody will pitch for their home states, I suppose, in these activities. I do think space is a great national and international endeavour. But each state has its own proud history, and I do want to just touch on South Australia's contribution to our nation's progress in this area—in particular, the WRESAT, which is the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite. It was Australia's first satellite, developed in Salisbury in my electorate. It was launched at Woomera in South Australia on 29 November 1967. That made Australia the third country to design and launch a satellite—an incredible contribution, I think, to our national progress. My father had sold electronics into the WRE. Its successor, the DST Group, now occupies that site and continues that great tradition in South Australia, in making a contribution not just to our space industry but to our national defence. I think that is an important thing to acknowledge.

South Australia hopes to play its role in this national endeavour along with other states. It is important to note that both the Labor leader, Peter Malinauskas, and the Premier, Steven Marshall, are committed to South Australia playing a leading role in the advancement in the space sector, because they have both adopted, in their title and portfolio, industry responsibilities for the space industry. So Labor understands, at both a state and federal level, the immense opportunity that Australia has in taking giant leaps in the space industry in that area.

In government, Labor secured the hosting rights for the Square Kilometre Array, which is the biggest global astronomy project of this generation and a multibillion-dollar international investment in Australian based infrastructure. We recently announced our policy for a Shorten Labor government. That might be closer than anybody expects, given the events of this week, so it's important that we have policy out there in this area. We will invest $51 million in an Australian space industry plan, to promote the development of the Australian space industry, including establishing the Australian space science and industry agency, which will drive investment and coordinate the activities of state governments, scientists, industry and universities, to boost the opportunities that the global space industry offers.

We will establish a space industry innovation council, which will serve as an advisory board for the agency, develop an industry-wide agenda and allow us to build international confidence in our industry. We will establish a space industry supplier advocate, to open out the opportunities for space industry companies to attract investment and to attract jobs, to be part of that progress. We will have an Australian space industry program, and that will consist of four Australian Research Council space industry research hubs to advance capabilities in emerging areas of industry focused space research and technology. We will have two ARC space industry training centres working with industry in providing 25 industrial PhDs. A Shorten Labor government will also prioritise the establishment of a cooperative research centre in advanced manufacturing and space technology in future funding rounds. That is a plan that industry can have confidence in and that will advance the national interest and, of course, the interests of all those state governments which, understandably, have a great interest in the investment and the jobs that this can provide.

Australia is one of only two OECD nations without its own dedicated space agency. We can't afford to be left behind and that's why we're lending our support to this Australian space industry bill and to the industry more generally. We'll be supporting this bill. It sets out objectives to modernise and update domestic law covering commercial and scientific space activities. We hope that this will provide some certainty going forward. We just wish that the government had been more ambitious—that it would have taken notice of the feedback that was provided through the stakeholder process and been more ambitious for our great country in this area.