Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7795


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (18:02): It's often said that we live in a global economy, where every country is affected by what happens in another. Indeed, global trading of goods and services has become the norm. Computer technology has made the world a much smaller place in terms of how easily the world's people interact. In a competitive world, it is smart for nations to focus on their strengths. For Australia, the space industry sector opens up considerable natural advantages which will not only drive economic opportunities but, even more importantly, drive research and innovation which will then have community-wide benefits.

The purpose of the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 is to ensure safe industry participation and encourage investment and innovation in the space sector. In particular, the bill broadens the regulatory framework to include arrangements for launches from aircraft in flight and launches of high-power rockets. The bill reduces barriers to participation in the space industry by streamlining approval processes and insurance requirements for launches and returns.

This legislation comes at a time that discussions are underway about the location of the head office of the national space agency. It's currently located in the ACT. It is a matter that should be resolved sooner rather than later because, regardless of where the office is located, a national industry sector is important for the nation's future. Space industry research, development and innovation will become increasingly important and Australia cannot afford to be left behind. Indeed, Australia already has an impressive record of contribution to the space industry, and it makes some sense to build on that expertise and experience—expertise and experience that spreads across institutions, universities and government entities throughout the country. Of course that's why each state and territory is laying claim to the national space agency headquarters. The government should get on with making a decision and stop playing the states and territories against each other, as it is currently doing.

I do, however, note that the government has committed $41 million in this year's budget towards a national space agency headquarters. I also note that the headquarters are currently located on a temporary basis here in Canberra. The importance is for a national commitment to a national space agency because, regardless of where the headquarters are located, each state and territory can contribute to the work of that agency. Many different agencies across Australia are already contributing towards the space agency work in other countries and they are doing that very, very well. So there is nothing precluding those with expertise and experience here in this country from contributing to a national program. Indeed, not only is it happening, but if we don't establish a national program, what is likely to happen is that we will lose some of our best scientists from this country, who will undoubtedly move overseas to find the work that they have a passion for.

I notice, in that respect, that the South Australian government has already made considerable inroads towards establishing a space industry in that state. As I understand it, right now, right across Australia, we have a similar sort of contest being waged between Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and even the Northern Territory. The truth of the matter is that whilst a lot of work is being done, Australia's involvement and expertise in space goes right back, particularly in South Australia, to 1947, when the Woomera rocket range was established in that state in conjunction with the British government. Since then, I understand that some 4,000 rockets have been launched from that range. Not only have some 4,000 rockets been launched from that range—rockets and missiles, I should make clear—it continues to be a location that has a future ahead of it if this country makes the investments it needs to in order to support a space industry.

I also note that in 2016 the South Australian Labor government released the Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, which is an action plan for the years 2016 to 2020. It was the first space strategy of any Australian jurisdiction. In 2017 the South Australian government created the South Australian Space Industry Centre to support growing space ecosystems in that state. The South Australian Space Industry Centre is now well positioned to drive space industry innovation, research and entrepreneurial development. It is already home to some 60 space-related organisations.

So I make the point that South Australia alone has, for the past 70 years, made a significant contribution towards space industry development and research in Australia and across the world. I note that the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia have all made substantial commitments towards space programs within the universities. Indeed, several years ago I attended the University of South Australia, which took part in the launch of a rocket from Japan. We had a direct telecast of the launch because the university and the Defence Signals Directorate, as I think it was call at that time, had made a contribution towards the design of that rocket. So we were given the privilege of watching it take off. Again, that just shows the capacity that already exists.

Regardless of where the headquarters are—and of course I would welcome the headquarters being in South Australia if that's where the government finally chooses to locate them—I simply stress the point that every state and every entity that already makes a contribution towards the space industry in this country can continue to do so. In South Australia, more recently, a nanosatellite tracking station was established at Pinkerton Plains, which is about 70 miles north of Adelaide. It was established by Fleet Space Technologies. The first of two nanosatellites are set to be launched in October this year. One will be onboard a rocket that leaves from India and another on a rocket that leaves from California in the USA. Again, this shows how an agency in South Australia can contribute towards the work that is happening in two separate countries on the other side of the world.

Also last month, the Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr Christyl Johnson, said she's in the process of establishing a working agreement between NASA and South Australia for an internship program between the two countries. Under the program, undergraduate scientists and some undergraduate engineering students will be able to work at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for about a year. Again, it's another great example of how collaboration and cooperation can continue regardless of where a facility is.

The truth of the matter is also this: our investment in the space industry in this country has huge flow-on effects for the country not only with respect to the direct work of the space industry more broadly, which the member for Corio quite properly pointed out the importance of, but also there are two aspects to an investment in the space industry that are absolutely critical. One is that the futures of economies of the world are reliant very largely on their space programs. That is the future economic driver for the globe, so it's important that every country gets in on it and gets in on it early, particularly Australia as we already have a great deal of expertise in that industry. We shouldn't waste that expertise; we should in fact be one of the countries leading the work that is being done around the world. The second is that, as we have seen from all other programs in the past, space industry research and development leads to breakthroughs of products that are then used very widely throughout society, so the benefits spread not only to the space sector but to every other walk of life once the development has been commercialised and made publicly available to everybody else.

In wrapping up my comments, the annual revenue of the space industry sector in Australia is estimated to be somewhere already between $3 billion and $4 billion, and the sector employs somewhere between 9½ thousand and 11½ thousand full-time-equivalent people. Already it is a major economic contributor. Already we have the base for a major national space agency program in this country, and we should be building on it. I do note, however, that clause 2 of the explanatory memorandum to the bill with respect to the commencement says:

The Bill will commence on either the day of proclamation, or 12 months from the date of Royal Assent. The delay in commencement is to provide time for the subordinate legislation to be drafted thereby aligning commencement of the full regulatory package.

I understand that there are to be regulations in respect of this legislation and they will follow. And I accept that time is required for those regulations to be drafted. However, it does concern me that we are talking about a bill today the effects of which may not come into force until 12 months or later. It seems to me that we have an important issue before us. The government, to its credit, has committed $41 million. Labor has said that it will commit even more than that—some $51 million—and do a number of other things to address the development of a national space agency. Yet we have legislation before us that appears to be delaying the implementation of the very legislation that we are debating today.

I will say two things to the government. Firstly, stop the bidding war between the states and territories as to where the headquarters of the national space agency ought to go. Get on and make a decision about that. That will provide certainty to each of the interested parties in the bidding war that is going on. Secondly, let's get on with implementing whatever legislation is required to build on the work already done and the opportunities ahead of us that are presented by the space industry here in Australia.