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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2179


Senator VIGOR(3.43) —I rise to support Senator Puplick regarding this matter. I believe it is extremely important for us to develop an indigenous Australian space industry. I was very pleased to note that page 11 of the report which was prepared by Aussat Pty Ltd states that Aussat will progressively award $120m in contracts to Australian industry as a direct result of the satellite program.

However, one of the things that comes out of the report is that the whole satellite program is directed at communication. While I applaud the Homestead and Community Broadcasting Satellite Service, HACBSS, and the use of the satellite for improving our overall communications in a country as broad as Australia, I also believe we should be planning now, because we have a seven-year term in which to do it, for the next satellite to carry a much greater component of scientific and technological equipment within it.

The opportunities that are being lost in this area are enormous, particularly in the meteorology and oceanography areas. Currently, the satellite has been managed basically through the Department of Communications and, as far as I can see, very little communication has actually been taking place with other departments. The Department of Science and the Department of Resources and Energy might well co-operate to put into the satellite instruments of practical use to the Australian community.

I wish to speak particularly about satellite oceanographic measuring equipment, which measures the temperature of the oceans and the amount of chlorophyll in the oceans, and from which we can develop a pretty good picture of forward weather patterns over Australia. Currently we do not have sufficient weather stations around Australia to get a good picture of what is happening. With the use of the satellite it would be possible to obtain this information, either directly through our own satellites or by the use of the satellites that are being launched by other countries. As this is a very expensive industry, I recommend that we look at the prospect of co-operating with the European Economic Community and Canada in their program of world meteorological monitoring by satellite. I bring this to the notice of the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button), who I believe would be able to get a reasonable amount of kudos if he could initiate talks with the people who are organising this program.

Currently we are tapping into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites, the oceanographic satellites, with university-built and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation-built dishes, and are doing some work which is extremely exciting in world-wide terms. If this work and work on the properties of the atmosphere can be extended and we can use polar orbiting satellites we should be able to look at the whole configuration over the Southern Ocean from where most weather patterns affecting the settled areas of Australia develop, and communicate this directly, including using satellite information from our Antarctic bases. I recommend that Aussat, which seems to be a company that has the expertise, look at moving into this area of installing scientific and technological instruments within Australian or foreign satellites.

Question resolved in the affirmative.