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
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9211

Space Activities

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:42): I believe there is a better way for Bennelong.

The PRESIDENT: Go to your question, please, Senator Bernardi.

Senator BERNARDI: My question is to the Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Cash. Today is the 50th anniversary of the first Australian satellite launch at Woomera in my home state of South Australia. In September, Adelaide hosted the 68th annual International Astronautical Congress. The South Australian and federal governments want to support a domestic space industry, including an Australian space agency, to tap into what you, Minister, said in September is a reputed $24 billion global industry. In October 2015, Minister Pyne, the former relevant minister, commissioned a review into Australia's satellite launching laws, appointing a Professor Steven Freeland to run the review. The review published a legislative proposal paper on 24 March this year. Given the government has stated the significant economic benefits to be gained from this sector, does the minister have absolute confidence that no conflicts of interest exist or existed in the review process?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:43): I thank Senator Bernardi for his question and a small amount of notice. Senator Bernardi, I have sought advice from the department and I can advise as follows. You are correct that this review was commissioned by the former minister, Minister Pyne. On 24 October 2015, the government announced a review of the Space Activities Act 1998. By way of background for senators, the act establishes a system for the regulation of space activities carried out either from Australia or by Australian nationals overseas. As the government is taking active steps—as Senator Bernardi has pointed out—to promote and develop the space industry in Australia, the review process was an important element of this work. Senator Bernardi also noted the involvement of Professor Steven Freeland, a pre-eminent figure in the field of space law. Senator Bernardi, I am also advised that this review was run by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, who engaged Professor Freeland as a consultant with expertise in the field. I am also advised that the department is rigorous in its processes when conducting such reviews. I am also advised—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Macdonald!

Senator CASH: that there was a review open to public submissions.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cash, please resume your seat. I can barely hear Senator Cash's answer, so I imagine that Senator Bernardi may be having trouble. Could we please have a little bit less noise so that we can hear Senator Cash's answer?

Senator CASH: I'm also advised that the review was open to public submissions, of which 69 were received, including submissions from the peak industry body; key aerospace and defence firms, including Airbus and, Lockheed Martin; universities, including the universities of Sydney, Queensland, Adelaide and New South Wales; and key users of satellite technology in the communications sector, including the Communications Alliance and Optus. The review was an example of collaboration between government, industry and academia that the coalition has championed in the industry, innovation— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Bernardi, a supplementary question?

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:45): Thank you, Minister, for that. One of the commercial submissions made to the legislative review was from the Optus satellite division, part of Singtel Optus, which you acknowledged in your response. Singtel Optus has donated a total six-digit sum to each of the major parties over the last five years. It owns 11 of the 17 Australian satellites registered with the UN and claims to be the only network provider with its own satellite fleet. Given Professor Freeland's involvement as a consultant in this review, is the minister still confident that there has been no conflict of interest in the legislative review? (Time expired)

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:46): As I noted in my previous answer, the review of the Space Activities Act, which received 69 submissions, was conducted as an open review process. Based on those 69 submissions, the department developed and released a legislative proposal, after which further submissions were invited in a second open process. Nine further submissions were received from key stakeholders. These key stakeholders did include Optus. As you, Senator Bernardi, have noted, Optus is one of Australia's largest satellite operators. On that basis, it would've been surprising if Optus had not contributed to this process.

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Bernardi?

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (14:46): Would it be surprising to you, minister, if the person appointed by the department to oversee the review, Professor Freeland, had been in a long-term relationship with a manager of Optus's satellite legal team, as reported by the ABC earlier this week? Will the minister commit to reviewing conflict of interest disclosures and the review itself to ensure it represents the best advice to advance Australia's commercial environment in this developing and competitive sector?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:47): Senator Bernardi, as I was stating: in September 2015, the department engaged the services of a consultant with expertise in international space law, the global space environment and the policy implications of options to amend existing legislation. Due to the highly specialised nature of the work and the need for independence and rigorous advice, the consultant was selected by direct tender. The preferred supplier was, as you have articulated, Steven Freeland. He is a professor of international law at Western Sydney University, and is an internationally renowned legal academic and consultant who has been involved in multiple international collaborations on space law. I am also advised by the department that the consultancy services contract included a confidential information clause whereby the supplier agreed not to disclose to any person other than the customer any confidential information relating to the contract without prior written approval. This was never sought from the department. (Time expired)