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Budget 2018: Transcript of press conference: Woodside, Perth: 14 May 2018: launch of Australia's first space agency; Liberal Party pre-selections

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DATE: 14 May 2018


SUBJECT: Launch of Australia’s first space agency, Liberal Party pre-selections.

MINISTER CASH: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is absolutely fantastic to be here today at Woodside in Perth with Dr Megan Clark to formally announce the creation of Australia’s first space agency. This is a really exciting day for Australians. The global space industry is worth approximately US$345 billion. Currently, Australia has around 0.8 per cent of that. So in terms of Australia’s ability to get even more of that space market, the opportunities are almost endless. In Australia today we generate approximately $3 to $4 billion a year via our domestic space industry. The Expert Reference Group has estimated we could increase that to around $12 billion a year by 2030. Why? Because this is, quite literally, the creation of a new industry in Australia and when you create a new industry you give businesses opportunities they currently do not have. Businesses are then able to prosper and grow, and as we know, create more jobs. The Australian domestic space industry currently employs around 10,000 people. Again, our Expert Reference Group has estimated that by 2030 we have the capacity to increase that to around 20,000 high-paying, additional jobs in Australia. So this is a very, very exciting announcement.

Can I also say the Government is absolutely delighted to announce that Dr Megan Clark has accepted to head our agency for the first 12 months? Congratulations, Megan, sensational to have you on board. Dr Clark, as we know, as a former head of CSIRO is one of our most respected scientists in Australia and works incredibly well with both academia and researchers and industry. In the first six months, Dr Clark will be based in Canberra. However, she will be collaboratively working with the states and territories, with academia, with researchers and with industry and will advise government by the end of this year of the most strategic location to hold Australia’s space agency. I have been absolutely delighted and I think, Megan, you have as well, with the level of interest that has been shown by our states, by industry, by researchers and by academia. And now it’s time for us to go out and talk to them about why they are the most strategic place to locate the Australian space agency.

Of course, we are here at Woodside today and behind us, you have one of NASA’s robonauts. Why are we here? Because Woodside is utilising space technology, for example, to get rid of the dirty, dull and dangerous in automated mining and to create, quite literally, more jobs. A few years ago the floor that we’re on at Woodside didn’t exist. But because of the demand for space-related technologies, Woodside has been able to add on a whole new workforce specifically designated to this type of work. So again, the opportunities - for Australia and for Australians - are there, and I’m delighted that we are able to formally launch today Australia’s first Australian Space Agency. The Expert Reference Group, shared of course by Dr Clark, has formally provided us with their report and the Government is today releasing that report and our response


to it, and anybody who would like to have a look at the report and have a look at the Government’s response can go to But a great day today for Australians: the creation of a new industry, the creation of potentially up to 20,000 high-paying jobs out to 2030. I would now like to ask Dr Clark to say a few words and again, congratulations Dr Clark.

MEGAN CLARK: Thank you very much, Minister, and it’s really welcome to see the investment by the Government in space. So $300 million package, $41 million of that to really kick-start the space agency and let us get out there and start opening doors for our new industry.

The purpose of the agency, as the Minister has outlined, is extremely key. We might be late to this party but we are crystal clear that we’re here to grow the Australian space industry. We’ve got great potential entrepreneurship, that real Aussie spirit. We’ve got a lot to offer. We’ll do that through international partnerships and engaging nationally with the states and territories, and we hope to inspire Australians with what Australia really can do. We hope to improve the lives of all Australians. So thank you Minister and thank you to the Government for what has been a great support. Not only did the Government provide the seed funding for the agency, but also provided funding for two really important areas. One, we were behind the ball in how we located ourselves in Australia; our GPS was five metres in accuracy, that was behind where the rest of the world was. This Budget provides us across all of our territory - land territory - all of our oceans and in our skies to be world-class in one go, to 10 centimetre accuracy. We have never had that, and then in our cities to three centimetre accuracy. That’s a platform for the entire economy and that’s what the space really can do is provide, no, underpin the infrastructure for our whole economy. So I look forward, Minister, to working for you and to doing the best job we absolutely can.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Indistinct] to inspire this nation.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: This is a very exciting time. Any questions?

QUESTION: What are the agency’s priorities? For instance are space missions among the agency’s priorities? You want to see Australians in space?

MEGAN CLARK: We’ve got to reach for the stars, but certainly the focus here is we need to get out and open those doors that industry can walk through. This was a key message in the review. We said look, we can do all the things we do, and you have seen what Woodside is doing, but what we cannot do is open those doors with space agencies, with governments around the world. That has to be, certainly, an important priority. Secondly, if we’re going to grow the space industry we need to connect on the ground with our states and territories, with industry, and as the Minister has outlined, she’s charged me with very quickly going to the states and territories and seeing how they put their best foot forward so that we can really get going. So there are a couple of priorities, we certainly will review, outline some strategic priorities, and I am pleased to see that the response of the Government has endorsed the support of those strategic priorities for the nation.

MINISTER CASH: And certainly, in terms of space, the Government becomes the enabler because, as Dr Clark was saying, without the backing of the Australian Government, our industry is not able to participate in the international mission so; quite literally, Dr Clark will be looking globally as to where the


opportunities are. For where Australia can actually partner with other agreements that are already there to ensure that the door is opened and Australian industry can walk through it.

QUESTION: Do you think WA’s mid-west would be a front-runner for the agency’s base considering the MRO’s out there and the [indistinct]?

MEGAN CLARK: Well, WA has some wonderful attributes. First of all, it has the most ground-stations, the connections between space [indistinct] are there. Secondly, West Australia leads the world in remote acts of management. We’ve seen that with Woodside, in mining. And when I say lead the world, I mean really leads the world in how we manage assets remotely. Of course, when you’re up floating in space, you’re managing assets remotely. So it’s not just what we have to learn from space on Earth, it’s about what we do on Earth working in space. This is a completely natural partnership with one of our six strategic priorities. We also have in West Australia the Square Kilometre Array project, a major international project and other infrastructures that [indistinct] selection. So each state and territory has it own advantages and has the connections that we would certainly like to begin those conversations. Now that the Minister has the agency off, we can start having those conversations. So tell us what we can do. I actually already know from the enthusiasm it’s already beyond the thinking that we had. I’m actually pretty excited.

MINISTER CASH: I think we’re all excited, in particular, the level of interest shown by the states. New South Wales today put their hand up. Western Australia has already put their hand up. South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT. I am sure that Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria will be issuing statements shortly. But again what that says to me is it is the right time to create the Australian Space Agency. We already do an incredible amount of work domestically. It is worth a lot of money and we already employ 10,000 people. But to actually now to have a coordinated body across Australia, but more than that, the ability for government to open those international doors really does mean that, yes we are the best when it comes to automated mining, yes we are streaks ahead when it comes to precision agriculture, but there are just so many more opportunities for us in this space, to coin a phrase. And certainly, that is what Dr Clark has literally been charged to go out and find.

QUESTION: What’s the timeframe on that? When do you expect a decision on where [indistinct]?

MINISTER CASH: We’ve given Dr Clark six months, so by the end of this year we’d like to make an announcement.

QUESTION: So just to be clear, we are not talking about Australians building spaceships just yet, or?

MEGAN CLARK: Well, Australia’s already putting spacecraft into space. In the next few months, we’ll have another three go up, so this is really is about getting up there and getting our equipment, getting Aussie know-how, but not just on our own, we can partner with other countries here to say what’s the best thing that Australia does and make sure that equipment is on missions. I would not think we are limited in our future at all because often [indistinct] inspiring for us to that creativity, entrepreneurship, and really do some cool things.



And I think, Dr Clark, I just want to expand on that. It’s not about creating another NASA. NASA is already there, NASA has a role. This is about what Australia does best, and capitalising on what Australia does best.

QUESTION: So where’s the money that’s going to fund it, where’s that going to come from and what exactly is that?

MINISTER CASH: So it is a $300 million package, $260 million is the investment in the satellite positioning as Dr Clark has said - and across Australia, the feedback I’ve had in relation to this has just been amazing. Basically, it is improving that GPS accuracy - currently, anywhere up to about five metres - quite literally anywhere on air, sea, or land 10 centimetres and within a mobile coverage range of three centimetres. We will quite literally become a world leader.

Then $41 million of that goes towards the creation of the space agency, including $15 million in terms of seed funding for Dr Clark to identify opportunities to participate in the global market.

Dr Clark will also be working with the states to put together a strategic funding agreement for us so we can properly identify where investment needs to go; and that is investment from the states, it is investment from research and academia, and it is investment from industry.

QUESTION: What sort of industries are going to benefit? When we talk space agencies, we all think rockets, don’t we? What sort of industries are going to benefit from this and what jobs?

MEGAN CLARK: Space actually underpins most of our economy. But first of all, all the future of communication will go through space. For an island - a large island, with a large maritime border - that is extremely important to us.

Secondly, in terms of using the data from space, so if you think about how the agency is going to look down, that is all of the precision agriculture.

So the budget also provided funding for 30 years of satellite data that Geoscience Australia has with their Digital Earth platform, and to be to make that platform available commercially and have applications derived off that. And also, to have data that we will be able to see maybe four or five times a day which means you can monitor all sorts of things. There is so many different applications, so we have the position, we have communications, and we also have how we input data. This underpins- this is all part of our economy but we can’t think about. We had a session in Darwin where we actually sat down with the team and tried to imagine a day without space and you would not be able to use your apps, you would not be able to use your GPS, you would all get lost and never make your meetings, and it was amazing the things that are underpinned. So there is tremendous opportunity with the government has really contributed a significant amount and Geoscience Australia, thank you, for the positioning and the [indistinct]. This really addresses two of the six [indistinct] priorities identified through the review, so it’s a fantastic starting point.

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]



Well, we have talked to [indistinct] agency can help [indistinct]. So we’re looking for [indistinct]. I think being in [indistinct] supporting Australians for new jobs and women supporting that, which means internships, in terms of the apprenticeships that [indistinct] which will be digital apprenticeships. So I think that’s not just industry looking after itself but contributing to lifting Australia and the space agency [indistinct].

QUESTION: Has this announcement come a little too late? Even Indonesia has had a space agency for four decades.

MEGAN CLARK: Yes, we are as I mentioned a little late to this party, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing because space is undergoing a transformation and moving from essentially being government funded to being in the commercial realm, so this is a great time for this agency to establish itself with the clear purpose of our ministry. Our agency, whilst we are not the first one, we will be the most industry-focused agency in the world, and that is because of [indistinct].

So yes, we are late to the party but it was- it had a good opening so I am really pleased with that. We have all of the capacity together with our partners to take a position globally, so we are ready to do that.

QUESTION: I know you told me about WA’s potential to home the agency. What state would you like to see house it?

MEGAN CLARK: Well, one of the first things the Minister has tasked me with is to have the discussions with the states and territories and their industry base to find out what they want to do, and I want to listen to them. We will be doing that and I think the next Monday I am off …

MINISTER CASH: [Talks over] That’s exactly right.

MEGAN CLARK: … and we want to, first of all, do those discussions and hear what they want to put forward and then we will go from there. So, again, we’re out there listening to the voice of the nation and we want to listen to what the states and territories have to say.

QUESTION: Speaking of, New South Wales government is bidding for you to be based in the so-called ‘aerotropolis’ planned for Badgerys Creek, Sydney’s second airport. However, they admit it will not be finished for years. Are there a chance?

MEGAN CLARK: Look, I think today if I gave, any of that without listening to everyone it would not be the right thing to do. But let’s just see how the states and territories put their best foot forward and go from there.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely, and I think, you know, again what it shows is we are just absolutely delighted - both Dr Clark and I, the Prime Minister - at the interest, the positive enthusiasm that has been shown by the states and the territories, by industry, by research, by academia. Everybody understands the opportunities here. They are new opportunities to create quite literally a globally competitive


industry in Australia. That is why we are going to give everybody the opportunity across Australia to say to Megan why they are strategically placed to host the space agency.

QUESTION: Minister, 300 mil, it’s a lot of money but, look, is it enough money? It’s a bit of a drop in the ocean when we’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, this industry. Is it enough to get this off the ground?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely, yes it is. As I said, it’s a huge investment in better GPs satellite positioning, Geoscience Australia $260 million to quite literally become a world leader in terms of GPS. In terms of the space agency, yes. This is to kick-start the space agency, and the discussions that Dr Clark will be having with the states, with the territories, with industry and academia, is the types of partnerships, including financial partnerships, that can now be undertaken by all of us. So again by the end of this year Dr Clark will provide us with a strategic investment plan so we know exactly where our investment is going to go.


QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

MINISTER CASH: Look, we have been in office for five years. A lot of work has been done to get us to this stage. We obviously have the Expert Reference Group. The Expert Reference Group provided its report. I am delighted that Prime Minister Turnbull, the Cabinet and the Liberal National Party, we embrace the opportunity to create a new industry in Australia. In particular in my role as the Minister for Jobs and innovation, it is also about creating jobs, inspiring new industries, inspiring people who are already here to do more, and that is exactly what we are doing. Today quite literally marked the creation of what will be a new globally competitive industry in Australia. We are now putting our hand up to say that US$345 billion; we want even more of a share of that. We are already the best of the best in automated mining and precision agriculture. There is so much more though that we can do, and it’s the Turnbull Government that is creating the new industry; is going to ensure that we do have a much larger slice of that global industry but more than that is creating quite literally the jobs of the future. As I said, the Expert Reference Group estimates up to 20,000 new jobs by 2030. That’s pretty exciting. Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: Can I just ask a question on another topic, just on Jane Prentice? Should the Prime Minister intervene to overturn the [indistinct] pre-selection?

MINISTER CASH: Well, as you would know, the Liberal Party is actually made up of state and territory based parties. Each state and territory operates within reason autonomously, so this is very much a decision for the Liberal National Party in Queensland.

QUESTION: So the Prime Minister should not intervene?

MINISTER CASH: Very much this is a decision for the Liberal National Party in Queensland, as a decision for any other state body.


QUESTION: Are you disappointed as a female in the Coalition that it doesn’t seem another female is being supported by the party?

MINISTER CASH: This is a decision made by the LNP, so I won’t comment on that particular decision. Do we need more women? Absolutely. I have always said we need more women in politics in general. Certainly when I was the Minister for Women, they are the types of policies that we put in place and in particular women on government boards, something I am so proud of by this government: a fifty-fifty split. Not forty-forty-twenty, fifty-fifty. Under the Turnbull Government, the number of women on boards is the highest it’s ever been since we started collecting that information.

QUESTION: [Indistinct] Save Jane campaign that’s popping up in the Coalition. Is that something that you would support publicly?

MINISTER CASH: Again, I am big believer it is up to individual states and territories. I am but a member of the LNP in Queensland. I am member of the Liberal Party in Western Australia.

QUESTION: Just back on space topic, if you like. You claim government pitched us an idea for a space-port in the Kimberley. Have you heard anything about that? Do you know how discussions are going?

MINISTER CASH: I have not yet been briefed on that, but again this is the opportunities that I now open up to Dr Clark to internationally understand where the opportunities are, what we can further do in Australia, and that is exactly what Dr Clark will now be pursuing.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister’s had a bounce in Newspoll. Is he turning things around?

MINISTER CASH: Look, we brought down what I thought was a very, very responsible Budget and it has been received incredibly well. It well and truly sets out a plan for a much stronger economy. As I said, as the Minister for Jobs and Innovation, what do I focus on: ensuring that we put in place the right policies so that our businesses can prosper and grow, because when our businesses prosper and grow, the economy creates more jobs. 2017, record job creation in Australia, largest number of jobs ever created, in excess of 400,000. Three-quarters of those jobs were full time jobs. In the last twelve months of the former Labor Government, the economy actually shed 17,500 full time jobs. So when I’m out there talking to people - and I was out with Ken Wyatt this morning, I’ll be heading out with Steve Irons this afternoon, and I head to South Australia tonight - what people want from this government is a strong economy, because they understand a strong economy means that businesses prosper and grow. When businesses prosper and grow, we create jobs. The fact that we’re standing here today at Woodside in a section that was not in existence twelve months ago, eighteen months ago, but because of their ability now to work within the domestic space market via NASA. How amazing that this whole floor is made up of new people? On that note everybody, thank you very much. I’ll let the people of Woodside get back to work.


Media contact: Rachelle Miller 0475 804 886