WILL MAL’S SPACE ODYSSEY START WITH A PORK BARREL?

Labor welcomes the revelations – via a unsourced leak to the ABC – that the Government will act to set up and fund an Australian Space Agency in next week’s budget, to be led by former CSIRO Chief Executive Officer, Megan Clark.

However, Labor is concerned that the Liberals will use the establishment of a space agency as an excuse to engage in marginal seat pork barrelling.

Reports that states will be asked to compete to host the agency are deeply troubling. It reeks of an announcement that has been driven by electoral calculation rather than the national interest.

The development of an Australian space industry is a national endeavour.  It requires the active participation of companies, universities, workers and scientists across the nation.

Any suggestion that one state should take the lead over another could sabotage the agency at its birth.

Failure to get this right will mean that Australia will continue to miss out on the opportunities from the space economy.

Last September the Government made a detail-free announcement that it would establish an Australian Space Agency. Since then we have had complete radio silence.  This silence was just further evidence that the September announcement was a rushed decision designed to match Labor’s policy to establish an Australian Space Science and Industry Agency.

A special review, chaired by Megan Clark, was asked to report on the scope and charter for a new space agency. The report from the Clarke Review was handed to the Government at the end of March.

Yet now, on the eve of the Federal Budget, the Government is still sitting on the report, refusing to release it – nor add any detail to the September 2017 announcement other than by leaks to the ABC.

By contrast, Labor has made our position clear.  An Australian space agency must be a national endeavour, with state based nodes as required.

A Shorten Labor Government will invest over $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 co-ordinate the activities of state governments, scientists, industry and universities to boost the opportunities the global space industry offers.
  • A Space Industry Innovation Council – to serve as an advisory board for the agency, develop an industry wide agenda, and build international confidence.
  • A Space Industry Supplier Advocate – opening up opportunities for space industry companies, attracting investment and jobs.
  • An Australian Space Industry Program will consist of:
    • Four Australian Research Council (ARC)  Space Industry Research Hubs, to advance capabilities in emerging areas of industry-focused space research and technology;
    • Two ARC Space Industry Training Centres working with Industry in offering 25 industrial PhDs.
    • A Shorten Labor Government will also prioritise the establishment of a Co-operative Research Centre in advanced manufacturing and space technology in future funding rounds.

Australia is one of only two OECD nations without its own dedicated space agency, and cannot afford to be left behind.

  


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