Labor welcomes today’s announcement of Dr Megan Clark AC as the inaugural head of the Australian Space Agency.

Dr Clark was a passionate and effective Chief Executive Officer of the CSIRO between 2009 and 2014.

In that role Dr Clark stood firm as a defender of CSIRO and continued to inspire staff at a time when science too often came under attack from people who should have known better. 

The announcement of Dr Clark as Agency Head, along with the Turnbull Government’s response to the Review of Australia’s Space Industry Capability, highlights the challenges that face the Agency even before it has begun.

Today’s response and last week’s budget provides barely half of the funding for the agency which was leaked in the weeks before the budget as being in the order of $50 million.  

The Government’s response also fails to give the Agency the certainty it needs by not enshrining its work, structure and objectives in legislation.

Labor is concerned that the Liberals will use the establishment of a space agency as an excuse to engage in marginal seat pork barrelling, pitting states against each other as possible hosts, rather than seeking their collaboration in 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.  

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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