SA will create its own space agency if Feds don’t act

The Federal Government has promised a review which could lead to the establishment of a national space agency, but the State Government says it is moving too slowly and will set up its own agency later this year if Canberra doesn’t take speedier action.

Jul 13, 2017, updated Jul 13, 2017
An image of earth taken from NASA's Juno spacecraft on 9 October.

An image of earth taken from NASA's Juno spacecraft on 9 October.

As InDaily reported in April this year, federal Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos is considering whether Australia needs to do more to support the space industry, including the pros and cons of establishing a national space agency.

Today, he announced a review to develop a long-term plan to grow the sector, to be be chaired by former CSIRO chief Megan Clark. Part of the review’s remit will be to consider whether a national agency is needed.

The review will start later this month and is expected to wrap up by the end of March 2018, but that’s too slow for South Australian defence industries minister Martin Hamilton-Smith who has been pushing for a national agency with a related industry hub based in South Australia.

He said his urgency has been spurred by an impending international space conference to be hosted by Adelaide in September.

“Today’s announcement that a review would be commissioned to report in March next year suggests nothing will happen til after the 2018 Budget in late 2018,” he told InDaily.

“I just think it’s far too little, too late. We need something far more direct, more proactive and far more engaging before September.”

He said Australia risked “looking out of touch and behind the times” in late September when Adelaide will host the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

The event would train the spotlight of the world’s space industry on Adelaide, with about 4000 delegates expected to attend, including including researchers, astronauts, scientists, national space agencies and commercial enterprises.

“This could have been a platform for the Prime minister to demonstrate Australia’s embrace of cutting edge technologies on a world stage. Instead of being agile, we risk looking puerile.”

While the State Government will again raise the issue at the COAG Industry and Skills Council today, Hamilton-Smith says South Australia is ready to launch its own space body before September if the Federal Government has not taken a decision before then.

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“The SA Government intends for an industry node of the future space agency to be established in Adelaide and we will look to launch our own structure and organisation before September if the Commonwealth fails to act,” he said.

He said he would be taking a proposal to Cabinet on the form of the proposed new body which would be designed to dovetail into a national space agency, should it be established.

The Adelaide-based Space Industry Association released a white paper earlier this year calling for the establishment of a space agency.

It argues that Australia’s space industry accounts for less than one per cent of the global industry, which is worth more than US$323 billion.

The paper said that Australia’s space industry produces annual revenue of $3-4 billion and this could be doubled within five years, if the Federal Government established a national agency to guide the industry.

Federal defence industry minister, South Australian Christopher Pyne, welcomed the review announced by Sinodinos, saying the space industry played an important role in supporting the Australian Defence Force.

“This Government plans to invest around $200 billion in Defence capability over the next 10 years, of which space capabilities will be an important part. This will provide opportunities for industry growth and employment,” Pyne said.

InDaily has asked Sinodinos for his response to Hamilton-Smith’s criticism.

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