House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail

11:11 am

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | Hansard source

I'm pleased to rise to raise some issues in relation to space policy, and I note at the outset my regret that the Minister for Industry and Science is not with us. That's not really consistent with the government's stated commitment to accountability and transparency. He is, after all, the minister for industry. If he couldn't be here, he could, at the very least, have sent an avatar or a robot to represent him. He hasn't even bothered to do that. It's very—oh, he's here! That is very good news. I'm very pleased he's here. It could be an avatar or it could be the real minister.

The coalition has a proud record of achievement on space policy. We established the Australian Space Agency to kick off the industry. We launched the Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-28, outlining a plan to transform and grow the space sector over 10 years. Australia is in a global race to capture space opportunities, yet Labor seems to be dithering on this matter, which is putting at risk space industry momentum built under the previous coalition government, and that could mean that jobs and opportunities, as well as scientific benefits, will be lost to our international competitors. The coalition is particularly concerned for South Australian industry and jobs, given South Australia's and Adelaide's status as our space headquarters. South Australia hosts the Australian Space Agency and has attracted significant investment under the coalition government to develop our space capability and create jobs. When I visited Lot 14 recently—an initiative of the former Marshall Liberal government in South Australia—I was interested to meet with businesses operating in the space sector, but there is some uncertainty as to whether the present government is committed to space policy.

To that end, I would like to ask the minister a number of questions: What is happening with the moon to Mars grant, given that NASA has promised to send an Australian rover to the moon? According to the Australian Space Agency, these grants were assessed prior to the election, and are awaiting review by the minister, so when does the minister expect to be able to sign off on these grants? In the period between the then Morrison government announcing the funding from the National Space Mission for Earth Observation program in March 2022, and the election being held in May 2022, what actions were taken by the department or by the agency to ready itself for this program?

At the March 2022 budget, brought down by the previous Morrison government, we committed $1.16 billion through to 2038-39 and $38.5 million per annum ongoing for the first phase of this program. My questions to the minister are: What is happening in relation to this funding? Does Labor stand by it? Will it be delivered? When does the minister expect the space strategic update to be delivered to government? What consultation with the domestic space industry has occurred as part of the update? When does the minister believe the update will be available publicly? How is consultation with the space industry is going? How much engagement has there been with stakeholders? I'd also like to ask the minister: why is it that there was no representative of the space industry present at the so-called Jobs and Skills Summit, despite the sector employing more than 10,000 workers and having significant potential to employ more?

I would also like to ask the minister some questions about the Albanese government's $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund. We are told that it will take two years before even the design of this fund is released. I note that Professor Shine from the Australian Academy of Science said:

… this budget falls short of the vision needed to put Australia on a strong footing in an uncertain future.

In relation to the National Reconstruction Fund, how is the National Reconstruction Fund proceeding? At a conference last week, I'm advised, he stated that the government hoped to have the legislation ready before the end of the parliamentary sittings this year. So I seek a progress update. Can we expect to see the legislation in relation to the National Reconstruction Fund introduced in the parliament before the end of the year? Are there any further details as to how the funding is going to be allocated? What will be the relationship between fundamental scientific research and commercialisation activities? And how will the National Reconstruction Fund support activities in science in Australia?


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