House debates

Monday, 26 October 2020

Private Members' Business

Australian Space Agency

12:36 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises the opportunities for Australian businesses, especially our advanced manufacturers, in the growing Australian space industry;

(2) acknowledges that the Government has:

(a) set a goal of tripling the size of the space sector to $12 billion by 2030;

(b) established the Australian Space Agency to drive the sector forward; and

(c) recently commenced groundworks on the new Space Discovery Centre at Lot 14 in Adelaide, which will engage and educate our next generation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics leaders; and

(3) welcomes the Government’s opening of Supply Chain Capability Improvement grants that will enable Australian businesses to become part of the international space supply chain and have a role in NASA’s Moon to Mars mission.

It was September 2017 that Adelaide had the great privilege to host the International Astronautical Congress, and that coincided with the announcement by the coalition government by Senator Birmingham that Australia would establish a space agency. This is not the beginning of a space industry in our great nation, but this is a milestone event to have a dedicated government that is focusing on what is not only a significant existing industry but one that is only going to be more and more exponentially larger as time goes on.

It was a little over 12 months later that the announcement of where that agency would be based was made by Prime Minister Morrison. I had the pleasure in a former career before coming to this place of being heavily involved with the South Australian government's campaign to secure the Space Agency headquarters, located at the Lot Fourteen precinct in my home city of Adelaide. This is part of the broader City Deal that was announced by the Commonwealth government in partnership with the state and local government for the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site. And the Australian Space Agency, in many ways, is the jewel in the crown of that precinct, and that's saying something because there are so many other extremely exciting things happening on that campus. But, certainly, the announcement by Prime Minister Morrison that the South Australian government bid, if you like, had been successful and the agency would be based in South Australia was a great day for Adelaide and the future opportunities for space in my home city. I hasten to add though that the opportunities for space exist well beyond Adelaide, right across this great nation of ours, because the Space Agency frankly is an important government entity to regulate and encourage the development of the industry itself but it will be the industry that really provides the major economic dividend for our country into the future. There is not just the agency based at the Lot Fourteen precinct but also the Mission Control Centre and the Space Discovery Centre, which are both funded out of the $6 million allocated towards South Australia as part of a broader $20 million Commonwealth fund for space industry infrastructure. We're very grateful to have those two entities co-located with the Space Agency.

We also were successful, through a consortium led by the University of South Australia, to secure the SmartSat CRC, which is to be based in Adelaide as well. So Adelaide is the home of space, and space is the future. Of course some of the elements of space are fairly obvious to us, but others are not. In fact, it's the more traditional industries that I think will have the most significant productivity gains through space industry development, particularly in mining and agriculture frankly, two industries that have been significant in South Australia and Australia since European settlement. They have the biggest opportunities for productivity gain through a mature industry that's developing solutions to the challenges that they have into the future.

We have a strong, proud history in space development in this country. We know about the industry's association with things like the Apollo program many decades ago. It's estimated there are nearly 400 space related businesses already operating in our economy and they employ nearly 10,000 people. It's the government's ambition that, by 2030, we should be able to triple the size of the industry right across the nation. That's not just through landing someone on the moon, although we're very proud that we are investing in being part of NASA's ambitious project to explore Mars and potentially have humankind land on Mars in the future. We've announced some investment towards that, and that investment will be spent here in Australia, in assisting with the capability required for that mission. We've got a great partnership with NASA. We've also got an excellent partnership with the European Space Agency. Again, all the money that we're investing with the European Space Agency is being spent in-country, here in Australia. They are excellent partnerships that go to Europe, North America and also throughout the Asian region. We have excellent partnerships with companies in Japan and South Korea, and the list goes on. It's very exciting for the future. It's a real milestone legacy of the term of this coalition government that we've established the Space Agency, we're backing the space industry, we want to be ambitious for that sector and we want to triple it by 2030. We've got a great foundation in place led by excellent entrepreneurial companies. I'm very excited about the future and what it's going to do for my city, state and this nation.

12:41 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in support of the motion by the member for Sturt. As a South Australian like the member for Sturt, I am particularly and especially proud to do so, because South Australia, and in particular Adelaide, has become the hub, as we just heard, of the Australian space sector. It's fitting for South Australia to play this role given that much of the history of Australia's space journey was centred in South Australia, in my state. It dates back to 1947, when the Woomera rocket range was established. This was the largest land-testing range in the world. But it wasn't until 1996, when Adelaide born astronaut, Dr Andy Thomas, became Australia's first member of NASA's elite astronaut course that the opportunities for Australia really began to emerge. Andy Thomas famously flew four missions, spending a total of six months in space. I'm sure that he inspired a whole generation of Australian girls and boys to dream of working in the existing field, including my eldest grandson, who is now seven and is in awe of Andy Thomas and anything to do with space. South Australia is also fortunate to have the highest density of space related organisations in the country. All these factors make South Australia the obvious choice as the location of the industry's headquarters, as we've seen.

However, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the foresight of the then Weatherill state government, which established Australia's first dedicated space office, in Adelaide in 2015, followed by Adelaide successfully hosting the 68th International Astronautical Congress in 2017. The current government is following through with all of the great successes of the space centre and is supporting it. This initial activity was pivotal to the growth of the industry. It generated the first space strategy, which clearly set out the economic growth potential of the space sector and it resulted, ultimately, in the establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2018. It's a true testament to the importance of this sector for Australia that support for the Space Agency and associated activity has continued to strongly grow in a bipartisan way ever since. The opportunities are truly vast. Morgan Stanley, for example, forecasts that, in the next 20 years, the global space economy will nearly triple in size from US$400 billion in 2018 to US$1.1 trillion in 2040. Here in Australia we've set our own target of tripling the size of the space sector to $12 billion by 2030. Judging by the growth we've seen just in the past few years, I believe we have every chance of achieving this. For example, in 2006 the sector had around 10,000 employees and revenue of around $4 billion. Since then we've managed to expand to 14,000 employees and $5.4 billion in revenue; that's in a short period of time.

On an individual company level, there are also examples of extraordinary growth. Companies like Myriota, Inovor Technologies and Fleet Space Technologies, all based in Adelaide, went from employing a handful of people when they were first established in 2014-15 to employing more than double now. These results have been possible because of strong partnerships between government, industry and research. The perfect example of this is the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre—or CRC, as they are known. This is one of the most significant space research collaborations ever forged in Australia. It brings together around 100 international and national partners who have invested over $190 million together with $55 million of federal government support. This represents $245 million in research effort over seven years. In a deal announced recently between NASA and the SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, we can locally develop emergency beacon technology for the next moon mission. This is very exciting. It's important to note, however, that the application of space technologies goes far beyond missions to the moon; it plays an integral part in our daily lives.

12:46 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've heard of the acronym TGIF; it is only Monday, so it wouldn't be appropriate here. I am going to give you another one: TFIGTBA—'the future is going to be awesome'. That is the opportunity of the Australian space industry. I welcome this motion put forward by the outstanding, up-and-coming and rising star, the member for Sturt. I know he is passionate not only about Adelaide but also about the future, defining the future and the space industry, and he wants to make sure they are all in perfect alignment. I hope the member for Macarthur would agree.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I certainly do, because I am very pro-Australian space industry—while there may not be a huge amount of it based in the Goldstein electorate. What we want to see in the success of our country is not one giant engine burning but those of the entire nation, and every part of the country reaching for the stars and success—and no, that was not a deliberate pun; it just rolled off the tongue. The space industry is particularly something that this government is very committed to, because it provides the opportunity for our scientists, our researchers, our engineers and all of those who are based in minerals, mining and advanced manufacturing to be part of a future industry that can grow the potential of the strength of our country.

We know that this is not the first investment that Australia has made in the future of a space industry. As we look beyond the horizon and our planet, we look at how we want to be a participant. The member for Sturt has spoken already, as has the member for Adelaide, about the opportunity that exists to be part of future lunar activity and Australia wanting to be part of that journey. That's why we already have 380 companies employing over 10,000 Australians and contributing $3.9 billion to the Australian economy—to be part of a future space industry. We are planning to triple the size of the space industry and add $12 billion annually to the Australian economy by 2030. So, in only 10 years, we will see a tripling of the contribution the space industry can make and a doubling in the number of jobs available for Australians in this sector.

We have already invested nearly $700 million in Australia's space industry, but that's the dollars; it's not the outcomes in terms of people's skills and capacity. It is not just for a space industry; there are rollover effects for so many other sectors of the economy where skills can be reapplied to develop other different sectors as well. As part of this government's manufacturing strategy, particularly in realising the opportunity for advanced manufacturing, the skills you need in space are the same skills you need on Earth and for the sectors that are going to ensure we build the future of Australia's economy.

Mr Dick interjecting

I know that the member for Oxley is enjoying my comparisons. He's right to. I hope that he too is committed to the future of the Australian economy and this Morrison government being able to deliver not just for Adelaide but for Brisbane and the rest of the nation.

There are some areas where Australia can apply its skills and its knowledge on Earth to space. Our specialised contribution transcends the contributions of others, particularly our expertise in fast and secure communications, which are critically important. We made a huge contribution to the Apollo missions not far from this building at Parkes. The automation and control of robots and assets in space is much like the remote control of mining equipment in the Pilbara. I've been to Rio Tinto's head centre near Perth airport and have pressed buttons that have dropped tonnes of iron ore. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson, have had similar experiences to that. We have the capacity and can make a contribution. We can apply our experience in mining and mining technology in future to space.

Earth observation from space can be used for similar observations of lunar services. This is also an area where we have critical capacity. The remote management of health in extreme conditions is very much part of the challenge of living in places like Antarctica. There is the application of Australia's expertise in mineral exploration to support scientific exploration of the moon and Mars. Never underestimate the potential for Australia to contribute to the success of the global space program. It goes to the heart of the Morrison government's ambition not just for Australia but for the globe.

12:51 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make my remarks regarding advanced manufacturing, particularly in growing the Australian space industry, and how that impacts not only my electorate of Oxley in the south-west suburbs of Brisbane and Ipswich but also right across this country. I have listened to the previous speakers talk about what investment the Morrison government are allegedly making in advanced manufacturing and how they are world leaders. Unfortunately, the facts don't back up some of the claims that we've heard today. Sadly, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, who has championed this project and exploration in the space sector by 2030 as a hallmark of the government, let the cat out of the bag yesterday when it was revealed that, of the $1.5 billion that was to be spent this financial year, only $40 million will be spent. That's less than three per cent of the funding slated in the budget for Australian manufacturing.

Manufacturing is critical to Australia's economic future. Advanced manufacturing is critical to the way that our country will trade in our region and across the globe. Sadly, yesterday's announcement by the minister confirmed that overall only about $40 million is to be spent before the end of the current financial year. Two weeks before, $1.5 billion was announced, but yesterday the minister confirmed only three per cent of that funding. As we always say, they're great on the headlines and the big-ticket items. Don't look at what the government say; look at what they do. Yesterday the minister confirmed that, despite the big headlines and the pomp and ceremony, the government is found wanting when it comes to manufacturing and advanced manufacturing.

I want to focus my remarks today on highlighting a fantastic business in my electorate. Located in the suburb of Darra is a company called PFi, or Products For Industry. PFi has spent several years on a mission to understand the space industry, to bring real forward-thinking and innovative solutions and to help Australians learn and experience more about space and industry. I pay tribute to CEO Nick Green and all of the team at this brilliant local company. I have had a number of discussions with them—I have taken a number of shadow ministers there—and we have learned that as a nation we have about 50 years to catch up on and that, if Australia is to play a significant role in the space industry, we have to do a lot more in education—all the way from primary school to advanced education, engineering degrees and of course trades and apprentices.

To this end, PFi Aerospace has been recognised by Northrop Grumman as developing a world-leading STEM program to help Australia make up this shortfall. They have some fantastic plans, and this week I will be writing to the minister, the Honourable Karen Andrews, asking her to see what the federal government can do to expand this company. Northrop Grumman has said of the PFi Aerospace STEM program: 'Their innovative, collaborative approach in design thinking developed a world-leading educational tool and demonstrated their ability to engage the wider community'.

Australia's manufacturing output is worth around US$270 billion. It ranks last on self-sufficiency against all other OECD economies, including countries such as Japan which produce more manufactured output than they consume. The March 2018 review of Australia's space industry stated, 'Countries with commercially focused space agencies, such as the UK, Canada, France and Norway, invest in space to grow and diversify their economies at a rate between 0.16 per cent and 0.7 per cent of GDP in space agency funding alone'.

Research suggests that for every dollar invested in space technology and development today approximately $40 return is secured. In addition, for every trained engineer in Australia, at least 15 highly skilled tradespeople are required. We know there has been a skills shortage and a trades shortage in this country. In my electorate, thousands of apprenticeships have been lost over the last seven years and it is time the government really took this industry seriously to make sure that we can encourage and enhance—and do what we can to support businesses, not only in my electorate but right across Australia, to reach their full potential and to deal with the economic recovery as we move forward, but also to look at employing particularly local people in my local community.

12:57 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure to rise and support this motion today. Who could possibly dislike the investment in the Australian space industry? That was the rhetorical question I had thought to open my statement with today, but in fact it isn't rhetorical because there is one person who is against investment in the Australian space industry, and that is the member for Oxley, who we just heard. What an extraordinary spray! How could you possibly play politics with the idea of creating jobs in the space industry, increasing manufacturing in Australia and putting us at the forefront of global exploration! The member for Oxley managed to play politics even with that, such is his talent for playing politics.

I am very, very pleased to stand up and support the Member for Sturt's motion. He is a tremendous advocate of the Australian space industry, particularly in his electorate. The rest of us are very supportive of the Australian space industry, but the Member for Sturt just won't let us have any of it in our own electorates; he has to have it all in the electorate of Sturt. It is because of his hard work that it has come this far.

As our economy recovers from COVID-19, it is imperative that we continue to upgrade sovereign capability and build on our competitive advantages, and the space industry could hold such a competitive advantage for us. It already includes the Australian space industry: over 380 companies, employing over 10,000 people and contributing more than$ 3.9 billion dollars to our economy every year. The Morrison government is planning to triple the size of the space industry here in Australia by committing $12 billion annually to the Australian economy by 2030 and creating a further 20,000 jobs.

Importantly, space technology is not just about the reach-for-the-stars stuff you see in movies—although that is important; we would all like to see the US achieve its goal of landing a person on Mars. It is also important to a lot of other Australian industries: farmers use space capabilities to help monitor crops; marine pilots use it to guide cruise liners; emergency workers use it to track the progress of bushfires; and scientists use it to study the effect and impacts of droughts. The flow-on effects of the economy investing in the space sector are enormous—as infinite as space itself, some would say. That is why the government has already invested nearly $700 million in Australia's space industry.

These investments we are making in the space industry here in Australia are benefiting all Australians. We are developing a space sector to help create Australian jobs at a time when Australia needs it the most. Right across the supply chain, whether you are a data analyst, a rocket scientist, all the way through to tradespeople and manufacturers, you all have a role to play and an opportunity in the Australian space industry.

The coalition government is the only government that has invested significantly in the space industry for Australia, because, unlike the Labor Party, we recognise the important role of space in our economy and the role it plays in creating jobs for Australians. The $19.5 million Space Infrastructure Fund that we have created is supporting a range of projects across the country and enhancing our domestic space capability. In particular, the Morrison Government, when we established this fund, consulted with states and territories, many of whom eagerly put up their hands to be a part of it.

As I said, one of the most successful about putting up their hand to be a part of it was South Australia, thanks in part to the role that the member for Sturt played in his previous life with the South Australian state government. That included a $6 million mission control facility that was announced as part of the Adelaide City Deal, enabling small and medium-sized businesses to control satellite missions. The construction of Australia's Space Discovery Centre and Mission Control Centre has begun in Adelaide's innovation precinct. I had the great opportunity to be there with the member for Sturt to visit it at Lot Fourteen. It is amazing to see the innovation that is occurring there—not just that, but the passion and entrepreneurship that this is inspiring in Australia's kids, to see Australia and Australian industry reach for the stars.

The Australian Space Discovery Centre is the Morrison government's centrepiece to ignite curiosity in young people and to promote the benefits of STEM. Sparking young people's imagination about space isn't just about the wonder of the unknown; it's about making sure that they can take advantage of the enormous opportunities the broader industry represents. Underpinned by a strong STEM education focus, the Australian Space Discovery Centre will highlight the diverse opportunities available in the space sector, including careers in manufacturing, engineering, space medicine, geology and computing. Because of the opportunity that it is creating for Australian kids, because of my keen support for STEM, I have a keen focus on Australia's space industry.

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.