Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Questions without Notice

European Southern Observatory

2:56 pm

Photo of Arthur SinodinosArthur Sinodinos (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Fawcett for his interest in the topic not just of astronomy but also of space science. He is a former test pilot and does a great job for South Australia. The Turnbull government is providing Australia's astronomers with long-term access to the world's best optical and infra-red telescopes at what is known as the European Southern Observatory, in Chile. Apparently Chile is the best place in the world to do this sort of stuff. The skies there are really good. This global partnership will enable us to tackle big questions in fundamental science, to make groundbreaking and inspiring discoveries, and to lift international collaboration. As part of this measure we are providing $26.1 million of new funding for optical astronomy, research excellence, industry engagement and instrumentation, a commitment of $120 million over 10 years. It reflects this government's commitment to excellence in research and the benefits that it brings through stimulating innovation and opening doors to new types of industry engagement.

This has come after widespread consultation with our optical and radioastronomy organisations and provides a solution to the most pressing unmet need in Australian astronomy. We are particularly pleased to have the support of Australia's university and research sector, who will be co-investing in the project. Australian astronomers will have competitive, merit based access to all of the ESO telescopes at the La Silla and Paranal observatories. The benefits will spread across many industries, because Australian companies and institutions will have the right to tender competitively for valuable ESO work packages at the Chile sites. Australian astronomers and industry will develop their capabilities over the coming years to capture scientific and commercial opportunities in the next generation of extremely large telescopes. The detail of this significant, big-picture, big-future strategic partnership will be negotiated in the coming months. (Time expired)


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