Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Space Industry

4:48 pm

Photo of Andrew BraggAndrew Bragg (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Of course, this is an important matter of public importance because it is an opportunity for us to showcase that the government only gets out of bed each day if it is for a vested interest, and typically these vested interests are the fellow travellers that are engaged in the Labor Party's preselections and fundraising for public office. Chiefly, these are known as the trade union movement and the industry super fund movement. Any other part of the private economy, particularly a small or disruptive business, is on its own, pretty much, with this government, because the government really only responds to the policy agenda as it's been drafted for it by its favourite fellow travellers. This is no exception.

At the last couple of Senate estimates I've had the opportunity to inquire about why the government has commissioned extensive reviews and has then decided to make cuts to the nation's space program. Mr Husic has made the judgement call that space is not important to this government and he has decided to cut various programs. Of course in the freedom-of-information documents that have been canvassed by the opposition it is clear that this is not an action the government is proud of. The government doesn't want the public to know—particularly, I suspect, people who live in the great state of South Australia—that the judgement has been made to axe many of the large programs. Therefore, the resulting private investment that would have accompanied public investment in the space program is not going to materialise. The consequence of that is that there will be fewer jobs and fewer opportunities in Australia, particularly, I'd hazard a guess, in the great state of South Australia. That is the consequence of these actions. South Australia has always needed all the help it can get; it is a great state, but it is a state that hasn't always had the largest private sector. Therefore, it is in desperate need of more of this type of investment.

The freedom-of-information documents show that the government is too embarrassed to tell our partners in the United States that these judgements have been made, and there have been deliberate attempts to try to conceal this information revealed by the freedom-of-information process. I canvassed this in the space industry and there is great uncertainty now as to whether there can be extensive private investment in the Australian space sector, because of the ongoing uncertainty with the endless reviews. The government not only hit the ground reviewing but they basically cancelled all the initiatives that had already been established by the former government. That has meant the country doesn't have the sort of certainty we need for the promotion of private investment. It also means we're now letting down our allies. As Senator Fawcett and others have noted, this is a very unfortunate time for us to be letting our allies down, particularly when we are negotiating and engaging in a transfer of technology which is needed to power submarines and which could be used for other purposes in the future.

This is a very difficult moment in our region's history, perhaps it is the most dangerous since the Second World War. We have been able to negotiate with friendly governments and with our allies the transfer of very sensitive, but very important, technologies. We don't want to be a fairweather friend and we don't want to be a jurisdiction which is unreliable; we want to be a jurisdiction which sticks to the commitments we make. Everyone knows there is great strategic advantage for the country and for our allies in properly understanding the opportunity of space. This is why we have been committed to this great endeavour for some time, and it's why it is so regrettable that endless reviews have been part of the government's approach and also that there have been these indiscriminate cuts. As I said before, the freedom-of-information documents make it very clear that the national government is embarrassed about that.


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