Private Members’ Business – Australian Space Agency

I am very pleased to support this private member’s motion by the member for McPherson, and I want to acknowledge her longstanding commitment to both STEM and to the space industry, particularly through her role as an engineer in the passion she brings to this particular area of manufacturing. As the Australian Space Agency marks its fifth year on 1 July, since its inception it’s been providing a centralised
pathway that promotes the collaboration that we’ve heard the member for McPherson speaking about and is bringing together the public and private sectors to achieve world-class research projects and outcomes. It’s achieving very high-quality outcomes in what is a short period of time. It’s a testament to the vision of the previous coalition government and its investment in the sector. It’s no wonder that Australia’s share of the global space economy grew by 30 per cent during 2019-20 as the agency worked to develop, assess and target the areas of importance, to close market gaps in the sector and to enable and facilitate commercial investments where Australia holds that competitive advantage.

The first optical communications ground station is based at the University of WA. This project is changing the way we communicate between ground and space based assets and has the potential to enable the high-speed transfer of large volumes of data very quickly and securely. We’ve also got ground stations to be based in South Australia, the ACT and New Zealand, and the growth of the project is a great outcome for the Australian Space Agency and collaborators.

Another fantastic project has been enabled through collaboration with the European Space Agency with construction underway of a 35-metre deep-space tracking satellite dish in New Norcia, 140-odd kilometres north of Perth. The antenna will feature the latest in the cryogenically cooled technologies to boost signal reception and will be locally operated by some of Australia’s best scientists from CSIRO. The site was chosen in 2019, with construction expected to be completed in 2024.

Labor is creating some uncertainty for the space industry throughout Australia. The former coalition government, through the establishment of the Australian Space Agency and its commitment to projects worth $2.5 billion, actually supported 10,000 Australian workers. I note that Labor didn’t even invite a representative from the space sector to their jobs forum.

We actually included space as one of six National Manufacturing Priorities. It’s very important we understand the importance of this industry to Australia and to our future. As a government, we wanted to ensure that we had the best framework in place for the sector to succeed, and that is what we’re seeing now. Certainly we must, as a nation, provide a clear commitment to the space sector. Not doing so will actually halt the momentum that’s been gained. We also looked at what’s ahead in the national defence sector, and we looked at the over-the-horizon issues and the potential weaponisation of satellites. There are very good reasons for Australia to be in this field.

We work with others around the world like NASA and the European Space Agency. Anne Bettens and Tarkin Eckersley are both from my electorate and are great examples of the pathway we’re providing for young and mature Australians alike. Anne grew up in Harvey and went on to study a PhD at the University of Sydney’s school of aerospace and engineering. She specialises in autonomous navigation of satellites for space exploration. She was selected as one of just two Australians to attend a 10-week internship program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Tarkin Eckersley grew up in the small town of Dunsborough. He has a significant and extremely important role with NASA, where he works in the hazardous gas leak detection team to ensure the safe launch of rockets for NASA’s Artemis missions. His team sits in the launch control centre.

For anyone who is wondering what space means for them, have a think about the things that have come out of space technology and exploration: scratch-resistant lenses, cordless tools for our tradespeople at work, ear thermometers now used in hospitals, sat navs in cars for satellite navigation, the memory foam now used in mattresses, smoke detectors, safety grooving for runways and roads, LED lights, portable computers—the list goes on.