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Australia's commitment to world's largest telescope

13 March 2019

Australia has joined six other nations in signing an international treaty committing to the construction of the world’s largest science facility - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The Convention, signed by Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom, will establish the SKA Observatory.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews said Australia is perfectly positioned to host the low frequency element of the telescope. 

“The signing of the international treaty is an incredible achievement for all countries involved and reinforces Australia’s leading role in this global project,” Minister Andrews said.

“Many great advancements in science can be attributed to exploration and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Through this venture, our scientists will have access to data that will help unlock the mysteries of the universe.

“Australia will also be in a prime position to contribute to the design of new technologies, such as when CSIRO invented Wi-Fi as part of its work on radio astronomy.”

The SKA Observatory will make the final decisions on the SKA’s design and will coordinate the contracts needed to build and operate the telescope and associated infrastructure.

“The Liberal National Government is investing $293 million over 10 years towards building and initially operating the SKA, demonstrating our commitment to supporting our home grown science and research capabilities.” 

Around $1 billion worth of contracts for the construction of the SKA are expected to start being awarded from late 2020 to companies and providers in the SKA’s member countries, providing a substantial return on investment for those countries.

The Australian component of the SKA, SKA-Low, will be the world’s most sensitive low frequency radio telescope. Hosted at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it will initially comprise over 130,000 antennas spread over 65 kilometres in remote Western Australia.

The Liberal National Government recognises the contribution science plays in growing Australia’s economy and creating more local jobs. That’s why we’ve invested an additional $2.4 billion to grow our science, research and technology capabilities in the 2018-19 Budget, including increased funding to research agencies like CSIRO over the next four years.

Only under the Coalition’s strategic and rational plan for a stronger economy can our science and technology sectors thrive. This plan has already helped create over 1.25 million jobs since 2013, and investment in our science sector will help drive creation of an extra 1.25 million jobs over the next five years.

More information about the Square Kilometre Array project in Australia is available at www.industry.gov.au/ska

Media contact: Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070