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Doorstop - Gold Coast

22 September 2019

Working journalists

Subject: $150 million investment in Australian space sector to join NASA for Moon to Mars mission & Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews held a doorstop on the Gold Coast.

Karen Andrews: What a great day for Australian space. Overnight the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Federal Government was going to be committing an additional $150 million to grow the space sector. This will be specifically targeted to work with NASA for their Moon to Mars project, so it’s a really exciting day. Now, the Australian space agency is a little over 12 months old and since that time they have taken huge leaps in growing the space sector here in Australia. This $150 million commitment brings the Federal Government’s commitment to Australian space to just over half a billion dollars, which is a significant amount of money. But what we will be doing with NASA is making sure that we are bringing in Australian businesses to form part of the supply chain for NASA’s project Moon to Mars.

So in Australia we already have some terrific space capability and there are some fantastic things that we are doing in the mining sector that have great application to the space sector. For example, many of the mine sites in the Pilbara region are operated from Perth, which is about 1600 kilometres away, so this project gives us the opportunity to talk to NASA about technology we already have in Australia and how that can be used for future missions, particularly Moon to Mars. Now, in Australia the space sector is worth about $4 billion and currently employs about 10,000 people, but we are committed to growing the sector to $12 billion and an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030. And of course this project that we’re announcing, which is $150 million, will go a long way towards making sure that we’re building and growing Australian businesses so that we can continue to be part of the space race.

And of course, space is such an inspirational story. Back from the time 50 years ago when Australia was involved in beaming the vision of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon, we have had a close relationship with NASA and we have already been part of the space race. This takes it to the next levels and beyond. And quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to go to the moon and see what’s up there. And now we have the opportunity to not just be involved in getting to the moon but to going beyond through to Mars, so it is a fantastic day for Australian space.

Question: [Indistinct question]

Karen Andrews: The first step for the Australian Space Agency now is to begin serious discussions with NASA about what form the projects will take. We will talk to them about Australian space capability, in particular we will talk to them about robotics and automation, and also the health sciences. So we will be working with NASA to look at the capabilities that they’re needing and how Australia can be part of that. And I think from a scientific point of view, there’s lots of things that come from space that help us in our everyday lives. One of those examples is that kidney dialysis came from the work that was done as part of the Apollo program. So at this stage we don’t know exactly what we are going to be looking for but we are going to be looking for opportunities to grow Australian businesses and grow our space capability.

Question: What is the benefit to Australians in spending this money for an American mission?

Karen Andrews: This $150 million is targeted directly at Australian businesses, so this is not going to be handed over to NASA. We will be using it to work with our Australian businesses to grow the technology that already exists here, but look at new technologies that could be used in space. And of course that will lead to growing our economy here, potentially improving our productivity, but creating more jobs, and that’s exactly what we are about.

Question: I understand that Adelaide will be the base [indistinct]?

Karen Andrews: So, we’ve already announced that the Australian Space Agency will be headquartered in Adelaide. The Premier Steven Marshall is certainly a bit of a space junkie, I’ve got to say. So he’s looking at whatever he can do to bring more space technology, more space businesses to headquarter themselves in South Australia. So South Australia will play a huge part. Space Agency headquartered there, mission control is being set up there, and the Space Discovery Centre is also happening in Adelaide, so there’s lots of things for Adelaide and South Australia.

Question: How about here in Queensland, are there any businesses that might benefit from this money?

Karen Andrews: Well, right here on the Gold Coast we have Gilmour Technologies and they have been doing a lot of work on launching sounding rockets, test rockets. So I will be speaking directly with Gilmour technologies yet again to talk about opportunities for them to further develop their capabilities here on the Gold Coast. Also, that will help what we’re doing in Queensland and more broadly across Australia. So yes, here on the Gold Coast we certainly can be part of it. And of course we’ve got major research institutions here. We’ve got Griffith University, we’ve got Southern Cross University, we’ve got Bond University here. So I want to make sure that our researchers and our research organisations are closely involved in what we’re doing in space, because we do know that if we’re going to build our businesses we need to increase the collaboration between research organisations and industry.

Question: Some might say there’s a few things we need to fix up on Earth before we go into space and all that. What would you say to that?

Karen Andrews: This isn’t an either/or option. I believe that there are things that we can be doing here directly to support people in Australia while at the same time growing opportunities. So my work as the Industry Minister is focused on supporting all Australian businesses but also making sure that we’re growing opportunities because we can’t continue just to have a business as usual model. We’ve got to look at opportunities. Space is exciting, but space is real. And there are some enormous opportunities for us, so I’m focused on making sure that we are supporting the emerging industries such as space.

Question: Can I just ask a couple of quick questions about an announcement about $35 million for a study into the digital lives of children. Why did the Government deem that it’s important to investigate digital technology on children?

Karen Andrews: Digital technologies are part of our everyday lives now, and they’re particularly important to our young people, because we know that they now have access to, for example, movies and games on their iPads from a very, very early age. Now, we want young people, we want everyone to be able to develop digital skills. But we need to make sure that they are developing those skills in a very positive environment. So what this study will do—and it’s $35 million funding from the Federal Government—the Federal Government and QUT, Queensland University of Technology, will be looking to conduct this study over a number of years. It will look at children from birth to eight years to look at the impact of technology on our lives. The results of that research will feed into future policies in education and also in health. So it’s an opportunity for us to be working together to make sure that we are looking at the best interests of our children for their health, for their safety and for future jobs.

Question: Can you just explain how the research will work? Do you have the details to explain what they’ll be looking at?

Karen Andrews: The intent of the research is to look at what the impact is of digital technologies on the health and wellbeing of children aged from zero to eight years old. So this is a world first longitudinal study that will be looking at the issues that impact our young people as a result of emerging and existing digital technologies.

Question: Is the Government concerned about the impact that digital technology will have on children? Because this is the first time ever we’ve had children growing up looking at screens basically for every moment they’re awake.

Karen Andrews: Obviously there are a lot of concerns that people have, that parents have, about the amount of time our young people are spending looking at screens. So that’s going to be one part of our research. But we’re also going to be looking at the positive impacts of technology. So we know that the jobs of the future will increasingly require digital skills, so we’ll be looking at how digital skills young children, little toddlers are learning as they’re navigating the games on an iPad, how that will help them as they move through kindergarten and into school. So we’ll be looking for the positives out of access to digital technologies by our young kids. And as a parent I always want our kids to remain safe, so clearly we need to look at online safety as part of everything that we do.