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Interview - ABC Gold Coast

11 December 2019

Interviewer: 
Bern Young

Subject: Space industry, Gilmour Space Technologies, Australian Space Agency, NASA

E&OE

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed on ABC Gold Coast.

Bern Young: I’m not so much interested in the past as we are in the future.

[Excerpt]

Buzz Lightyear: To infinity…and beyond!

[End of Excerpt]

Bern Young: Seems to be the only place that Gilmour Space Technologies is bound for. Right here on the Gold Coast, of course, is where they're based. They've already started working on projects with NASA, and now they are partnering in a way with the Australian Space Agency. To tell me more I've got the Federal Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology, Karen Andrews, and local member of course.

Good morning to you, Minister.

Karen Andrews: Good morning. How are you?

Bern Young: Yeah, well thanks. So what does today's announcement mean for this Gold Coast space tech?

Karen Andrews: Well Gilmour Technologies is a great example of a wonderful entrepreneurial company that has gone from strength to strength. They obviously specialise in space launch vehicles, so rockets, and what this statement of strategic intent does between Gilmour and the Australian Space Agency is highlight areas of common interest. It recognises the world-class research and development work that Gilmour is doing with new rocket technologies. They're also looking at potentially a launch site in South East Queensland for their rockets, so that's referenced in all of the discussions that we've had with Gilmour.

Quite frankly, they are going from strength to strength. They've already got an agreement in place with NASA, they're working with NASA. And in fact, when I was talking to NASA a couple of months ago they raised Gilmour with me and accessing some of the test facilities that NASA has in the States. So what this does is take us a step closer to realising our ambition of tripling the size of the space sector here in Australia. But the Gilmours, they’ve ventured with CSIRO through their Main Sequence Ventures funding. They're doing great work here.

Bern Young: Now we should be clear that this doesn't mean that Gilmour Space Technologies has been asked to build rockets for the space agency, because our Australian Space Agency is not like NASA, our space agency isn't going to lead projects, is it?

Karen Andrews: Our model is very, very different to NASA. So what we are doing is working strategically with Australian businesses and doing what we can to make sure that Australian businesses have access to the supply chains of agencies around the world. We have made it very clear that we're – as a Federal Government – putting $150 million to support Australian businesses to become part of NASA's Moon to Mars mission. But that money will be for Australian businesses so that they can further develop their technologies and be part of the NASA Moon to Mars mission. So it's a very different model to NASA – they launch, we would be working with private businesses, private organisations here in Australia to support them to launch.

Bern Young: How important, Karen Andrews, is it for something like Gilmour Space Technologies to stay on the Gold Coast? I mean, you're proud of this city of course, and we know the space industry is largely now based in Adelaide and South Australia. The lure, you would think, constantly in the future will be there to pull a company like this into South Australia and yet it does – I don't know – I mean I take personal pride in saying we build rockets on the Gold Coast – and I'm sure many others would – it's cool, it's right up there. Kids who are going and doing their STEM classes at high school can say hey I could be a rocket engineer on the Gold Coast, in my own city.

Karen Andrews: Absolutely

Bern Young: So how do you make sure that they stay here?

Karen Andrews: Well just to pick up one of the points that you made before, the space agency, yes, is based in South Australia but federally we're working in all of the states and territories where the particular areas of expertise are going to be. So there will continue to be support for space in Queensland, that's happening now, we are supporting Gilmour Technologies and there may well be other businesses here. It is important for the Gold Coast though, as I put my very parochial Gold Coast hat on, that businesses like Gilmour Technologies do remain here on the Coast, do provide employment opportunities. So yes, you could be a rocket scientist and get a job here on the Gold Coast and that's where I argued that Gilmour has so much more for us here. I mean, they now employ about 45 people, they're looking to employ a further 15 people by the end of next year and who knows where they'll go from there. But we also want to see other businesses here on the Gold Coast, supporting Gilmour’s growth and supporting the growth of the space sector. So I don't see that there's any reason why the Gold Coast couldn't play a significant role in the space sector in the future, and in the near future.

Bern Young: Well, and already is. As you say it's NASA who are bringing up this company with you, not the other way around necessarily. I always do wonder, I reckon there'd be those who obviously see the Gold Coast in a particular way, those on the outside. I kind of like saying, well actually we build rockets, what do you do? So yeah.

Karen Andrews: Well, I actually say that.

Bern Young: I bet you do and so you should. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science, and Technology joining us here on ABC Gold Coast Breakfast. Thanks for your time this morning.

Karen Andrews: It's a pleasure.