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Interview – ABC Gold Coast Breakfast with Bern Young

23 September 2019

Bern Young

Subject: SA Moon to Mars program, space industry, World Meteorological Organisation


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

Bern Young: Now our Prime Minister Scott Morrison is of course over in the US you’ve been hearing about that in the news, well this morning but also yesterday, the big announcement was around a NASA initiative involving Australia.


Scott Morrison: We are joining NASA’s campaign, Artemis campaign, to return to the moon and to go to Mars. The Australian Government will commit $150 million over five years to support the mission and related activates, And I expect that’s just where we’re going to begin.

[End of excerpt]

Bern Young: So what does that mean for Australia’s space industry? And as we know the Gold Coast has a slice of it. Karen Andrews is the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. She’s also of course our local Member for McPherson and she joins me here in the studio. Good morning to you.

Karen Andrews: Good morning.

Bern Young: For those who are a bit confused, are we going to the moon or are we going to Mars? Which one?

Karen Andrews: We’re planning to do both. So we’re really stopping off at the moon on our way to Mars. So NASA has committed that it will be back at the moon by 2024, but that is on their journey through to Mars. So it’s going to be both.

Bern Young: And how does the moon mission help get to Mars? What will be built there?

Karen Andrews: Well it’s quite some time since we’ve been to the moon so this will be further exploration of the moon so we will go back and revisit and then from there, that will effectively be the launching pad to head to Mars. So it will be a two stage journey that we’re going to be making. Now obviously there’s already been some activity on Mars so there’s a lot of research already being done as well. So we will then use the journey back to the moon to further inform what we need to do to make the trip all the way through to Mars a success.

Bern Young: It’s interesting you’re using that word, you know, we, we’re heading to Mars. It’s not they are heading to Mars. Just how involved will Australia be? And obviously we know we’ve got a bit of a Gold Coast space industry slice here and I want to ask you more specifically about that, but how involved can we be in this?

Karen Andrews: We’re very involved. So we’re now active participants. So we established the Australian Space Agency just over a year ago. That opened so many doors to us. Now we’ve had already a long relationship with NASA from back when Australia played such a key role in beaming those images of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon. So we’ve had that relationship but since we established the Space Agency it’s given us a lot more credibility and NASA has been actively engaged with us. And of course now that we’ve made this $150 million commitment which NASA is very, very happy with, we will be active participants in the next journey.

What we will be looking at is our technologies and how we can adapt, how we can expand those, particularly looking at things such as automation and robotics because we know that we are already world leading with what we’re doing in our mining sites. We operate a lot of that for example in the Pilbara region that’s operated from Perth, 1,600 kilometres away. So you know that will be some of the things that we’re focusing on with NASA, how we can use our technologies and how we can expand. But importantly making sure that our emerging space businesses in Australia can be part of the supply chain. So what do they need to do for NASA to invest in what they’re doing and also to make sure that they’re hitting the very rigorous standards that NASA requires.

Bern Young: Yeah. Well then here’s my next question because the Prime Minister was saying on the weekend that this could create 20,000 Australian jobs by 2030 in the Australian space industry. We know we have got Gilmour Space Technologies based here on the Gold Coast. What does this announcement mean for a company like that and will you work specifically with them to make sure they’re part of this?

Karen Andrews: Yes I will be working even more closely with Gilmour and they’re supported by investors in Australia and the CSIRO for example. Now what this announcement does is indicates to potential investors that Australia is serious about space. So given that there’s certainty, that there’s stability, that does attract further investment and that’s what many of our start-ups and emerging businesses actually need. They need that certainty so that they can attract investment here. So that’s going to be a key part of that. Now we also have some pretty significant research organisations here on the coast. We’ve got Griffith University, Southern Cross, Bond University. So I’ll be working with them to see how they can work with Gilmour and with other emerging space businesses, look at technologies that could be used as part of the space race.

So it really is very important for Australian businesses – space is clearly an emerging industry sector for us. This $150 million investment takes the Government’s total investment to over half a billion dollars – so that is a significant amount and we’ve got great partners now of course with NASA so that puts us in a really good place.

Bern Young:  I’ve got the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology with me and also Local Member for McPherson Karen Andrews.

A lot of that space industry really is in South Australia, it has become the hub, but we have this slice of it here on the Gold Coast. Could we see it grow? Would it be realistic to consider a growing space industry opportunity on the Gold Coast?

Karen Andrews: Absolutely. Absolutely. And yes, you know you’re right that there is a significant slice in South Australia because that’s where the Space Agency will be centred. But we do have Gilmour Technologies and we do have great research organisations. What we need to do is look at what the opportunities are in Queensland and quite frankly launch is a real possibility for us and that’s exactly the sorts of things that Gilmour Technologies is looking at.

Bern Young: Can I just turn the attention, and I talk to you as a Minister for Science here and the latest scientific data that’s just come out, and we heard this in the 7 o’clock News that the World Meteorological Organisation – and this is of course ahead of the UN meeting this week – have compiled data for the last five years. They warn that the signs and impact of global warming are speeding up and they’ve found that from the period of 2014 to 2019 has been the warmest on record. Are you staying abreast of these latest scientific reports and what do you think of that?

Karen Andrews: Look, I do take notice and I’m across as much as I possibly can in relation to the scientific data. So when I visit our agencies one of the things that I do talk about and ask them about is what’s happening with climate and what can they look at from future behaviours to see what we can do for mitigation and adaptation. So when I go to our Antarctic Division I do talk to them about what they’re discovering, what their research is showing.

Bern Young: And are you going to them and saying look, we’ve got the WMO saying this and do you question it or do you accept it?

Karen Andrews: Look, my view on climate science is that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the climate is changing. I’m focused now on adaptation and mitigation because, in my view, every second that we spend debating that science is a second that we don’t spend on what are we doing with mitigation. So I have responsibility for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, they clearly do a lot of work on the Great Barrier Reef. Every time I meet with them I talk to them about mitigation strategies and what are they doing for the Reef. Now they will be very clear and tell you that changing climate has the biggest impact on the Reef but there are other factors including the Crown of Thorns starfish that’s having a huge impact on the Reef. So we work together to look at what the strategies are going to be to protect one of our greatest natural assets.

Bern Young: So you don’t dispute this latest World Meteorological Organisation science? You accept it and say this is what they’re saying, we accept it as the Australian Minister for Science and we work within it?

Karen Andrews: Look, I’m not going to comment on any particular results that are coming through but let me very clear, the Morrison Government has already accepted that the science relating to climate is real and that the climate is changing. That is my view, I’ve moved on from that and I’m saying yes that’s where we are now, what are we going to do about it.

Bern Young: Alright. I’ve had that conversation with you. But I know you’re on AM later this morning so you may well be asked what you’re doing about it when you join our AM team…

Karen Andrews: Indeed.

Bern Young: …after 8 o’clock this morning. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, and Local Member for McPherson thanks for joining me this morning.