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Interview – ABC News Breakfast

22 October 2019

Interviewer: 
Madeleine Morris

Subject: Australia’s space sector, meeting with the NASA Boss at 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington DC and Nationals party leadership.

E&OE

Madeleine Morris: Let’s head to the US now, where Australia's Science Minister is meeting the head of NASA and other space industry heads. Karen Andrews is hoping to discuss ways we can help revisit the moon and travel to Mars. She joins us live now from Washington DC. Thank you very much for joining us, Minister.

Karen Andrews: Good morning.

Madeleine Morris: So, who have you met with so far? What's the plan? And what do you see the opportunities as being there?

Karen Andrews: Okay, so, so far this morning, I've met with Lockheed-Martin, with Boeing, who already have a strong presence in Australia. I've spoken to them about opportunities for their - to engage with other small and medium businesses in Australia, to be part of their supply chain. I've spoken with the Science Advisor to the President, and the Chief Technology Officer about options for us to engage quite broadly on science and technology. But straight after this, I'll be speaking with the head of NASA. What I want to do is speak with him about how we can engage, proactively, positively with NASA, and be part of the Moon to Mars missions that NASA is already planning. So clearly, we have some strengths that I want to put on the table to speak about. Strengths in remote health where, for example, a lot of the health that we do in Antarctica is managed from Tasmania. Work that we're doing remotely in the Pilbara, where our mine sites are managed from Perth, about 1600km away. So these are the first things that I'll be speaking to the head of NASA about. We're determined that we will grow the space sector in Australia. We will triple it in size from where it is now by 2030. And our engagement with NASA is a key part of growing our space sector.

Madeleine Morris: And Minister, we've got some really interesting start-ups in Australia. The space industry here, as you say, is thriving. Are you specifically looking to get US investment on Australian soil? Or do you want to get some of those technologies in Australia working with NASA in the US? What's the plan?

Karen Andrews: Well, we want to do a couple of things. So at the Space Congress that I'm at now, we have Gilmour Technologies, who are Gold Coast based. They're already here and they're talking to other agencies from around the world who are gathered at this Congress. We want to make sure that our Australian businesses do have the opportunity to engage not just with NASA, but with other space agencies. We want them to be part of the supply chain, but we also want to engage with other big businesses here in the United States to make sure that they realise that there is a growing space sector in Australia, and that there are some opportunities for investment in Australian companies.

Madeleine Morris: The PM recently announced $150 million in funding for Australian space companies. What pitches have you had so far for that money?

Karen Andrews: There's a lot of interest in the $150 million that the Prime Minister announced when he was here in the States a couple of weeks ago. There's been so much positive interest, because many of the Australian businesses are looking at how they can now work directly with NASA. But there are other small businesses that are, perhaps, working in the defence industry sector at the moment, they're looking at expanding their capabilities so that they can be part of space. So we’re working with a range of different …

Madeleine Morris: … Can you give us some names and some examples, Minister? It’d be great to have some specifics.

Karen Andrews: Well, let me talk about Axiom in South Australia that I visited recently. They're already doing some work in the defence place; they will start to transition into the space sector. And of course, South Australia is doing some great work with - it will have the Australian Space Agency headquartered at their Lot 14. And I know that Steven Marshall as the Premier is actively out there making sure that he's developing the space industry in South Australia. And he sees a very close alignment between the defence sector and the space sector. And we're very keen to make sure that we develop both industries in Australia. But space is, of course, my priority. So we'll be working with the likes of Myriota already in South Australia, Gilmour Technologies from Queensland, based on the Gold Coast. We'll look at how we can help them in growing their capability in Australia and make sure that they're part of NASA’s Moon to Mars and beyond missions.

Madeleine Morris: There is still some controversy in Australia about that money, in particular $150 million, with a lot of people still saying that that money would be better off being spent on farmers and on drought mitigation. When you go to these big meetings, what do you get out of that? And do you have anything to say to people who are still critical of that money?

Karen Andrews: So, my role as the Industry Minister is to certainly look after and support existing Australian industries but also to look at the industries of the future, of which space is going to be a key part, and it's going to be a key industry for Australia. So it's important that we develop that sector. Now, I have talked in the past about how space is already helping our farmers. It will continue to do that, whether it's with the remote sensors that are being managed from space, from satellites. Whether we're looking at earth observations so that we can see effects of the drought. What's important is that there is support for our farmers now and we're doing that through household assistance, as well as the work that we've done from space. But we also need to look at opportunities for the future. It shouldn't be an either-or. So we should able to support our farmers, at the same time as looking at the industries of the future and supporting other sectors that need assistance as well.

Madeleine Morris: Okay, Minister, if I can just take you to domestic matters. We’ve just heard from our reporter Lucy Barbour about a fiery Nationals meeting yesterday where there was criticism of Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie. You’re a part of the LNP from Queensland. Are you aware of concerns from National Party members about her performance?

Karen Andrews: Look, I work closely with Bridget McKenzie. I've always found her very easy to deal with. We engage a lot on agriculture, agri-tech and building, for example, our food processing and manufacturing. Of course, I'm part of the LNP in Queensland, so it is
the Liberal National Party. So when I'm in Queensland, I do have Liberal and National Party hats on. Look, I believe that Bridget is doing a good job, and I believe that she has support of many people in the party.

Madeleine Morris: So no concerns over her performance there from you?

Karen Andrews: Look, I find Bridget very easy to work with. She's very keen to develop the ag sector. She's delighted to be the Agriculture Minister, and she's looking to the future, and I will, of course, support her.

Madeleine Morris: Okay. Karen Andrews, thank you very much for joining us from Washington. Best of luck for that meeting with NASA.

Karen Andrews: Pleasure, thank you.

ENDS