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Interview - ABC News Breakfast with Michael Rowland

1 July 2019

Michael Rowland

Subject: First anniversary of the Australian Space Agency, the Government’s tax package and Christopher Pyne.


Michael Rowland: Now, Australia's home-grown space agency has taken one very small step. It's celebrating its first birthday today. So what has the agency achieved in the year since it was officially launched? The Federal Science Minister Karen Andrews joins us now from Parliament House in Canberra. Minister, good morning to you.

Karen Andrews: Good morning.

Michael Rowland: So for those Australians still catching up with this, tell us about the space agency. What does it actually do?

Karen Andrews: So the space agency is celebrating its first birthday today. Since that time it was launched back in July last year, the agency has been working very hard to connect us internationally, but also to look at opportunities for Australian industries to grow. So one of the things that it has responsibility for outside of launch, of course, and inspiring Australians, is global positioning. And the Coalition Government has put a lot of money into bringing the accuracy of our global positioning down to about 10 centimetres across the country. Now, you may ask why is that so important? And it's so important because as we lead in to autonomous vehicles, we are going to need those accuracies but we all rely on the likes of Google Maps and we need to have that accuracy in as close as we possibly can.

Michael Rowland: How formalised has this- has links- the linkage between the space agency, the industry sector, the university sector been in the last 12 months? Has it created new projects, new jobs, how does it work?

Karen Andrews: So what the agency is tasked with doing is growing the space sector here in Australia. So they’ve been working with industry, with some of our satellite companies, Myriota for example, based in South Australia. They’ve been signing a number of agreements around Australia with industry but also internationally, so that we can grow our space sector here and create more jobs. So currently, the space sector in Australia is worth about $3.9 billion and employs about 10,000 people. And the space agency is tasked with growing that to an additional 20,000 jobs and $12 billion by the year 2030. So they will be engaging with our universities, creating links between our researchers and industry, to maximise opportunities for that economic and employment growth.

Michael Rowland: Okay, we'll see how it goes. And of course, as we mentioned there Karen Andrews, a very, very big global anniversary about to unfold later this month: the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Australia played a key role in that, didn't we?

Karen Andrews: Oh, absolutely, and how exciting is it: 50 years ago the first man walked on the moon and Australia was such a key part of it, with its facilities at Tidbinbilla and also at Parkes. And of course many Australians would have seen the first steps on the moon. I can actually remember, it was my first day at a new school and we’d no sooner turned up for school and we got sent home to watch the first man walk on the moon. So it was terribly exciting and still is today.

Michael Rowland: Just before we go, a couple of other areas I want to talk about. We heard earlier from some of your colleagues about the tax cut package which the Prime Minister hopes will get through by the end of the week. Is he being a bit too ambitious on that front?

Karen Andrews: No, not at all. He's being very realistic and quite frankly he's being very honest and open with the Australian people. And it's such a pity that Labor, so soon after an election where they actually went backwards in their vote – and we took a very clear tax policy to that election – they're already playing games. Now, the Australian people are so over that. We took a very comprehensive tax policy to the election. We won the election. We increased the number of seats we had there, and Labor really needs to just step up and do the right thing by Australians and pass the entire package.

Michael Rowland: There are moves this week by the crossbenchers to set up a Senate inquiry into your former ministerial colleague Christopher Pyne, walking out of Parliament straight into a well paid consultancy with EY: in doing so, on face value according to Rex Patrick from the Centre Alliance, breaching the Ministerial Code of Conduct. He’s got a case to answer, hasn’t he, Christopher Pyne?

Karen Andrews: Look, Christopher’s been very clear that he has done nothing wrong. There's nothing people can talk to. But quite frankly, he is very well aware of the ministerial code of conduct and I'm very confident that he will be doing the right thing.

Michael Rowland:  How won't he breach that code of conduct, which stipulates there has to be an 18-month period between leaving a ministerial office and going to anywhere where your knowledge about that office and how government works could be utilised for private gain?

Karen Andrews: Well I'm very confident that Christopher, who is well aware of the terms of the Ministerial Code of Conduct, will be putting in place a range of strategies to make sure that he's not in breach of that code of conduct. Now, he was the leader of the House, he's got a very extensive knowledge of the Parliament, very extensive understanding of the code of conduct and I remain confident that he will do the right thing.

Michael Rowland:  Okay, we'll see how that plays out. Karen Andrews, thank you very much for joining us on the first anniversary of the Australian Space Agency.