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Interview – ABC Radio Adelaide

12 December 2018

Ali Clarke

Subject: Australian Space Agency Location


The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, was interviewed by ABC Radio Adelaide on the new location of the Australian Space Agency.

Ali Clarke: Well let's find out exactly what will happen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, because I don't know if you got up a little bit early this morning to go for a walk because it's going to be hot today, but right now the Premier Steven Marshall and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is there. They're walking around. I mean, I don't think they're doing it fast and trying to get in exercise and get their step count up, but they're actually touring the site and they're about to hold a press conference to announce that this is the official base of the National Space Agency. Now first news of this started breaking last night and more details are emerging this morning. So let's catch up with the federal Minister responsible. This is federal Industry and Science Minister Karen Andrews. Good morning.

Why South Australia and why Adelaide?

Minister Andrews: Well the Australian space industry actually started its journey here in South Australia. So the first satellite was launched into space from Woomera, close- just over 50 years ago. Since then there has been a long history in South Australia with space. Lot 14 where the Australian Space Agency will be based will also have other space industry businesses here. So there's a brilliant ecosystem here. So there were some fairly compelling reasons for choosing South Australia and Adelaide.

Ali Clarke: So then what is the task of the Australian Space Agency? What will it be- what will it have to do? I mean is this a mission to put someone on the moon or Mars or is this more tied into the whole idea of the Internet of Things?

Minister Andrews: Well it's actually very wide-ranging, the role of the Australian Space Agency. So look, I wouldn't rule out anything at this point in time. But effectively, they will be driving the growth of the space industry here in Australia. Currently it's worth about $3.9 billion and employs about 10,000 people. And I think the intention is to build that to $12 billion and an additional 20,000 people by 2030. So the Space Agency will be driving the growth of the sector here in Australia.

Ali Clarke: Okay but you as the federal Minister for Science and Technology isn't ruling out them being involved to get someone back to the moon or to Mars?

Minister Andrews: Look, certainly I wouldn't rule that out.

Ali Clarke: Okay.

Minister Andrews: Australia actually is already launching satellites at the moment, so who knows what the future is going to be. I mean the Coalition established the Space Agency and since then the growth has already been quite dramatic, so who knows where we're going to be in 10 to 12 years' time.

Ali Clarke: So then where's the money coming from Minister Andrews? Is it all federal money or has South Australian Government come to the party and that's also why South Australia is a good place to be?

Minister Andrews: Well the Coalition Government invested $41 million in establishing the Space Agency and we announced that in this year's budget. The State Government here in South Australia is certainly very committed and are providing support with facilities around Lot 14, and we've also got significant investment from businesses in the space sector as well. So a couple of global companies already have a presence here. So Lockheed Martin, Airbus - Airbus has committed $18 million to build a new satellite ground station here in South Australia. So I'd say there's probably three major parties that are involved; certainly the Coalition Government federally, the State Government here in South Australia and businesses.

Ali Clarke: Okay, has the State Government though tipped in money? You said that they have been involved in facilities; is it just the fact that they're giving up the old Royal Adelaide Hospital sites - or Lot 14 - or is it more than that?

Minister Andrews: They've offered facilities to house the Australian Space Agency. Lot 14 is not dedicated to the Australian Space Agency, it's actually effectively an innovation precinct, but it's part of the space centre industry here in Adelaide. So there will be other space businesses here. So there wasn't a financial contribution to get the Space Agency here as such, there was the entire contribution by way of facilities to locate.

Ali Clarke: But isn't- mid-next year you're expecting 20 full time staff to be on the ground, what will be their jobs? Who are going to be the people that will actually be working and taking these jobs that you're spruiking?

Minister Andrews: Okay, well Megan Clark is the CEO. She's already been working in that role since at least the middle of the year. So there'll be a lot of administrative staff, marketing, [indistinct] people who will be working on connecting the other parts of the space industry with people that they need to know. So it's a facilitation role. There's also a mission control centre that's going to be put into the facility here at Lot 14 at which- which is- so I guess for listeners, people are familiar with what happens in Houston, and what we see when there are rocket launches. We'll be setting up a similar mission control here in Adelaide and that will be inside the facility obviously, so there'll be support from the Australian space industry to do that.

Ali Clarke: How can people listening actually find work there?

Minister Andrews: Well, the Australian Space Agency - I'd contact in the first instance. So they have a website, so I'd go there in the first instance and talk to them, see what they believe are the opportunities for them here [indistinct] interest.

Ali Clarke: I mean this sounds like a fantastic thing for South Australia but why was it so slow? I mean Australia was- I mean we were pretty close to the last developed nation in the world to get a space agency.

Minister Andrews: Yeah, that's actually a fair point and there's probably an argument given our capacity and our unique location in the southern hemisphere that some steps should have been taken maybe 20, 30 years ago but- and globally, the space industry is probably worth close to US$350 billion. So arguably, Australia should have been part of that race a long time ago. But I think looking forward I mean we are part of that space race now. And so it was the Liberal National Government that actually got the Australian Space Agency; started it, that funded it, that set what the targets are going to be; that has now done the branding, that has set up where it's going to be located. And space is something that everyone is interested in and it will be an inspiration for our young people to study science and maths at schools because they have an opportunity to be involved in some fantastic things in space.

Ali Clarke: Well Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews, thank you. I know you were doing that under duress because of your voice, I hope it holds out. You've got a big day ahead.

Minister Andrews: Yes, thank you.