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Interview – ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast

30 September 2019

David Bevan and Ali Clarke

Subject: Space Science & Space Industry Conference, NASA Moon to Mars program


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed on ABC Radio Adelaide Breakfast.

David Bevan: Karen Andrews is the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. She is in Adelaide today for the big space conference. Good morning, Minister.

Karen Andrews: Good morning. How are you?

David Bevan: We are well. What message or money do you bring?

Karen Andrews: Well, I bring the very strong message that Australia is serious about space and I’ll be backing in Premier Steven Marshall in saying that South Australia has demonstrated that it’s serious about space. I’ll be talking about the $150 million that was announced by the Prime Minister last week to enable us to be part of the Moon to Mars mission with NASA. So this will be money that’s supporting Australian businesses to grow and to work alongside NASA. It’s not money to NASA. So they’ll be the very strong messages that I’ll be sending.

David Bevan: Is this mostly, in terms of the Australian space industry though, about nanosatellites, development and launch? That’s really the bread and butter of the space industry in Australia.

Karen Andrews: It’s actually about jobs and making sure that we are looking at future industries and growing the economy and growing jobs. Now, yes, we do have expertise in nanosatellites, we do have expertise in launch, but we also have expertise in robotics and automation. And the mining sites in Western Australia in particular are great examples of that. But we also are very good at remote health with work that we do from Australia through to Antarctica and the work that we do in remote and rural parts of Australia. So when I’m talking to NASA, I’m going to be talking about certainly our satellite technology but robotics, automation and health.

Ali Clarke: You’re saying remote health, but remote- like Mars is remote!

Karen Andrews: Mars is really remote, without a doubt, but there’s no reason why we can’t use the experience and the skills that we’ve got now to support missions to Mars. And that’s where it’s the scale up. That’s where it’s growing our capabilities so that we can support remote health as far as Mars and maybe beyond it at some stage. Now, key part of that will be improving communications. So I really want Australia to play a key part in that, and we do have that expertise.

David Bevan: So, are you saying- look, we know that NASA wants to go to Mars. So if somebody on that mission is sick, they’re going to have to deal with- obviously they would like to have the expertise on board the ship but they may not. And so dealing with a time delay and great distance, maybe somebody who’s had to deal with that in Antarctica or remote Australia, they could bring something to the table. Is that what you’re saying?

Karen Andrews: Look, that’s potentially what we could be doing. Now, obviously there’s issues with the time delay and getting that information through to astronauts on their way to Mars, that’s where it’s important for us to be looking at what our communications capabilities – not just in Australia but globally. But of course when you’ve got people on the space station now a lot of the health support for them is clearly remote and we need to be making sure that if we are going to look at putting more people up into space that we can keep them as well as possible during the time they’re there.

David Bevan: Now, in terms of launch sites, is South Australia particularly well placed? We’ve just finished speaking to the Premier and he’s talking about this deal that’s been done for Whalers Way in Port Lincoln. Are we going to have these things dotted all around the country? Or will they be consolidated? And in that case, it’s first in best dressed?

Karen Andrews: Look, that’s actually a really good question. So launch is a really exciting part of space and there are many organisations around Australia that are looking at potential sites – whether they be in the Northern Territory, Queensland or South Australia. Now, South Australia is probably the most advanced at the moment and knowing Steven Marshall as I do he will be out there to get as much as he possibly can into South Australia, and good on him. So yes, there are certainly options in South Australia that we could look at. I don’t think we’ll end up having things dotted all around the country. Obviously there will be some infrastructure advantages in potentially setting up a few sites. But South Australia is certainly going to be doing its best, I’m sure, to make sure that it’s got at least one launch site here.

Ali Clarke: Federal Minister Karen Andrews, last week when the big announcement was made about the money, the injection from the Government into getting to Mars or working alongside NASA was also the same week when climate change was front and centre for so many at the UN. What would you say to people who are thinking, well, why are we spending millions to go to a red planet a long, long way away when we could be spending the money to look after the one we’re currently living on?

Karen Andrews: Well, firstly it shouldn’t be an either-or – it should be an and. So we can look after our own planet at the same time as we’re looking at space exploration. Now, I would say that space provides us opportunities to create the jobs of the future. And yes, we will be looking at remote health. And the reason that we’re really interested in the health sector is that kidney dialysis came from the Apollo Missions. So there’s lots of things that will be worked on, new technologies that are going to add value to our lives. Without space we wouldn’t have GPS, so things that impact on our daily lives are all part of the space sector. But I’m also very conscious of what we do on planet Earth and we do need to look after our environment and that means that we should all be very conscious of our own personal actions as well as taking the broader issues that we are with emissions reduction.

Ali Clarke: Alright, Federal Minister Karen Andrews – Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology – thank you.

Karen Andrews: It’s a pleasure.