Australia to invest $387 million in the world's largest radio telescope

Joint media release with the Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MPA new investment from the Morrison Government will make Australia home to the world’s largest radio telescope that will put the country at the cutting edge of science and technology research while creating hundreds of new jobs during the construction phase.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Government’s $387 million investment to build the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope in Western Australia’s Murchison region would help astronomers learn more about our universe while creating more than 350 jobs during the 10-year construction phase and a further 230 ongoing positions over the 50-year life of the project.

“This $387 million investment highlights that science and advanced manufacturing are at the heart of my government’s National Economic Recovery Plan from the COVID recession,” the Prime Minister said.

“Our investment in the construction and operations of the SKA will build our manufacturing capacity within the highly-skilled technology sector, and enable major scientific breakthroughs to be made right here in Western Australia.

“The SKA will help our scientists make more discoveries than we can imagine today. Whether it’s better understanding the origin and future of our stars and galaxies to how gravity works across the universe.

“The SKA means more jobs for Australia and it puts us in the driver’s seat for scientific discoveries.”

The $387 million Budget commitment includes $64.4 million to establish a specialist super-computing centre, to be based in Perth, to process the unprecedented amounts of data that will be generated by the SKA.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said processing this data onshore would secure opportunities for Australian organisations and scientists to innovate at the cutting edge of computing and modern manufacturing.

“Modern manufacturing employs tradespeople, engineers and scientists, and is the core of an advanced economy,” Minister Porter said.

“In fact, several Australian companies have already developed and manufactured components for the telescope prototypes and precursor telescopes.

“This new investment will build on our $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy and be a significant boost to the space sector, which is one of the strategy’s six priority sectors. It will strengthen our efforts to develop cutting edge industries with a global reach. 

“As well as creating hundreds of local jobs, our economic modelling indicates the project will attract an estimated $1.8 billion in foreign income flows into Australia as a result of the SKA’s first 30 years of operations.

“I am very pleased that the development of the SKA in my home state will also benefit local communities. Our funding includes the provision of fibre-optic connectivity to communities near the SKA, which is at CSIRO’s Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory.

“This high-speed connection will support local economic development while reducing radio interference around the telescope.”

The SKA is an international collaboration between 16 member countries, including: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Australia will build and host the low-frequency part of the telescope (SKA-Low), which includes up to 131,072 individual SKA antennas, shaped like Christmas trees. The mid-frequency element (SKA-Mid) will be hosted by South Africa.

Global construction activities are expected to begin in the second half of this year, with work expected to begin in WA from early next year.

An Indigenous Land Use Agreement is currently under negotiation and it will focus on, among other things, protection of Indigenous heritage.

Further information on the SKA is available at www.ska.gov.au.