Interview - ABC News Breakfast

Michael Rowland
Aussie-made rover announcement

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Let's get more now on the news of Australia's deal with NASA for a future moon mission. An Australian built rover could take off in as little as four years, to help prepare for a permanent presence on the moon and eventually, hopefully Mars. We're joined now by the federal Minister for Science and Technology, Melissa Price. Minister, good morning. A very big day for Australia's space industry.

MELISSA PRICE: Yes, good morning Michael. Yes, Australia is going to the moon.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: [Interrupts] So tell us-

MELISSA PRICE: I'm hoping that there's lots of budding scientists sitting on the couch watching you this morning, Michael…

MICHAEL ROWLAND: [Interrupts] I’m sure there are.

MELISSA PRICE: … who are very excited about their own space journey.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, tell us about the rover. It will be built in Australia. What will be its mission once it gets to the moon?

MELISSA PRICE: So this is a fabulous opportunity for Australian businessmen, businesswomen, scientists and innovators. Let me paint the picture for you. So, rover, our Aussie rover, is going to hitch a ride on a rocket to the moon. When it gets to the moon, it will be remotely operated, it will go onto the moon where it will collect the lunar soil. Then there’ll be work done to identify the level of oxygen in that lunar soil, as you said, to determine whether it could- the moon could sustain human life.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, we know Australia's space industry is very important. It's a growing industry. How big a boon will this be for the scientists, the researchers, the manufacturers involved in this part of the economy?

MELISSA PRICE: Well, this is an incredibly important sovereign industry that we need to develop. Honestly, the world is our oyster and this is just the first step for us. The first time that we will have technology which has been designed and created by the Australian scientific community. We cannot underestimate just what an exciting opportunity this will be and how this will inspire others.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Where will the rover be built?

MELISSA PRICE: Well, that will depend on who ends up ultimately winning the tender to be able to build rover. So, early next year we will have a process, effectively, you know, like a tender process, to identify who’s got the capability. And we know that there's incredible capability already with respect to automation, especially in the mining industry. And you know, from my own electorate in Durack and in the Pilbara, we know that we've already got the technology. So, you know, that will depend on who ultimately gets the contract.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. And can we see more of this space collaboration with certainly the United States as part of the new deal, alliance we have with America and Britain?

MELISSA PRICE: Well, obviously, the new agreement between the US and the UK and Australia really gives us an excellent framework now. So yes, I mean I'm very hopeful that this is just the first of many missions that we will undertake with the US.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Hey, before you go, some matters closer to home - as a cabinet minister, can we expect the Government to commit to net zero by 2050?

MELISSA PRICE: Well, I don't think you would expect me to discuss matters relating to Cabinet, but clearly there's, as you know, there's a lot of discussions taking place between the Liberals and the National Party and, you know, Australians more broadly.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: As a former environment minister, do you support setting a target for 2050?

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah, absolutely. But, what I do support is making sure we know how we're going to get there. Just having ambition is not enough, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: In terms of how you're going to get there, that's a very important point because later today, one of your colleagues, Andrew Bragg, Liberal New South Wales Senator, is making a speech where he'll call for a 40 per cent target to be set by 2030. At the moment, as you know, Australia's target is only 26 to 28 per cent. Should Australia, should the Government be more ambitious in setting an early to medium term target?

MELISSA PRICE: Well I think, as I said, the most important thing is how you get there. Ambitious is useless if you don't have the pathway. But, you know, I’d be very satisfied if we can actually settle on net zero by 2050.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And a higher target in 2030? What's wrong with ambition?

MELISSA PRICE: There's nothing wrong with ambition but you have to know how you’re going to get there. We have discussions around the globe of people determining what they’re going to achieve, but rarely do we see the detail. And the devil is in the detail. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND: We shall see. Hey, before you go, back to space, there's a tender contest, obviously, for manufacturing. Will there be a competition for say, a name, for the rover?

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah, absolutely. In the meantime, Michael, I've got a bit of a working title, and a bit of a nod to the Pilbara because of that fabulous technology that we have there, with respect to effectively robots that are working on the mine sites. So my working title is Red Dog.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Not bad, not bad. Hey, Melissa Price, thanks for joining us this morning.

MELISSA PRICE: Yeah, my pleasure, thanks a lot.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Red Dog? You might have an idea as well. Let us know. We'll try to get as many of your answers in before we finish the show - what would you name the rover blasting off to the moon, hopefully by the end of the decade?