Karen Andrews buckets Labor over space industry neglect

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James Riley

Former Industry minister Karen Andrews says the federal government is walking away from the domestic space industry, with program cuts that will undermine Australia’s sovereign capability and limit new economic opportunities.

Programs that had been started under the previous government had been abandoned, and the space industry de-prioritised under initiatives like the National Reconstruction Fund, Ms Andrews said.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Andrews called the scrapping of Coalition’s National Space Mission for Earth Observation program a “travesty” that would limit opportunities for earth observation and other forms of remote sensing that contribute over $5 billion annually to Australia’s GDP.

The program “would have facilitated the design, build and operation of four of our own new satellites for vital earth observation purposes, providing sovereign capability in this vital field and anchoring Australia’s growing space industry,” she said.

The $1.16 billion National Space Mission for Earth Observation was conceived as a joint project between the Space Agency, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and Defence.

Karen Andrews
Karen Andrews MP

Ms Andrews said Australia’s earth observation sector – including the benefits that EO data generates for other industries – is exposed to significant sovereign supply risks, at a time when the risk of denial-of-service events is growing.

“Space was traditionally about exploration and human advancement through space travel, but today, with satellite communications, our way of life relies on space technologies like it never has before,” she said.

“Growing the space sector is about jobs. It’s about improving opportunities for Australian businesses so they can access international export prospects. It’s about building our national capability into the future.”

Ms Andrews told Parliament that the government had cut $59.7 million from the Technology in Orbit program, $80 million from the Moon to Mars Supply Chain Facilitation program, and $32 million that was to have been co-invested in space ports and launch sites.

Momentum that had been created under Coalition space programs had been brought to a halt, with jobs and opportunities – and scientific benefits – likely to be lost to international competitors.

“We have the advanced the manufacturing capabilities, we have the businesses actively engaged, and, through the Australian Space Agency, we have built goodwill and opportunity in the international community,” she said. “What we no longer have is a government committed to the sector.”

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