Labor calls for more govt space sector support


Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Deputy leader of the Opposition Richard Marles has called for the government to provide more support to Australia’s burgeoning space sector, but stopped short of committing Labor to a new space policy.

In an address to the Southern Space Symposium in Canberra on Tuesday, Mr Marles said Australia has the skills and history to contribute more to the global space race and should be aiming to be in the top six countries in terms of capabilities and market share.

“I would contend that, given our history, given our skills, given our legacy, and given the tremendous opportunity that space represents going forward, we need to be doing more. Government needs to make the decision that this is going to be an industry we will be a part of as a nation,” Mr Marles said.

“Because we have the skills, we have the location, we have incredible natural assets. This genuinely can be a national strength, and we really can be one of the leading players in the world if we make the decision to do this.”

Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow minister for science Richard Marles. Image: Space Industry Association of Australia

The Shadow Minister for Science welcomed the Coalition’s establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2018 and the funding programs that followed, including the $150 million Moon to Mars initiative.

But he told industry the government should be doing more to reap the rewards of its investment, including leading a conversation on how Australia can capture a bigger slice of the global space market, which is forecast to be worth trillion billion dollars globally next decade.

The global space market is currently estimated to be worth around $450 billion, and the local sector is responsible for $4.6 billion, according to the Australian Space Agency.

“[That is] about one to one and a half per cent of the global effort,” Mr Marles said.

“Now that supports 11,500 jobs. But given the history that we have had in government led space exploration and space exploitation, I would contend that this really, at this moment in time, is a small contribution to a moment where we’re actually seeing space as a place where money is being made, where jobs are being created, where industry is being undertaken.”

Mr Marles said he needed to have a conversation with colleague Ed Husic, the shadow minister for industry and innovation, before revealing Labor’s space policy or if one would even be announced before the election.

At the 2019 election Labour ran with a $35 million space policy package aimed at doubling the size of the local industry in five years, and revealed it well before polling day. Labor also committed to establishing a $20 million space industry cluster in regional New South Wales just weeks before its unsuccessful 2019 election.

For the upcoming election Labor has announced a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to support a range of local industries to create more economic diversity and sovereign capability.

On Tuesday, Mr Marles said the space sector will play a key role in developing a more modern and resilient Australian economy.

Australia’s pedigree and skills in space means it can be one of the targeted areas that Australia can be a global leader in, he said.

“The gap between us and the cutting edge of modernity is growing larger…Now a country of our size, we can’t do everything, we acknowledge that. But we really do need to be thinking about those areas where we can reasonably expect to lead the world, or if not lead the world be in the top handful of countries in the world when it comes to science and technology and make a decision to do it,” he said.

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