The Australian Federal Government has used the opening of the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide to announce it will establish a national space agency.
The announcement by South Australian senator Simon Birmingham follows months of lobbying by the Space Industry Association of Australia and the South Australian Government. Australia is one of the only OECD countries without a national space agency. A Federal Government review into the long-term plan for the sector in Australia was announced in July but will not be completed until March, all but dashing hopes of an announcement at the congress.
However, Senator Birmingham said it was already clear that the case for a national agency was “compelling”. “This agency will be the anchor for the domestic coordination and the front door for our international engagement for so many of you from across the world’s space industries,” he said. “I am confident that with our unique geography, South Australia will naturally be at the forefront of an increased Australian engagement in space industries. Space is too large, too complex, too important for any one country to seek to do it alone and this congress presents yet another outstanding opportunity to share insights into the future of the global space industry.”
Senator Birmingham said Acting Minister for Innovation and Science Senator Michaelia Cash would outline further details of the national at a congress lunch tomorrow.
“The global space sector was growing fast and Australia needed to be a part of it,” he said. “We have listened to the industry and the overwhelming response to our Review has been support for a space agency.”
More than 4,200 delegates have registered for the congress, making the event the largest conference ever staged in South Australia as well as an ideal opportunity to show off the $397 million Adelaide Convention Centre redevelopment.
Space Industry Association of Australia Chair Michael Davis said the SIAA was thrilled with the announcement and expected the agency would be a collaboration between government and industry. “What a start to this congress,” he said. “The aim is to deliver clear economic benefit to the Australian economy and of course, to re-enforce our status as a participant of long-standing in the development of outer space. We will soon take our place at the table of space agencies as major initiatives and cooperative projects are considered and developed. Australia has always played a significant role, but we have fallen behind the major nations, especially the European ones and now we can quickly play catch up in this $330 billion industry. We have the capacity, the science, the skills, the research and development environment, the culture, the industry nous. Now we have the standing of the Australian Space Agency.”
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the week presented an opportunity for South Australia to send a bold message to the world. “We are ready to put ourselves in the service of this nation by becoming a key part of a national space agency,” he told the congress. We are also sending a clear message to the world that we want to work with you – as our state logo suggests – as an open door to opportunity.”
The SIAA launched a White Paper in March calling on the Australian Government to establish a national space agency.
Last month Weatherill and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together towards the creation of a Canberra-based space agency with a prominent presence in Adelaide. The State Government last week also announced a space industry center was being established in Adelaide and increased Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith’s portfolio was increased to include space.
Article authored by Andrew Spence of The Lead.