I rise today to express my disappointment with the way this government has downgraded one of Australia’s emerging and enabling industries: our space sector.
When I was the minister for industry, science and technology I asked the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Resources to report on the future of Australia’s space industry. Their report found that the global space industry is predicted to be worth almost $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years. The committee endorsed the coalition government’s goal to increase Australia’s space revenue to $12 billion and create an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030, giving us a much bigger slice of the global industry. We were well on the way to achieving that, having created the Australian Space Agency to drive that growth. Importantly, we also made space one of the priority sectors in our Modern Manufacturing Strategy and we established the Australian Space Discovery Centre at Lot 14 in Adelaide to provide a showcase and education centre to inspire our young astronauts of the future.
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. 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.
Sadly, in very sharp contrast to the coalition government, the Labor government seems to lack our vision for supporting this growing sector and building for the future. One of the first things that Labor did was scrap space as a standalone sector under the National Reconstruction Fund. This was incredibly shortsighted and a sign of things to come. In September last year Australia’s peak space industry organisation took the extraordinary step of writing to its members and calling out the Albanese-Labor government and Minister Ed Husic for their failure to engage on space policy since the election.
In the government’s most recent budget it was clear why. It has now been revealed that the Albanese government has cut over $1.2 billion from Australia’s space industry by cancelling the National Space Mission for Earth Observation program in its entirety. Earth observation from space is vital to Australia’s interests, with satellite earth observations and other forms of remote sensing contributing over $5 billion annually to Australia’s GDP.
A report by Deloitte in 2021 found that Australia’s earth observation sector, and the benefits EO data generates for other industries, is exposed to a significant sovereign supply risk, at a time when the risk of denial-of-service events is growing. That’s why in March 2022 the coalition allocated $38.5 million for the first phase of the National Space Mission for Earth Observation. The overall program was promised $1.16 billion out to 2039. The National Space Mission for Earth Observation was a joint project with the Australian Space Agency, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Defence. It 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.
It is a travesty that Labor have quietly just scrapped it. Sadly, this is not the only cut. As a result of this government’s so-called spending audit last year, they cut $506.4 million across the industry and science portfolio. This included cuts to the Modern Manufacturing Initiative and the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, which have dedicated funding for space projects. It was also recently confirmed by the Australian Space Agency at Senate estimates that the Albanese government had cut $59.7 million from the Technology into Orbit program and the space flight tickets subprograms, $80 million from the Moon to Mars Supply Chain Facilitation program and $32.3 million which had been slated to co-invest in space ports and launch sites. It saddens me that the momentum built under the coalition government has been brought to a halt, meaning that jobs and opportunities, as well as scientific benefits, will be lost to our 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. What we no longer have is a government committed to the sector.