Plans to develop the nation’s own space agency were formalised in the budget, after pleas from the industry to help launch Australia into a fast-growing sector.
In the lead up to budget night, Flinders University space archaeologist Dr Alice Gorman suggested it was time Australia tapped into the growing space industry, which she said is expected to be worth $3.5 trillion in the next 30 years.
“We can’t afford to get stuck on Earth when everyone else is going to the stars. Australia can finally step up and participate as an equal with other nations,” said Dr Gorman.
She claimed that while Australia was the third country to launch a satellite on its own territory, way back in 1967, things have lagged since due to the lack of an agency to oversee the sector.
Dr Gorman called on the government to allocate $50 million in “seed funding” to help establish a dedicated space agency as a means of allowing Australia to enter this booming sector.
“This is an investment which allows us to compete in the global space race, and the Space Industry Association of Australia predicts we can increase our share in the market from 0.8 to 4 percent within 20 years,” she said.
“We are talking about an industry that will need engineers, scientists, researchers, archaeologists, and even writers and artists. Some skin in the game also gives our voice credibility on issues like space junk and space treaties.”
The government fell short of Dr Gorman’s $50 million target; however, it did commit a total of $41 million towards the creation of a space agency. This comprises an initial funding commitment of $26 million over four years, with a further “pool” of $15 million the new agency can then draw on over the three years from 2019–20 to invest in international space projects deemed beneficial to Australian interests.
“The establishment of an Australian Space Agency… will kick-start Australia’s space industry,” the budget papers said.
“Investment in this tech-centred industry will create opportunities for business and job growth across the economy, including manufacturing, agriculture, communications, mining, and oil and gas industries.”
Alongside the space agency investment, the government allocated an additional $260 million in capital to update Australia’s global positioning systems (GPS) to “provide more accurate national coverage”.
“This will enable businesses to turn smart ideas into profit-making ventures and will help create jobs. Regional and remote communities and industries will also benefit from improved network reliability and service.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.