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Call for more Australian Space Agency funding as Adelaide wins HQ

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The space industry is calling on the Federal Government to boost funding for the Australian Space Agency, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning confirmed would be headquartered in Adelaide.

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Morrison announced overnight that the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, otherwise known as Lot 14, will host Australia’s $41 million national space agency. The site, he said, would also benefit from a “city deal” to help fund the precinct’s transformation.

Morrison also took the opportunity to announce a new $1.25 billion Federal Government spend on community health services across the country, including in mental health, cancer treatment, drug rehabilitation and clinical trials.

The Australian Space Agency, which will employ 20 people, will regulate, licence and assess space-related activities conducted by private industry.

The agency gives Australia a new seat at the table in the regulation of space under international law and will be responsible for facilitating industry growth.

The Federal Government hopes that the agency will help coordinate Australia’s space industry to create 20,000 new jobs and triple its worth to $12 billion by 2030.

Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews told ABC radio this morning it would include a “mission control centre”.

Chair of the Australian Space Industry Association, Michael Davis, told InDaily this morning he was excited that South Australia would host the agency and pleased that it would be co-located with several space industry startups in the Lot 14 “innovation hub”.

But he said the Federal Government should contribute more if it wants Australia to realise the full benefits of the growing sector.

Davis said that “by locating the (agency) inside an entrepreneurial … precinct, there will be a much (closer) interface with industry, and that can only be a good thing”.

“(However) that level of funding ($41 million over three years) makes us very low against our international peers in terms of direct space agency funding.

“Our association would be very keen to see a gradual increase in the space agency budget in order to help it expand.”

He said he was also “very attracted to the idea” of a dedicated space research and development program, such as that established by the former federal Labor Government, which had funded 15 research projects including satellite sensor technology developed by SA internet of things company Myriota.

He added that the Federal Government does currently fund space-related projects undertaken by the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia.

Then-Weatherill Government Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith launched the campaign for a national space agency in Adelaide last year, which followed an earlier State Government strategy to create a space industry hub in Adelaide.

But Morrison said today’s announcement fulfilled Premier Steven Marshall’s vision for the old RAH site.

“This is what vision looks like – a vision from a premier who wanted to transform this site into a jobs magnet,” Morrison told reporters at the site this morning.

“This is a $4 billion industry in Australia, and by 2030, we’re taking this to a $12 billion industry.

“At the heart of driving that change is a $41 million investment in the national space agency here in Adelaide.”

Marshall told reporters “it doesn’t get any better than this for South Australia”.

“Every other state in South Australia has got a capability in space,” he said.

“Every other state would like to have had a national space agency headquartered in their state – but South Australia’s won it.

“This is just fantastic news.”

Andrews said South Australia was the obvious choice for a national space agency.

“There were some very compelling reasons for the agency to be headed here in Adelaide,” she said.

“There’s about 60 companies currently working in space-related industries, employing about 800 people (in SA).

“South Australia was, in fact, the start of the space journey here in Australia … about 50 years ago, the first satellite was launched from Woomera, and since that time there have been a number of advances in the space sector.”

The Australian Space Agency has been operating in Canberra with about 15 staff since July.

The Federal Government has since been assessing bids from around the country to decide where to place its permanent headquarters.

The head of the new agency, geologist and former CSIRO chief executive Dr Megan Clark, said a large pipeline of investment was coming for the Australian space industry.

“We’ve got a pipeline over the next three years of over $1 billion being invested into the national space industry,” she said.

“National coordination and international partnerships are absolutely key to our success.

“This is going to be a hotbed of creativity.”

More to come

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