Second space race

6 March 2018

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (17:32): I also recognise the work of the former chair of the Committee on State Development, the Hon. Greg Pearce, and commend him for the way he conducted the inquiries. I have found this committee to be very productive, which was due in no small part to the attitude of the former chair in the conduct of this committee. I welcome the current chair of the committee. I will speak first to the discussion paper on the inquiry into the Defence Industry in New South Wales. I agree that this spells out the scale of the potential for New South Wales if we focus more on this issue. Some 80 facilities are operating across the State.The discussion paper found that all up there are 27,000 defence personnel and some 56,000 direct and indirect regional jobs in the Hunter Valley, the Riverina, the Southern Highlands and the Shoalhaven.

In relation to the findings of the committee on our share of the defence industry, the problem can be seen in a nutshell. At December 2016, New South Wales had 32 per cent of the Australian population and was responsible for 31 per cent of the gross national product. In 2014-15, New South Wales had 26 per cent of defence employment and 25.6 per cent of total defence expenditure. This committee sought to close some of that expenditure gap, particularly at a time when the Federal Government is expanding its funding into this area of our economy. One question that has been raised in the public debate is about whether it is appropriate for New South Wales and Australia to be moving more into the defence area, particularly defence export. The quite reasonable question that has been asked is, Can't we just make butter? Do we have to make guns?

As the committee moved around some of these remarkable advanced manufacturing facilities in the State, such as in the back of sheds in the Shoalhaven or in Queanbeyan, we saw how closely entwined was civilian and defence advanced manufacturing. The firms were moving seamlessly and operating in both fields. If we are in the advanced manufacturing field, it makes sense to be doing guns and butter. It was clear for New South Wales firms that that is where the action is. What also became clear to members of the committee was that training was absolutely essential. The Engineers Australia submission to the two inquiries was really shocking and underlined how much work New South Wales has to do. It talked about the retention of year 12 students. While the North Shore retains 92.5 per cent of students to year 12, the north-west of New South Wales, in the bush, only retains 56.2 per cent. That presents a massive challenge to get on the front foot of these industries.

I want to turn to an issue that played a small part in the discussion paper but came out of these two inquiries, that is, the potential for New South Wales to move into the emerging area of a space sector. Last year the Federal Government announced its intention to establish an Australian space agency. It has set up an expert reference group that is expected to report in March 2018 and deliver a charter for a space agency to the Federal Government. Australia is one of the only countries left without a dedicated space agency. It is clear that there is a lot of potential in this area. When in Queanbeyan, the committee heard evidence on this matter. Dr Greene, the Chief Executive Officer of Electro Optic System, said:

We have a very good platform of expertise in this country now and we are quite intelligent users of space. It is time we started to be more intelligent exploiters, in our own right, of space.

Mr Boz said, "We see a lot of opportunity both in the space and defence sectors". What has changed in the space industry is that we have moved from the old satellites of the 1960s and 1970s with massive payloads to what astrophysicist Alan Duffy has described as "something the size of a toaster". They have thesame capabilities as some of those historic launches and are transforming what is possible in this area. The Federal Government has already looked at this. A fantastic Acil Allen consulting report entitled "The Australian Space Industry Capability" sets out Australia's advantages in this area. Australia's tremendous advantage in taking part in this industry is its large geographic land mass and its location in the Southern Hemisphere without congested air traffic and without congested space.

The report talks about two opportunities existing for Australia. The first is the emergence of smaller, more capable components and the development of standard satellite and launch platforms, which are reducing the cost associated with both manufacture and launch services. The second opportunity is to leverage Australia's existing instrumentation capability to design and manufacture highperformance instruments to be hosted on international satellites. Thisreport also underlines the capability of New South Wales.

It runs through the education and research institutions that are involved with space capabilities, including Charles Sturt University, a number of cooperative research centres, the CSIRO in Marsfield, Macquarie University, SpaceNet at the University of Sydney, and the University of New England. The University of New South Wales has a number of centres and the University of Newcastle is heavily involved. It also includes Southern Cross University, the University of Technology Sydney, the University of Western Sydney and the University of Wollongong.

The report outlines the commercial ground stations, a number of which are in New South Wales and include Optus, Lockheed Martin at Uralla and a number related to the National Broadband Network. Members would be familiar with the observatory and telescope at Coonabarabran. New South Wales has significant capabilities in this area. Once again, the South Australians are off and running with a not dissimilar dynamic to defence. They established the South Australian Space Industry Centre prior to the Australian space agency being set up. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said:

The space sector has enormous growth potential and is a perfect fit for South Australia, given our national leadership in other high‑tech industries.

We should respond to that. As the microsatellite era dawns, new countries enter the launch market. For example, on 22 January, ABC News reported:

New Zealand has trumped Australia in the space race, with a spaceflight start-up successfully launching a rocket from its own launch pad on the North Island ...

We stand at the beginning of the microsatellite and nanosatellite era. As Australia looks at the New Zealand launch, it should be a moment like the USSR launch of Sputnik 1 was to the United States under Eisenhower. We should respond by joining in this second space race focused on microsatellites and nanosatellites. I congratulate the Federal Government on doing so. The New South Wales Government should do so too. I call on the Government to do three things. The first is to state clearly that space is one of our priorities alongside defence. The second is to seek an urgent report from the Acting Chief Scientist as to the opportunities for New South Wales to join in the national effort. We should do so immediately, before this report is given to the Federal Government. Finally, the Government should seek advice as to potential launch sites that might be attractive to private operators. I note that such sites are likely to be in the north of the State, meaning the search might start in the north-west, possibly outside Bourke, near White Cliffs or at Broken Hill. 

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