Committee recommends authority for space agency and better alignment with Defence

By Jackson Graham

Wednesday December 8, 2021

Head of The Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and The Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall at the Launch of Australian Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide
Head of The Australian Space Agency Enrico Palermo, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and The Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall at the Launch of Australian Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide, March 31, 2021. (AAP Image/Morgan Sette)

Space industry stakeholders are pushing for the Australian Space Agency to become a statutory authority and for alignment between government investment in defence and civil space projects. 

A parliamentary committee has released a report into Australia’s space industry recommending the Australian Space Agency, established three years ago, needed capacity to enact legislation delegated to it from the federal parliament after hearing widespread support for the move from industry. 

Industry groups argued a statutory authority would allow the agency to be more proactive, coordinate space matters across government, and be more efficient in assessing applications. 

The parliamentary committee also recommended that the government strengthen alliances between civil and defence space matters, currently managed separately by the Department of Defence and the Australian Space Agency. 

The report found while the two entities worked together, there was room for the programs to be “better aligned and coordinated”, 

“Given Defence’s access to considerable funding for R&D and capability development, and the civil industry’s wealth of academic research and private entrepreneurship, both sides have a great deal to gain,” the report notes. 

According to OECD analysis cited in the report, Australia ranks 18th among the G20 countries for government investment in space as a percentage of GDP. 

The committee heard that funding for the space agency was “insufficient” and recommended the government review the way it is funded, including considering broadening funding streams and through industry co-funding. 

Industry groups said the space agency displayed a considerable government and industry effort to kickstart Australia’s space industry, but government investment was “lagging”. 

The report cited findings that every $1 invested in the space industry could directly return between $2 and $10, and indirectly return up to $17.

The committee viewed an upcoming operational review of the agency to give consideration of the status of the agency and its future funding and operational requirements. 

“The overwhelming message from the Australian space industry is the need for more national leadership and direction,” the committee wrote. 

“While the sector has been invigorated by the establishment of the [Australian Space Agency] and its achievements, it wants to know what Australia wants to achieve in space. 

“In other words, for the Australian Government to clearly articulate how Australia wants to cement itself and be recognised as a space nation.”


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