Australia has the smarts, the skills, and the geography to be a world leader in the space sector.
But as other countries are spending big on space it feels like we are falling further behind and losing momentum.
We can all remember that iconic moment when JFK addressed Rice University in the hot Texan air of September 1962.
We can all remember his Boston twang as he boomed:
we choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
The pursuit of industrial endeavours in space holds great symbolic value. It is a demonstration of humanity’s capacity to innovate, to dream, to build and to reach for the stars.
Growing the space sector presents us with so much more than a worthy human endeavour. A strong, stable and growing space industry is not just an inspiration, in the 21st century economy it is a necessity.
Because the space industry is more than just rocket ships, it is more than launch pads and satellites.
Australia’s space industry can be a new frontier, a new chapter of Australia’s successful economic story.
The Coalition’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy locked in space as a key priority for Australian manufacturing and noted it was an area of huge economic potential for Australian businesses. It estimated the future space industry would continue its upward trajectory and would be worth US$1 trillion.
Australia’s space industry has the capacity to not only be a pillar of advanced manufacturing it can ignite productivity across our economy.
The application of space technology is a new avenue to help boost agricultural productivity – space technology can help with weather forecasting, crop monitoring, precision agriculture, irrigation management, automation and pest control.
That means with the right partnerships, Australian farmers can drive more production across their operations through smarter use of data and more precise decision making.
Australia already leads the world in agriculture so collaborations between our farmers and the space sector are a big opportunity if we are able to realise it.
But we also know space is also not just about driving productivity and economic growth.
Space technology can help equip Australian emergency services with better understanding of fuel loads across our unique Australian bushland.
That means our emergency services and land management agencies can make better decisions to deal with fuel loads and help to mitigate the impacts of severe bushfire events before they occur.
As we see other countries such as Canada face increasingly severe bushfire events, Australia has the opportunity to take our world-leading firefighting knowledge and combine it with innovation in our space sector to help other countries tackle the challenge this poses.
In response to our devastating Black Summer of Bush Fires, we launched the Bushfire Earth Observation Taskforce. The report it authored recommended a range of actions to help Australia respond better to bushfires through leveraging space. Industry has a key role and a lot to offer the government in this effort.
It almost goes without saying that space technology is critical for Australia’s national security and defence.
The Coalition’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan shifted space into a higher gear across Australia’s defence establishment. It resulted in the creation of Defence Space Command in January 2022.
The recently released Defence Strategic Review evolved the work we did in government on space. What is now clear is there is a bipartisan commitment to space as a keystone defence and national security industry.
So Space is no longer an aspirational effort for Australia. The Australian space industry is a key part of the next chapter of our economic story. It holds the potential to unlock productivity and new advanced manufacturing jobs. Space technology is already helping us mitigate Australia’s unrelenting natural environment and it is also now a fundamental part of our national security.
But space is a rapidly evolving sector, and all governments have to be prepared to move fast and run with industry, not vacate the field.
Space is not an explicit priority of the National Reconstruction Fund, and it should be.
With every day of delay, and funding cuts to space projects we fall further behind the next exciting frontier.
Now is not the time to turn off the taps on space, it’s time to fire the boosters and back Australia’s space industry to soar above the rest.