Space low priority for new government, suggests ELA chief
The CEO of spaceport business Equatorial Launch Australia has suggested that space is now a low priority for the new government.
Speaking at Space Connect’s Australian Space Summit, Michael Jones added it was “disappointing” that the recent budget cut $77 million of investment announced by the previous administration.
“Call it what it is: the lack of federal government support with the change in government makes me nervous, and it makes the job really hard,” said Jones.
He hinted he believes space is now an afterthought for the Department of Industry, Science and Resources and quipped you had to “look hard” on its website to even spot the Australian Space Agency.
“Poor Enrico [Palermo, head of the ASA] is three or four levels down in that organization, and that really worries me. As an industry, we had claims last year that we’re looking for 20,000 jobs and $20 billion of economic stimulus in the future. We’re not going to get there if we don’t support the industry.
“Because as we travel around the world trying to get rocket companies to come to Australia, there are a number of impediments for them that we have to design strategies to overcome.
“We’re also competing against sovereign entities almost everywhere, who are supporting the industry in very, very financial and demonstrable ways, which make it hard for us to compete.”
Jones is one of the most high-profile figures in the Australian Space industry after ELA last year launched three NASA rockets from its site in the Northern Territory.
His intervention came minutes after Palermo conversely called on the space sector to “take perspective” on cuts imposed in the May federal budget in his keynote address.
He added the government had actually “reaffirmed” the role of the ASA despite cutting a promise made by the previous government to invest $32.3 million into Australia’s spaceports and launch sites.
Palermo said that the sector should look upon the situation as an opportunity rather than a crisis.
“As a sector, we’re all familiar with the overview effect, or at least I hope we are — the perspective astronauts get when they look down on Earth from space. And in some respects, I think we need to take the same sense of perspective with regards to this year’s budget,” he said.
“Yes, it’s not the budget we may have hoped for. But the government is still committed to space, and we must use this moment as an opportunity to continue our growth we’ve seen in recent years and transition.
“Other industries have long navigated the ebbs and flows of budgets, and now it’s time for our sector to demonstrate our maturity. We must lift our gaze and seize all the opportunities that are out there.”
The budget cuts form part of a wider plan by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources to recoup $77 million in savings, which will also include axing a key sub-program of the Moon to Mars program.
Science Minister Ed Husic said the rejected projects “do not align with the Albanese government’s priorities” and don’t deliver “value for money for the taxpayer”.
In February last year, Space Connect reported how the spaceport investment would mimic similar programs overseas.