Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (18:45): Quite excitingly, the 2019-20 budget provided $19.5 million for the Space Infrastructure Fund, and I want to speak on that today. I welcome the government’s ongoing interest in this area. My electorate has a strong connection with the space industry, through what is now the RAAF Woomera Range Complex, the largest land based test range in the world, at 127,000 square kilometres. To put that into context, it is about double the size of Tasmania. So it is a good place to have a play around with a bit of equipment like some satellite-launching gear. It has been important to this nation and it will continue to be.
In recent years we have seen large upgrades on the range—$297 million to rebuild the digital monitoring and communication technologies across the range. Significant further investment is under further consideration. Maybe we will never see a return to the glory days of Woomera when there were more than 6,000 people living there, but there is a significant whiff of revitalisation in the air. Woomera is ideally well-placed to provide significant services to our new commitment to the space industry.
Last month I met with a consortium, Southern Launch. They are hoping—in fact they are planning—to launch satellites off the southern Eyre Peninsula, not the big geostationary satellites that we have become familiar with but new-age, low-orbiting satellites. These will operate about 400 kilometres above the earth’s surface. Geostationary satellites are at about 35,000 kilometres. If we are talking about delay in communications—you might get your head around that—this is a much shorter distance, virtually instant. There will be no drag in that communication chain. It is highly likely that hundreds if not thousands of these will be launched over the next decades.
They have a useful lifespan of about two-and-a-half years, and they fall back to earth after about four years and burn up completely in the atmosphere because they are not big. Southern Launch are very confident that, should they get a foothold in this industry, we can build an industry in South Australia by building these satellites, because they are quite small; we are talking kilograms rather than tonnes. I look forward to working with them and helping them fulfil their dreams.
My understanding is the Space Infrastructure Fund will back priority projects across states and territories and address the gaps, transforming the Australian industry. So far, the government has committed $73.2 million to support the development of Australia’s space sector, including $32.7 million towards the ongoing operation of the Australian Space Agency, $15 million for the International Space Investment Initiative, and $6 million for the Space Discovery Centre announced as part of the Adelaide City Deal.
I know the government understands the profound benefits of space technology and services on the lives of Australians—it touches virtually every one of us. Australian farmers—and you, Mr Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson, and I are both farmers—already value the space industry and the capabilities that are offered to us to monitor on-farm the health of our crops. Marine pilots use GPS guidance. They guide cruise-liners. Emergency workers track the progress of bushfires. Scientists study the effects and impacts of droughts. I know, as a proud South Australian, that much of the space industry activity is centred in South Australia. The headquarters of the Australian Space Agency will be at located at Lot 14 in Adelaide.
Mission control facilities under the Space Infrastructure Fund will provide a platform for small and medium enterprises or researchers to control small satellite missions and provide access to space enabled data. The $6 million Australian Space Discovery Centre is part of the Adelaide City Deal, and is funded separately, not as part of the Space Infrastructure Fund. Geoscience Australia’s investment in South Australia includes $14 million over the forward estimates for the ground station infrastructure. The new SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre is also being headquartered in South Australia. The SmartSat CRC will create leapfrogging technologies in advance of telecommunications and smart satellite systems to build Australian space infrastructure. I appreciate the minister further outlining now how this commitment to science and space technology in this budget will deliver real benefits and create jobs in South Australia and all around the nation.