Cabinet reshuffle leaves space industry in limbo

The December 2017 cabinet reshuffle saw senator Arthur Sinodinos step down from his role as the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and replaced by two senators, leaving questions remaining over who will have responsibility for Australia's burgeoning space industry.

Under the reshuffle, senators Michaelia Cash and Zed Seselja have taken over Sinodinos' portfolios, but a spokesperson for the Department of Industry told Defence Connect a decision is yet to be made about who will take over as the key representative for the space sector.

"Each minister’s responsibilities within their ministerial portfolio are being reviewed and updated following the announcement of the reshuffle on Tuesday [19 December 2017]," the spokesperson said.

What this means for the space industry capability review, announced in July two months prior to the government revealing its plans to establish a national space agency, remains unclear. However, the spokesperson for the Department of Industry said the review will be presented to the government on time.

"The review will be providing its report to government in March 2018," the spokesperson said.

The space review is being led by an Expert Reference Group (ERG), chaired by Dr Megan Clark AC, FTSE, an Australian geologist and CEO of the CSIRO from 2009 to 2014. 

Formal consultations for the review were held last year, with over 400 people across all states and territories attending. Additionally, over 180 submissions were received.

Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said the space review will lead to a national strategy for the sector that reflects Australia’s national interests over the next decade, and aligns with Australian government priorities, including defence.

"This government plans to invest around $200 billion in Defence capability over the next 10 years, of which space capabilities will be an important part. This will provide opportunities for industry growth and employment," said Minister Pyne.

"The government’s $1.6 billion investment in defence industry and innovation programs over the next decade will ensure that we invest in the industry we need to support our defence capability requirements and transition world leading Australian research, development and innovation into practical defence capability."

The South Australian and ACT governments will be watching the outcome of the review with great interest, following on from their August announcement that saw the two sign a memorandum of understanding signalling an intent to work together towards the creation of a Canberra-based space agency with a prominent presence in Adelaide.

Since then, SA launched its own space centre, the South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC), which will build on the work of the existing space industry office at Defence SA to drive space industry innovation, research and entrepreneurial development.

While the federal government has not committed to a location for the national space agency, federal SA senator Simon Birmingham said SA will be at the forefront of the industry.

"I am confident that with our unique geography, South Australia will naturally be at the forefront of an increased Australian engagement in space industries," the senator said.

Cabinet reshuffle leaves space industry in limbo
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