News National New space agency boss predicts big things for Australian industry

New space agency boss predicts big things for Australian industry

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The agency's primary goal will be to grow the Australian space industry, Dr Clark says. Photo: NASA
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The scientist who will head the country’s first dedicated space agency believes Australia’s relatively small industry could soon treble in size, producing up to 20,000 new jobs in just over a decade.

Former CSIRO boss Megan Clark will today be formally named as the head of the Australian Space Agency for its first year of operations.

In her first interview in her new role Dr Clark told the ABC the agency’s primary goal would be to grow the Australian space industry.

“You ask yourself — why are we doing that? And it’s really to improve the lives of all Australians and I think to inspire Australians about what Australia really can really do in the space industry,” Dr Clark said.

“Of course space now is such a critical infrastructure underpinning just about all aspects of our economy.”

A report just completed for the Federal Government estimated the Australian space sector economy was worth $3.94 billion in the 2015-2016 financial year, with 88 per cent contributed by the private sector.

The document prepared by an expert review group led by Dr Clark set the “ambitious goal for Australia to triple the size of its space industry by 2030 to $10-$12 billion, and increase its share of the global space sector”.

“We think that we can add another 10 to 20 thousand jobs to 2030,” Dr Clark said.

The Government is yet to make a decision on where the new agency should be based, but Dr Clark said the nation’s capital was a logical location.

“We need to engage internationally and also to coordinate nationally and part of that activity best to be centred in Canberra,” she said.

“One of the first jobs that the Minister has tasked me with is to visit the states and territories and really see how they can put their best foot forward to look at how me might have hubs of the agency in our states and territories.”

In this month’s federal budget the Turnbull Government allocated just $41 million to establishing the organisation, but the Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash insists that funding is enough to “kickstart” the sector.

“Set the agency up, the operating costs, but also ‘seed funding’ to go overseas and actually enter into agreements,” Ms Cash has told the ABC.

“What Megan [Clark] will be doing within that first six-month period is providing us with the investment plan and that is what the Government will then look at.”

So could an Australian soon be heading to the moon?

The new space agency boss is not entirely ruling out the idea.

“A bit early to say that, I’m sure the Minister’s going to have my feet to the fire on making sure that we’ve got that investment program up and running in the short term — but we’ll keep you posted,” Dr Clark said.