Star wars: Fight to host Australian space agency heats up


The search is on for which state or territory should host the Australian Space Agency, but an expert says the battle is "counter-productive".

A search for the home of Australia's first national space agency is underway after the Turnbull government set aside $41 million for it in May's federal budget.

Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, NSW, the Northern Territory and ACT have all expressed interest in hosting the Australian Space Agency, which will set up temporarily in Canberra from July 1.

On Monday, Victorian Industry Minister Ben Carroll requested a meeting with his federal counterpart by the end of June to press the state's case.

"No other state or territory can boast having one in five space industry headquarters right here in Victoria, ready to go," he said.

Victoria is home to some of the world's biggest names in aerospace, including Lockheed Martin, Thales, Boeing and BAE Systems, each conducting research, development and manufacturing.

"Victoria has generations of manufacturing experience and major companies willing to invest. This makes us the perfect home for the Australian Space Agency," Mr Carroll said. 

Also on Monday, WA Science Minister Dave Kelly released a report outlining the case for the agency to be based in the west.

The state's geographic advantages and the already thriving space industry make WA an intelligent choice, according to the ACIL Allen report.

"The Federal Government also has the perfect opportunity to launch the Australian Space Agency right here right now in WA, by partnering with the European Space Agency who want to build a second deep-space antenna in New Norcia," Mr Kelly said.

Last month, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Australia's first astronaut Paul Scully-Power will advise the state government on how to host the agency.

The NSW government will attempt to link its bid for the headquarters with Sydney's new "Aerotropolis", which is being built around the new Badgerys Creek airport.

But Australian Strategic Policy Institute space lead Dr Malcolm Davis said a decision on the agency's base needs to be made quickly to stop states fighting.

"What the states need to understand is the space agency is not going to be a NASA Down Under," Dr Davis said.

"It's not going to be an all-encompassing organisation that builds hardware, launches hardware, runs space missions."

Instead, the agency will coordinate funding, research and policy in a bid to drive private sector investment.

Dr Davis said the agency was meant to create the conditions for the private sector to flourish, rather than be a political football for states to fight over.

Frankly it's counter-productive to allow this to go on.

 Dr Malcolm Davis

"Frankly it's counter-productive to allow this to go on," he said.

"It's actually detracting from the whole purpose of the organisation, which is to develop Australia as a space power.

"I think it's ludicrous to say 'Victoria should have it over South Australia'. It's going to be a national activity."

It's hoped a decision on a permanent base will be made by the end of 2018.

The global space industry is growing and forecast to be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040.

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