Annual Dinner of the International Institute of Space Law

28 Sep 2017 Speech

Annual Dinner of the International Institute of Space Law

28 September 2017

*Check against delivery*

It is a pleasure to be here to speak at the Annual Dinner of The International Institute of Space Law, in the context of the 68th International Astronautical Congress.

I have read with great interest of your work in promoting space law and efforts to expand the rule of law in space.

It is fitting such a first class international congress, the largest gathering of space professionals in the world, is being held here in Adelaide.

South Australia has a proud pioneering history in space development.

Fifty years ago – in late 1967, just 10 years after Sputnik and Explorer One began the orbital era – Australia launched, from Woomera, our first home-grown satellite.

The Anglo-Australian Joint Project symbolised to a fascinated public the largest peacetime science and engineering project undertaken in the nation.

The success of the launch literally rocketed Australia into the space club.

With it came enormous opportunity and benefit to this State and indeed to Australia.

Fifty years on, the Turnbull Government is reviving that pioneering spirit and has some very serious space investment of its own.

The Government has made a 10 billion dollar commitment to space-related projects over the next two decades for Defence.

Along with an 89 billion dollar injection into naval infrastructure, this maintains Australia, and South Australia, at the centre of defence industry. Thousands of Australian jobs and industrial opportunities are being created.

When the world first leapt into the space race in the 1950s, only the truly imaginative could have foreseen where it would go, and the challenges it would pose.

Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke, the youngest man to walk on the moon, told it best. When he got back from space, his father, who was born around the time of the Wright brothers, could barely believe that he had been to the moon. Whereas his son, who was five at the time “didn’t think it was any big deal”.

As a father of four lively children and a senior Cabinet Minister, I can relate to this lack of reverence for a father’s achievements.

Of course it turned out to be a very big deal indeed. The race for space triggered all that we now rely on to prosper, communicate, and remain secure.

Fortunately, Australia also has a proud and pioneering history in space law.

It is 50 years since Australia became an original signatory to the Outer Space Treaty, or the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

This bedrock treaty with the very long name, holds to the principle that outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States for the benefit of humanity.

It bans the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space. It outlaws the use of the moon and other bodies for military purposes.

It was prescient, and remains sound.

There have been more specific treaties since, but a need for detailed work remains.

Things in space have changed, and multiplied.

The use of space, particularly commercial use, has grown exponentially. The civil space sector now invests significantly more than governments.

In 1973, 80 per cent of global spending on space came from military spending, with only the remaining 20 per cent from commercial sources.

By 2015, the ratio was almost reversed – 76 per cent of spending came from commercial sources and only 12 per cent from Government military spending.

It is with this in mind that Government is committed to enabling the growth of Australia’s space industry. We are determined to see industry given appropriate conditions to prosper and share in the global space economy, estimated to be worth 329 billion dollars in 2016.

In 2015, as the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, I announced a review into the Space Activities Act 1998.

This review was to ensure Australia’s civil space regulation would effectively stimulate innovation and investment in the space industry sector. And further, to secure our international obligations in managing the space environment.

The review was completed in December 2016.In March this year the major findings were included in a legislative proposals paper released for consultation. The drafting process for the Bill has begun, and there will be further opportunity to comment as we progress.

The space industry capability review announced in July this year by my colleague Senator Arthur Sinodinos, now the Minister for Industry Innovation and Science, will bring about a national strategy for the space sector. It will reflect Australia’s national interests over the next decade.

Already this review has led to this week’s announcement that Australia will be establishing a national space agency and is a very welcome announcement for industry.

This is a valuable opportunity to create Australian jobs and exports. We must stake our claim on the world stage.

A national space agency will act as the doorway to our international space engagement; and it will ensure that Australia’s domestic space industry has a strong, co-ordinated growth strategy.

The Expert Reference Group will provide advice to Minister Sinodinos on a possible structure and scope for an agency, as part of the strategy that it is preparing for government consideration by the end of March 2018.

As the space industry grows, Australian participants will become more enmeshed in the global supply chain. While this carries enormous potential for industry, we must remain good global citizens throughout.

Australia will continue to observe and adhere to the regulatory and legal requirements of export controls. We will hold to international non-proliferation agreements – the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and Australia’s Defence Trade Control Act.

Australia has long been at the forefront of calling for more specific “rules of the road” in space, the topic at the heart of your interest.

We do need better frameworks across a wide range of access and security issues.

No nation has the ability to tackle this challenge unilaterally, but Australia will again be at the forefront of debate. It is vital to our future economic and national security that we are.

We will work with allies and partners, including those in industry, to improve the rules of space utilisation and develop space-based systems that support and enable opportunity.

This will not be without obstacles.

The quantity of space debris in orbit has dramatically increased in recent years. The electromagnetic spectrum is a limited resource and the current crowding of the spectrum is a growing problem.

We must look to the best and brightest in science, law, government and industry to provide the answers, the innovation, and dare I say, the patience to deal with this and more.

There is another key reason why the Turnbull Government is closely focused on space. Ordered access to space is vital if the Australian Defence Force is to function and conduct operations as a modern, networked military.

It requires space-based positioning, navigation and timing – essential to controlling systems such as those used for precision-guided weaponry.

It needs Earth observation—intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. This gives the Defence Force situational awareness for operations – not only in the battlespace but to conduct vital humanitarian missions at home and abroad.

Networked defence requires effective space-based communication for voice and data connectivity.

And defence relies on space situational awareness to protect our national security interests and help us understand events in the space domain.

The Government’s 2016 Defence White Paper recognises the importance of space, and references the need to strengthen the rules-based system, more so than any previous Defence White Paper.

It outlines the Government’s investment in enhanced, modern space capabilities.

It acknowledges that our space situational awareness capabilities will be strengthened by the C-band radar being operated jointly by Australia and the United States.

It plans for the relocation of a United States optical space surveillance telescope to Australia.

Such advances are crucial to improving our understanding and awareness. They will improve the resilience of our space systems against space weather, space debris and other challenges.

In June the Minister for Defence and I announced a 500 million dollar investment in Defence Project 799. The Project will enhance our space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance by acquiring satellite ground stations. These enable the direct tasking and downlink of information from commercial imagery satellites.

Industry involvement is crucial to this Project, which will create new jobs in both Defence and industry across Australia. It will directly support the establishment and maintenance of capability, and assist many in the supply chain. More than 144 million dollars will be spent in Australia, creating jobs and generating economic growth.

In the first phase alone, Australian industry will benefit from around 14 million dollars spent locally to build the ground infrastructure to collect imagery from commercial satellites.

We are also celebrating another space related anniversary this year.

As I mentioned in my introduction, it is fifty years since the Weapons Research Establishment, now the Defence Science and Technology Group, launched our first satellite from the Woomera rocket range to measure the properties of the earth’s atmosphere.

Its success not only demonstrated our ability to contribute to space exploration, it created thousands of jobs and brought talented people into South Australia and elsewhere.

It contributed to Australia’s international standing in the main game of the time.

It was a huge and expensive UK-Australia collaboration that leveraged our collective scientific and technological genius.

Defence has long been a partner in research and development and prides itself on its academic collaborations.

Complementing the announcement of a national space agency, I am delighted to announce to you tonight that our Air Force and the University of New South Wales have recently signed a three-year space research Collaborative Project Agreement.

The 10 million dollar project will deliver world-class space education to Defence personnel at degree and higher degree levels. This will go beyond the education of individuals, to furthering our space expertise and capability.

The agreement arises from existing collaboration on the Buccaneer program between the Defence Science and Technology Group and UNSW in Canberra - which will see a small CubeSat satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California later this year.

Under the Collaborative Project Agreement, there will be a total of three of these miniature satellites launched over three years. They will have innovative communications and remote sensing payloads, and test spaceflight modelling techniques.

I congratulate Defence and the university on these collaborations and look forward to a successful launch.

Tonight I can also reveal a partnership between the CSIRO and the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) which will establish a High Altitude Sensor Systems (HASS) Program.

This Program will enhance Australian defence capability and build industrial capacity in sensor and on-board data processing technology for unmanned aerial systems and small-satellite platforms.

This is an exciting new research and development program in space-borne sensor technologies funded by 2.7 million dollars seed funding investment from the CSIRO.

It will bring together a number of organisations across Australia, comprising innovative commercial enterprises and leading Universities and research agencies, to work together under the DMTC.

The first round of the Program will involve research and contributions of cash and in-kind resources of up to an additional 3 million dollars from four companies, six universities, the DST Group and the CSIRO in areas such as such as high frequency sensors, how to manage imaging on small satellites and research around maritime and ocean monitoring by satellites.

I look forward to seeing the results of this crucial research.

I am also looking forward immensely to some game-changing capabilities emerging from the Next Generation Technologies Fund, the 730 million dollar innovation program I announced in March this year.

This ten-year strategic research and development program will draw on Australia’s expertise in advanced technologies and reach across industry and academia.

The Government welcomes and encourages Australian industry to get involved with Defence in furthering space capabilities.

The 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement sets out the Government’s objectives, including its collaborative intent.

For some projects, Defence will seek to invest in existing, proven and commercially available systems, and will consider Australian providers whose systems measure up.

For other projects, Defence may partner with allied militaries but seek Australian industry support in the project delivery and in-service support phase.

As the space sector continues to expand, Australian industry can also look to leverage opportunities through initiatives such as the Defence Innovation Hub and the Aerospace Environment Working Group.

The Defence Innovation Hub was established by the Turnbull Government in 2016.

It is looking for academic and private sector research proposals that can be turned into capabilities. It can collaborate across the development spectrum.

The Aerospace Environment Working Group meets annually and offers a broad view of Defence’s air and space projects. Co-chaired by Air Force and Industry, it looks to strengthen Defence and industry ties.


When the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967, human activity in space, and research and development, was the domain of Government.

Its main focus was military capability.

Space had a limited impact on everyday lives, except as an excuse for young people such as I to rush home and see grainy black and white footage of Neil Armstrong taking one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Five decades later, we all rely heavily on space.

We use it every day in agriculture, finance, media, communications, security and more.

This explains the huge shift of investment in space from military to commercial sources. I fully expect this private sector interest and intensity to continue to grow.

And, over the next two decades Defence will invest heavily in new and upgraded space systems, and this will create even more opportunities for industry here in Australia.

The social dividend from space will also continue to grow.

You need only to look to American astronaut Peggy Whitson, who at 57 recently notched first place for US space endurance at 665 days in space.

Dr Whitson broke the outer space “ceiling”. The sky is certainly not the limit.

So on that note, may I thank you once again for the opportunity to speak to you tonight, here in our great state of South Australia.

Please enjoy the rest of your evening – and may the force be with you.