Interview on ABC 891, Breakfast with Ali Clarke

Topics: National Space Agency; Population growth




Ali Clarke: Good morning to the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler how are you?


Mark Butler:  Morning Ali.


Ali Clarke: We’ve also got Greens Senator for South Australia, spokesperson on trade, Sarah Hanson-Young. Good morning.


Sarah Hansen Young: Good morning.


Ali Clarke: And Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia and Minister for Trade, hello how are you?


Simon Birmingham: Good morning Ali and good morning everybody!


Ali Clarke: Now before we get off the space race as such, we just saw the Prime Minister down there with Steven Marshall, we just spoke to the Premier before, and just behind them was Lucy Gichuhi, and Nicolle Flint, and Georgina Downer, and then right behind them was you, Simon Birmingham, in the third row. Now who delegates that? How was that worked out?


Simon Birmingham: I’m very modest what can I say? In the end our Science Minister Karen Andrews was there. It was Karen’s announcement to make alongside the Prime Minister and the Premier, I was just there as a humble South Australian Senator cheering the team on. It’s been a great week for SA. If you think about Sanjeev Gupta’s announcement in Whyalla at the start of the week that the Prime Minister was over there for, and this announcement on the Space Agency today; it really does show what a bright future our state has.


Ali Clarke: For cynics though that might suggest that perhaps your party has issues with women, or even just the marginal seats – that doesn’t come in to the nodding order with these announcements?


Simon Birmingham: Well Anne Ruston was standing beside me in the back row as well, so maybe we were just standing up the back so we could have a bit of a gossip at the same time!


Ali Clarke: Mark Butler, will you support this move to have the space agency here should your government be the new government next year?


Mark Butler:  More broadly we’ve been saying for some time that Australia needs to catch up with the rest of the world in space industry support. As I think you’ve said some time this morning, we’re currently one of only two OECD, or developed nations, that doesn’t have a space agency. Jay Weatherill, when he was the Premier of this state really did take the lead last year when, as Premier Marshall said, the IAC conference was held pitching for South Australia to be the location of the Space Agency.
This is a great day, and a great week for South Australia. There are obviously really strong synergies given our history in high end manufacturing, particularly in the car industry but more recently in the defence industry, to be the centre of this incredibly exciting area of innovation. As far as this goes, this is a really strong start and I’m really glad that Premier Marshall has continued the work that Jay Weatherill started.
It will take more than an Agency to build the sort of industry that we want to see in Australia, and Labor’s plans in space, I think it’s fair to say, have much more meat on the bones in terms of trying to build much broader government support in research, in setting up a supply chain to the industry, in setting up an ARC network of training centres, that will ensure we have the skills necessary to build this broad industry. This is a promising start but the government is going to have to do more than simply build an agency and locate it in Adelaide, if we’re going to really take advantage of the opportunities that are before us in the 21st century.

Ali Clarke: Mark Butler, though, if it is a promising start, and if it was something that’s needed, and as you and I both pointed out we’re one of the last developing nations to get one of these, why wasn’t it a high priority for federal leaders when your government was in power?


Mark Butler: Well I think it’s fair to say that this has really emerged over the last couple of years as something Australia simply needs to bite down on. There were advocates within our party – Kim Carr, who Simon knows well, a Senatorial colleague, has been making this case for quite some time. But I think really this has been something that across the political spectrum has raised its profile over the last couple of years, and as I said it was a really good thing that first under Jay Weatherill and then under Steven Marshall when he took the Premiership earlier this year-


Ali Clarke: Yeah, but didn’t Labor want the agency in Canberra?


Mark Butler:  Well Jay was really the first out there pitching for this to be in Adelaide. We wanted to see a competitive process and other states, late to the party if you like, were also making their pitches. I think the groundwork that Jay laid and then Steven Marshall took up when he became Premier really put South Australia in a strong position and that’s a great thing!


Ali Clarke: Okay, but federal Labor was trying to commit to Canberra as being the central base of this and then there might be hubs in other states and territories, that’s my understanding?


Mark Butler:  It is going to be important if this is a national industry that it’s not going to be located in any one state, but I can tell you I’m really excited about South Australia taking the lead.


Simon Birmingham:   I think Ali, to give a straight answer there, Kim Carr who Mark referenced before absolutely believed that the Agency should be Canberra based. We believe it should be Adelaide based because of the synergies between defence and other sectors, but importantly because you’ve got so many businesses here. Yes, government investment is important to help leverage, and particularly to open doors with other governments around the world, but the most exciting thing this morning was hearing Megan Clark, the head of the Space Agency telling the Prime Minister that in the year or so since our government announced this Agency they’ve been out there, they’ve attracted around $1 billion of additional investment, half of it coming from overseas, much of it coming into South Australia, and that’s where the real jobs and opportunities lie, those businesses who will actually be part of the space ecosystem in South Australia, and across all the different parts of Australia, who will be driving new opportunities. Not just in space technology but that will spin off into defence, into manufacturing, into agriculture, and a whole range of other areas.


Ali Clarke: Well lets go to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator for South Australia. Sarah are you happy with this decision?


Sarah Hanson-Young: I think this is extremely exciting for South Australia and I think it’s one of those areas that across all the various political parties I think we should be celebrating that this is great for our state. But I really want to see South Australia become the science state of the nation. We’ve got amazing investment, private investment in renewables; we’ve got lots of investment in technology innovation, we have the space centre. Put a bit of arts in there and I think we are the creativity and innovation state. That’s where I think SA should go and this is a really really good start.


Ali Clarke: Okay while we’re talking about Adelaide and where it should go – we are the centre of everything. COAG is starting if it hasn’t already started right now, and population and migration is on the agenda. Mark Butler do you think we need more people here in South Australia?


Mark Butler:  Broadly yes. I’ve always been a supporter of strong, sustainable population growth in an economy like Australia’s. It means we can continue to fund the things we want to fund and present job opportunities to young people, and I think the population growth we have seen over the past years and decades is a stark contrast to some of the other developed economies like Japan and Europe that really are struggling with those things – maintaining economic growth, maintaining a funding base for things that we enjoy as citizens, and maintaining job opportunities for young people. I think the debate really focuses on two major challenges we have – the first is the distribution of that population growth, and particularly too much of it going into the, particularly the two big cities but Brisbane as well, and not enough going into smaller states like South Australia. The other thing, connected, I guess is the lack of good infrastructure to keep pace with that population growth. So we do have concerns in Sydney, Brisbane and in Melbourne about congestion on our roads, in our public schools, in our hospitals and such like. I think we do need to step back and try and take, as much as possible, a bipartisan approach to this to make sure there is better distribution, including into South Australia, for population growth, and that services keep up with that growth. 


Ali Clarke: So given the state responsibilities for the hospitals, the schools, the roads, and everything else that you’ve referred to there, would you be in favour of giving more power to the states in leading whatever policy is agreed on?


Mark Butler:  Well I think ultimately this has got to be led by the Commonwealth particularly given the role that immigration plays there. We’ve said, federal Labor, through Bill Shorten, that as far as possible there should be a bipartisan approach from the Commonwealth level to ensure that population policy is much more strategic than perhaps it has been in recent years.


Ali Clarke: Sarah Hanson-Young would you support cuts to migration?


Sarah Hanson-Young: I don’t think we need to see cuts to migration. I think we need to see how we support our growing population and the population that’s already here. A lot of people are saying that this is about infrastructure – it’s also about services so it’s not just about the hard infrastructure, it’s about the soft infrastructure, so schools and hospitals and other elements of what makes a community safe and liveable. Of course, with that, a lot of the jobs for those services can come from people who have migrated – it’s about being smart about it. What I don’t like is the idea that this debate gets used as a proxy for race baiting – we don’t want that. We don’t want to see it, let’s make sure we talk about this in terms of funding services, funding infrastructure. Let’s make sure that communities, whether they are big, small or medium actually have them and they aren’t sort of lumped out as an area that’s considered kind of a backwater never to be seen again. We actually have to grow and be consistent in building healthy communities.


Ali Clarke:  These issues are very different on the ground here in Adelaide than in Sydney – I mean Sydney is growing at a rate of 2000 people per week I was reading. So Simon Birmingham, what is the Prime Minister’s plan if an agreement can’t be reached today? You’ve got all these different states and territories that need very different things. So what’s the fall back?


Simon Birmingham:  Well this is really the first time that a Prime Minister, a government, has shown the leadership of saying we’re going to engage the states and territories because we know they have different views about population, different capacity in terms of the infrastructure needs that they have in terms of sustaining a growing population. And yes, there are very different views that come from New South Wales compared to South Australia in terms of the type of population growth. So the PM is going through this very thorough process now of actually having a much more coordinated approach of actually developing out population. As a South Australian, I want to see our state grow. In seeing our state grow, the number one driver isn’t going to be population, it will be jobs. That comes back to the Space Agency, the investment in Whyalla, our government’s investment into defence, all of those things of course, are the determinants of whether people stay here or come here.


Ali Clarke: But Simon Birmingham one of the biggest criticisms in this population discussion is that no government has had a population policy up until this stage. It has been a little haphazard and there hasn’t been a very big driver – surely you can’t just then put it all back on jobs?


Simon Birmingham:  I’m saying that in terms of, as a state, if we want to see growth, a policy just structured around population won’t keep people in South Australia. A policy that says lets grow jobs in SA, and that’s what’s happening now in a range of spheres under Steven Marshall and under different policies that we’ve outlined over the last five years, we’re seeing that growth in jobs, we’re seeing more people stay, we want to see more people come to SA, and they’re going to come, and they’re going to stay because they’ve got a good job to support their family. Now, overall, for the nation, you want to make sure we have a more sophisticated approach to migration numbers. That’s why the PM’s sitting down today with COAG to be able to get those different views from around the country so that each year when governments do set the cap in terms of how many people come to Australia, and the structure of the migration program, it’s far better informed by those state-to-state parameters.


Sarah Hanson-Young: I also think that yes, it’s not just about population numbers. It’s not just about jobs either though; it’s about building a community. If you want to look at why people stay in an area it’s because they feel part of a community, and it’s hard to put that on a spreadsheet, but it is about the culture of how we talk about growing our communities as opposed to just raw numbers of population.


Ali Clarke: As we wrap up Super Wednesday for 2018 I want to get you to look forward to next year, so Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, what’s on your Christmas wish list for next year?


Mark Butler:  Winning an election I think is our focus. We’ve done five years of Opposition – it’s been a hard slog. We’ve worked hard to remain united, remain stable, work hard on policy development, and we’re looking forward to getting the chance to put that vision for Australia to the Australian people.


Ali Clarke: That’s pretty hard for Santa to put down the chimney. We’ll go to you now Sarah Hanson-Young?


Sarah Hanson-Young: I really want to see Australia get serious about tackling climate change and protecting our environment. We’ve got to do something about tackling pollution, we’ve got to get serious about protecting our endangered species. Our climate is at crisis point and the more we put our head in the sand the worse it’s going to get.


Ali Clarke: Okay, Simon Birmingham what do you want for Christmas for next year?


Simon Birmingham:  In the last year we saw more young Australians get a job than ever in Australia’s history. I’d love to see us break that record next year, and that will be really the key driver for why our government stands for re-election next year, and hopefully I can get that Christmas wish instead of Mark!


Ali Clarke: Well you guys are a nightmare to wrap for, but thank you for giving us all your time this year and Merry Christmas to all of you.