It is a pleasure to join you today. I thank you for this opportunity to open the 2016 Southern Hemisphere Space Studies program.
– Professor Walter Peeters, The President of the International Space University
– Professor Allan Evans, University of South Australia’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer
– And two visiting astronauts, Dr Bob Thirsk and Professor Jean-Jacques Javier.
Welcome also to you – the program participants, the lecturers and staff.
So not only do we have a genuinely international gathering here today, but more importantly, I get a sense of a genuine international enthusiasm for the program on which you are about to embark.
While it’s more than a little corny to tell you space is the final frontier – millions of people across the world do look out to space for some answers.
I won’t risk embarrassing myself by trying to impersonate William Shatner — A.K.A. Captain Kirk — however I will quote the popular if not famous words from the Star Trek television series about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise and its five-year mission, ‘…to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before’.
That line came from a science source. It was in a White House document written in 1958 by Dwight D. Eisenhower's newly created Presidential Science Advisory Committee.
It said, ‘The compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before’.
That’s very much what you’ll be doing here over the next five weeks, propelled by that thrust of curiosity.
Like you and probably every Australian, I look to the skies and wonder what we don’t know about space. I want to ask questions about the relationship between humans and space; how we can interact.
And as a Government minister, I believe the Government should support that broad spirit of inquiry.
We need to continue to push the boundaries to understand how space influences our lives, and then how we can use that understanding to better our lives.
This Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is an important part of that picture of space education and inquiry.
The Program was launched in January 2011 by the University of South Australia in partnership with the International Space University.
This year is the fifth program held here at the University of South Australia.
As a Senator for South Australia, it’s a matter of great pride that a South Australian university has been chosen as International Space University’s partner in this international space education venture.
The University of South Australia is the only university in the world to have a continuing partnership with International Space University to conduct an annual program.
You are about to embark on an intensive, five week, live-in professional development experience that is international, intercultural and interdisciplinary.
It focuses on space applications, space policy and space services.
It will give you a well-rounded overview of the principles and concepts involved in space science, space systems engineering and technology, space business and management and space legal and regulatory issues.
You will get the benefit from the experience of an international, interactive working environment shared with other professionals, graduate researchers and senior undergraduate students.
You’ll work with 50 high calibre staff, lecturers and workshop presenters.
In fact if had the opportunity I wouldn’t mind joining some of the workshops that caught my attention – space launch, space medicine and remote sensing sound good.
As Minister for Education and Training I’m interested in new ideas and new approaches.
This year the topic is food and water security. Over the next few weeks you will consider how space technologies and space systems can be better utilised to improve the production, monitoring and availability of global food and water needs.
That of course goes directly to how space influences our lives, so I’m looking forward to hearing about your ideas.
This broad area of space science which you will be looking at is critical to Australia’s future as a modern, innovative country.
While it helps us look – and travel – beyond Earth, it also has transformative on-ground implications. Satellite systems, for example, are the key to global positioning.
These infrastructures and technologies, particularly satellite systems and global positioning, have fundamentally changed sectors and systems as diverse as mineral exploration and mining, shipping, fisheries, the automotive industry, sustainable urban infrastructure, agriculture, transport, high speed communications, academic research and recreation.
South Australia, I’m happy to report, has a great history associated with innovation and space science.
Aside from being the birthplace of Australia’s first astronaut, Andy Thomas, the north west of South Australia is home to Woomera rocket range, which itself has a history going back to the 1950s.
At one stage during the Cold War, Woomera had the highest quantity and rate of rocket launches in the world after NASA’s facilities at Cape Canaveral.
In more recent times the use of the range for rocket research has increased and in 2002, the University of Queensland launched a rocket carrying the HyShot engine – the first successful flight of a hypersonic scramjet engine.
And today South Australia is still very much at the forefront in space science – not only in hosting this space studies program, but in other fields that depend on precision space-based position technology such as driverless cars.
Investment in space science
In the national picture, the Australian Government has invested in earth-based research infrastructure that is vital to our interests in space science.
AuScope, established in 2007 under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, provides an integrated approach to Earth science and geospatial research through investments in technology, data and knowledge infrastructure.
AuScope operates the Global Navigation Satellite System, or GNSS array—a national satellite tracking infrastructure used to measure the deformation of the continent, and define the national coordinate system on which all mapping and geospatial data management in Australia relies.
Through its 23 participant organisations, AuScope GNSS data supports users across science and industry. It has a role in precision farming, geophysical exploration mapping and automation, and high-accuracy engineering.
The Government has committed $150 million to continue to support the operation of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy to June 2017, and announced an ongoing $150 million per annum under the National Innovation and Science Agenda to fund the Strategy from July 2017.
For the Australian Government, much of our interests and aspirations in space are reflected in Australia’s Satellite Utilisation Policy.
These policy principles ensure we focus on space applications of national significance; that we assure access to space capability; we strengthen and increase international cooperation; and that we contribute to a stable space environment.
We aim to improve coordination of our space activities and to support innovation, science and skills development and finally—and perhaps most obviously—enhance and protect national security and economic wellbeing.
I don’t intent to track through all those space activities, but in the context of this course, could I commend to you last year’s State of Space report as some useful background reading.
It provides a consolidated summary of civilian space-related activities being conducted by Commonwealth Government agencies represented on the Australian Government Space Coordination Committee.
As you might know, innovation has moved up more than a few notches in the public’s recognition of what’s important in Australia today.
The Government is implementing a National Innovation and Science Agenda which will ensure that we don’t just keep up, but we stay ahead of all those advances in technology that are transforming just about every part of our lives.
We believe that innovation and science are critical for Australia to deliver new sources of growth, maintain high-wage jobs and seize the next wave of economic prosperity.
We know that innovation is not just about new technology. It’s about creating a culture that backs good ideas and learning from taking risks and making mistakes.
Our Innovation and Science Agenda focuses on four key pillars: culture and capital; collaboration; talent and skills; and Government in a position as an exemplar.
Together these pillars around our Innovation and Science Agenda provide a framework for a range of initiatives that are worth $1.1 billion in additional investment and commitment over the next four years.
But importantly the commitment goes well beyond four years, and for the research sector, and our universities in particular.
Before I conclude, I want to give you a glimpse of the Government’s investment in the areas you are interested in across my portfolio of education and training.
We will invest $2.3 billion over the next 10 years in cutting edge national research infrastructure.
This includes $1.5 billion for the National Collaborative Infrastructure Research Strategy which I mentioned earlier.
It will drive research excellence and collaboration between 35,000 researchers, government and industry to deliver practical outcomes.
We’ll invest up to $520 million in the Australian Synchrotron and
$294 million in Australia’s commitment to the Square Kilometre Array.
We will introduce for the first time clear and transparent measures of non-academic impact. It will show how universities are translating their research into economic, social and environmental impacts.
This month we are introducing new Research Block Grant funding which will give equal emphasis to success in industry engagement and to research quality.
We will invest $51 million over five years to help Australian secondary students embrace the digital age and better prepare for the jobs of the future.
We need to teach our children coding and computational thinking. We want them to be creators, problem solvers, critical thinkers, not just superficial users of technology.
Finally, we are fast tracking our decision making on industry focused research projects which bring together researchers, business, industry and other end users to solve problems that generate more products and services.
All of these programmes—and many others across other portfolios—go to keeping us competitive. Innovation keeps us at the cutting edge; creates jobs. It will keep our standard of living high.
In giving you some words of encouragement for the weeks ahead, I don’t think I can do better than the words of one of the previous participants in the program.
In their words this space studies programme was ‘One of the finest in my 16 years of international training. I was exposed to a very high level of learning and training. It was a life time experience.’
A Minister for Education can’t get much better feedback than that – so I commend this five weeks of mind stretching activity and learning. Over the next five weeks you’ll be questioning the realities of the world around you. You will be exploring new possibilities; advancing science education.
Like the Starship Enterprise, I do expect you to go where others have not gone before. Embrace innovation and raise those new questions for a new world that is ahead of us.
On that note of genuine scientific optimism, I have great pleasure in declaring the 2016 Southern Hemisphere Space Studies program officially underway.