Chief Minister Andrew Barr is refusing to concede that the Federal Government has shot down the ACT’s bid to host the new Australian Space Agency by handing it to Adelaide, launching a furious attack on the Coalition and pinning his hopes on Shorten Labor being elected next year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said South Australia, as a key hub for innovation and the technology industry, made it the ideal home for the new Agency.
But Mr Barr said it was just another blatantly political manoeuvre by a desperate Prime Minister to try to save marginal seats.
“The decision to look above reason and relocate the National Space Agency to South Australia is just another sign that this Federal Liberal/Nationals Government does not care about the nation’s capital,” he said.
“Combined with the continued efforts to relocate Commonwealth Agencies based in Canberra to marginal electorates, cuts to National Institutions and the lack of Commonwealth infrastructure investment in the ACT – it is clear that this Government have no intention of supporting Canberrans or supporting Canberra’s role as the nation’s capital.”
Mr Barr said the only way this would change is through a Bill Shorten-led Government, that will likely include the ACT’s Andrew Leigh and Katy Gallagher.
“I will continue to engage with my Federal colleagues to ensure a future Labor Government keeps their promise to base a National Space Agency in the ACT with a presence in other states and territories,” he said.
“Having strong voices for the Territory in a future Cabinet room will certainly help deliver better outcomes for Canberrans.”
Mr Barr, who has led a strong push for the Space Agency from ACT stakeholders such as the ANU, UNSW Canberra and local business, said Canberra was the logical home of the National Space Agency.
“Almost one-in-four Australian space industry jobs are based in Canberra. We are the home of public administration, with access to the best research and tertiary education institutions,” he said.
The PM’s statement said the Space Agency, to be located at Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, was also key to the new Adelaide City Deal, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed with SA’s Liberal Government aimed at boosting Adelaide’s economy and driving long-term investment in the city.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said Adelaide was selected to host the Agency after putting forward the strongest case.
“South Australia is already home to more than 60 organisations and 800 employees in the space sector and this decision builds on the very strong technology and defence presence in the state,” Ms Andrews said.
The statement said the Australian Space Agency would be located in Adelaide by mid-2019 and employ 20 full-time equivalent staff in Adelaide. But a lot can change by then, something Mr Barr is counting on.