Space race: Frecklington backs NQ rocket base to launch ‘Smart State’ agenda

A north Queensland port normally used to get things out of the ground, and overseas, may soon be used for lift-off into space.

Sep 25, 2020, updated Sep 25, 2020
Queensland may soon have two bases launching into space.  (Photo: AAP/ NASA  image).

Queensland may soon have two bases launching into space. (Photo: AAP/ NASA image).

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington today pledged $15 million to support a government-owned orbital rocket launch site near Abbot Point.

Drawing on the Smart State monicker of the former Beattie Labor government, Frecklington said Queensland should be backing traditional and new industries to grow the economy.

Making the announcement near Bowen, Frecklington said the project would create 100 jobs in construction, and an LNP government would support another 200 jobs by securing Gilmour Space Technologies as anchor tenant.

“Unleashing the space industry in Queensland is part of the LNP’s economic plan to create jobs and build new assets,” Frecklington said.

“An LNP Government will seize this ambitious opportunity to make Queensland a smart state once again through space. High-tech and highly paid secure jobs are what this project is all about.”

The LNP anticipates that every new tenant at the facility would support another 100 jobs.

“This is part of the LNP’s plan to grow Queensland’s assets and rebuild a stronger economy to create secure jobs,” Frecklington said,  joined at the announcement by LNP candidates and a federal backbencher.

“Queensland has a comparative advantage over other states when it comes to space and an LNP Government will play a leadership role by investing in infrastructure.”

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The Queensland Labor government was already considering a potential role for Abbot Point, with State Development Minister Kate Jones in July foreshadowing consultation on a possible launch site identified by a public-private advisory team. At the time, Jones said having a facility at the site could help Queensland support up to 6000 space industry jobs by 2036, under a $5 million government strategy.

Frecklington said an LNP government could take the project forward by locking in Gilmour Space Technologies as anchor tenant, providing a drawcard for other companies.

Gilmour Space Technologies recently announced it had signed up a customer for the maiden launch of its 35kg Eris rocket in 2022, subject to security and preparing a launch site by then. If successful, it would be the first time an Australian payload had been launched on an Australian rocket from Australia.

The Helensvale-based company also struck an agreement with the Department of Defence this year, and is set to benefit from space industry funding provided by the Federal Coalition Government last year.

Ahead of the October 31 election, Labor and the LNP are also at odds over a lower altitude operation, that of airline Virgin Australia. LNP treasury spokesman Tim Mander has threatened to tear up the Palaszczuk government’s $200 million agreement to help save the airline, and its Brisbane base, if it does not represent value for money. Treasurer Cameron Dick, in return, has accused the LNP of putting more jobs at risk.

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