Reform proposals for Australian space legislation

Key Points
  • Review of the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth) continues, public consultation on a draft Bill scheduled for August 2017.
  • Legislative proposals paper released 24 March 2016 for further public consultation makes proposals that will enhance the effectiveness and appropriateness of Australian civil space regulation.
  • Aim of the reforms is to support innovation and advancement of space technologies, promoting entrepreneurship and private investment in the space industry.

On 24 October 2015, the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science announced review of the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth). The following 18 months have shown steady progress, with various stages of consultations at both Commonwealth and public levels. A draft Bill is scheduled to be released for public consultation in August 2017.

These are very exciting times for space industry entrepreneurs and investors, as a key focus of the review is the promotion of entrepreneurship and private investment in the Australian space industry. Other focuses of the review, as outlined by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, are to ensure that Australian space legislation:

  • Supports innovation and the advancement of space technologies.
  • Promotes opportunities for Australian firms to compete globally into the future.
  • Appropriately protects the Commonwealth against potential liability claims in relation to current and future civil space activities conducted in Australia or by Australians.
  • Adequately addresses emerging issues such as management of the space environment and technology advancement or convergence.
  • Appropriately aligns with other related Australian legislation and/or Australia’s international obligations, and removes unnecessary regulatory burden.
  • Provides the necessary authority to support Commonwealth led civil space activities (government only).

On 24 March 2017, Professor Steven Freeland’s review of submissions and legislative proposals paper was released for further public consultation. Key proposals outlined in the paper include:

A reformed and simplified licensing and fee structure for undertaking space-related activities.

  • Better compliance with Australia’s obligations under international space treaties.
  • Changes to risk and damage mitigation mechanisms, including the insurance/financial cover required for undertaking space-related activities.
  • Inclusion of important environmental concerns such as debris mitigation (management of ‘space junk’), contamination and use of nuclear power sources.
  • Flexibility of exemptions to the legislation, based on considerations such as emergency, safety and liability.

It will be interesting to see the form that the proposed Bill takes based on these proposals. This is especially so as whatever new legislation is introduced will ultimately shape the foreseeable future of the Australian commercial space industry.

A copy of the legislative proposals paper can be downloaded from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science:

Post by Jack Guthrie and David Fischl

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