04/06/2009 - 00:00

Battle on for SKA project

04/06/2009 - 00:00

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TREASURER Troy Buswell has indicated that Western Australia may be falling behind in its bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project as rival host, South Africa, takes charge on the political front.

TREASURER Troy Buswell has indicated that Western Australia may be falling behind in its bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project as rival host, South Africa, takes charge on the political front.

Speaking at the state government's ICT Symposium last week, Mr Buswell commented on the escalating level of politics surrounding the $2.5 billion SKA project.

"The SKA project is very political, these scientists are amazing," Mr Buswell told the symposium.

"And I thought we [politicians] did it well; we've got nothing on these guys [scientists]."

Mr Buswell, who is also science and innovation minister, said South Africa's bid was leading from a political perspective while WA was considered to have the better geography.

The preferred location for the SKA project, which is backed by 19 countries, has been narrowed to two sites - WA's Mid West and the Karoo region in South Africa's south-west.

Mr Buswell emphasised a final decision on the project's location had not been made.

"I have a view that it ultimately won't be a meeting room full of hands up for one place or another, and that other processes will overtake that, but that's very much still a work in progress," he said.

The SKA project involves building a revolutionary next-generation radio telescope up to 100 more times sensitive than present day instruments. It will be capable of recording radio waves from across the universe and collecting data from an area of 1 million square kilometres.

Significant funding has already been committed to WA in the hope of securing the project.

In May, the federal government allocated $80 million to the Australian National Centre of SKA Science in Perth.

The centre is a collaboration involving both federal and state governments, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and CSIRO, and will be used for super computing purposes.

This will complement the state government's commitment of $20 million late last year towards the new International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), which will focus on astronomy and is designed to help WA win the project.

A location decision for SKA will be made in 2009-10.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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