ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has blasted the federal government's decision to overlook Canberra as the permanent home for Australia's space agency, saying the "blatantly political manoeuvre" was proof the Coalition "does not care about the nation's capital".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that Adelaide had been selected as the headquarters for the nation's space mission control centre.
The space agency - whose mission is to triple the size of Australia's space industry to $12 billion and create up to 20,000 jobs by 2030 - will be based at the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital.
The Australian Space Agency has been based in Canberra since it was created in July, and the ACT government had launched an aggressive pitch for the centre to remain in the capital.
The territory government released a prospectus spruiking the capital's credentials as the agency base, while cabinet minister Mick Gentleman was handed a space industry portfolio to advance Canberra's involvement in the lucrative sector.
The Australian National University and University of News South Wales Canberra have invested heavily in their space industry programs in recent years, seemingly giving the ACT an edge over rival bids from Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia.
But on Wednesday, Federal industry, science and technology minister Karen Andrews said South Australia had presented the strongest case to house the centre, with the state's space industry already boasting 60 organisations and 800 employees.
Mr Barr slammed that rationale, saying the Morrison government had "looked above reason" in deciding to relocate the agency to Adelaide.
"Canberra is the logical home of the National Space Agency," Mr Barr said.
"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.
"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 decision to shun the nation's capital was part of Mr Morrison's attempt to "try and save marginal seats" ahead of next year's federal election.
He said he would continue to lobby federal Labor to keep its promise to base the agency in the ACT.
The Canberra Liberals also expressed disappointment at Wednesday's announcement, with party leader Alistair Coe taking to social media to lament a missed opportunity for local universities and research institutions to partner with a territory-based space agency.
The director of UNSW's Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, Professor Andrew Dempster, said the the federal government's decision would be a "great disappointment" to those involved in establishing the agency.
"The announcement was very parochial, with no mention of other states that make significant contributions to the space industry," Mr Dempster said.
"The main beneficiary of this announcement may end up being Qantas, with the likely amount of travel which will be required between the agency and where the work is being done."
UNSW Canberra Space director Russell Boyce said the "logical option" would have been to base the agency in Canberra.
"You have to consider what this agency is actually going to do. It's not NASA, it won't be sending rockets into space ... it's about coordinating and setting policy," Professor Boyce said.
"If that's what you are going to be doing, it makes sense to be in Canberra, so that you're close to departments like Treasury. [Canberra] is also the international shopfront - all of the embassies are located here."
Professor Anna Moore, the head of ANU's new InSpace institute, said she was thrilled a permanent home had been found for the agency.
"At InSpace, we’re focussing on research and development in the space industry and will work collaboratively with government and business, nationally and internationally, to build Australia’s space capacity. We’re excited to continue working with the space agency," Professor Moore said.
The space agency's Adelaide headquarters are expected to open in mid-2019, employing 20 full-time staff.