Budget 2019: Funds for science, skills and security


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 03 April, 2019


Budget 2019: Funds for science, skills and security

The federal government has allocated $9 billion in the 2019–20 Budget towards science, research and technology to help prop up Australia's industries of the future.

As part of this investment, $19.5 million will be provided over four years to establish a Space Infrastructure Fund to support Australia's emerging space industry.

The government anticipates that the investment will help triple the size of the Australian space sector to $12 billion and increase employment in the sector to 30,000, according to Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews.

Meanwhile, the government has allocated $3.6 million over the next two years in support of planned trials of an initiative involving hosting "innovation games" for small businesses.

The allocation also includes funding for a series of research-based science initiatives, as well as support commercialising Australian research.

In order to address the ongoing skills shortage, the government has also announced a $525 million skills package targeted at industries with skills shortages.

This follows the pre-Budget commitment to invest $3.4 million specifically towards encouraging participation of girls and women in STEM careers.

Of this, $1.8 million will be used towards extending the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative, which aims to encourage higher education and resource sectors to improve gender equity policies and practices. Most of the remaining funding will be spent towards implementing a national digital awareness raising initiative.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg added that the government will work closely with industry sectors including communications technology and advanced manufacturing to train Australians in areas of expected future high demand.

This year's Budget also includes funding — with the amount left unspecified for national security regions — for initiatives to enhance whole-of-government cybersecurity arrangements.

This will include funding to help ensure the integrity of the 2019 Federal Election, and to develop enhanced monitoring and response capabilities for mitigating potential cyber threats.

Under the initiative, cyber sprint teams will be established within the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). Funding will also be allocated for a Cyber Security Response Fund aimed at improving the government's ability to quickly respond to cyber attacks.

The funding has been allocated following Parliament House's disclosure in February of what it characterised as a sophisticated, likely state-sponsored cyber attack on its email systems, which may have been an attempt at interfering with the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, Microsoft recently launched its free AccountGuard service in Australia — which aims to give political parties and related organisations using Microsoft Office 365 additional layers of protection for their email systems — with the goal of helping to safeguard the integrity of the election.

In related line items, $34.8 million has been allocated to establish a Foreign Interference Threat Assessment Centre that will be jointly operated by the Australian Federal Police and intelligence agency ASIO. The Australian Electoral Commission will also be provided $10.8 million over the next two years to upgrade its IT infrastructure and explore the procurement of new polling place technology.

Other technology-related Budget items include a further $200 million to continue the deployment of the My Health Record system, $67.1 million to continue the development of the GovPass digital identity program and $5 billion over 10 years for the Medical Research Future Fund.

The ABS has meanwhile been allocated an additional $38.3 million to deliver the 2021 Census and avoid a repeat of the technology failures that plagued the 2016 Census, and the ATO and Department of Veterans' Affairs will be provided $82.4 million over four years to expand the Single Touch Payroll program.

The Office of the Information Commissioner will also be provided $25.1 million in additional funding over the next three years, in part to support strengthened enforcement action against social media and other companies falling afoul of Australia's privacy regulations.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/peshkova

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