Coalition redirects research funding, scraps NBN initiatives

Coalition redirects research funding, scraps NBN initiatives

Summary: In a bid to 'repair the Budget', the federal government has redirected funding from research projects in what it calls 'good news for Australia'.


Earlier this year, Minister for Education Christopher Pyne announced funding across 1,177 projects, including 913 Discovery projects and 63 Linkage projects under the Australia Research Council (ARC).

At the time, he said that "if Australia is to continue to produce ground-breaking research outcomes, 'eureka' moments, and Nobel Laureates, then a strong investment in research is needed".

"The Coalition government is committed to enabling our researchers to investigate, explore, and discover and to deliver outcomes that benefit the nation."

However, as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) papers, cutbacks will be made to both programs as funds are redirected to other research priorities. Around AU$61 million in funding will be cut from the Discovery program, while AU$42 million will be cut from the Linkage program.

While the specific projects that will be cut have not been publicised, both programs contain technology-related projects.

An example of a Linkage program, which could possibly be cut, includes an AU$300,000 research project at the University of Newcastle into quantum key distribution, allowing for completely secure communications and cryptography key exchanges regardless of distance. From the Discovery program is a AU$330,000 project from the University of Queensland that looks at solving the "thermal runaway" problem in lithium-ion batteries, which has been responsible for fires and makes their transportation and safe handling problematic.

The funding will instead be steered toward research into dementia and Type 1 juvenile diabetes.

In making the change in funding announcement today, Pyne said that it is "good news for research and good news for Australia".

"Investing and supporting medical research is one of the best long-term investments in health that a government can make," he said in a statement.

The government has also cut AU$10 million in funding to the ARC's Centres of Excellence program. The MYEFO papers note that these cuts were identified by the former Labor government, and that the money will be redirected to "help repair the Budget and fund policy priorities".

Another remnant of funding from the Labor government that will not make it through includes the digital business kits initiative, and the digital productivity program.

Labor formerly promised free training for businesses on how to leverage the National Broadband Network (NBN). It budgeted AU$5 million across 10 industry sectors, and had begun rolling them out. A saving of AU$0.5 million will be found by the Coalition government by choosing not to go ahead with the remaining kits.

Similarly, Labor was in the process of setting up a number of "Digital Hubs" in the first NBN-enabled communities, as well as creating initiatives to engage local government and communities with the NBN. The remainder of these will now be scrapped, providing the government with an AU$0.1 million saving.

Topics: Government AU, Emerging Tech, Government, NBN, Australia

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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  • $100,000!!!

    "The remainder of these will now be scrapped, providing the government with an AU$0.1 million saving."

    Now that's what I call budgeting!
    • It's what I call suppressing public scrutiny of the government's non-NBN policy.

      Removal of that $100K will mean that there will be no local focus on the removal of the fibre NBN.
  • "Cost Cutting" vs "TCO and Benefits"

    Typical short-sighted political perspectives - and a mistaken belief that that the public would not see through the lies Phony Tony and Hokey Hockey are promoting as part of their campaign for so-called "necessary budget cuts".
    Unfortunately, simply cutting research investment as a short-term cost saving initiative without taking into account what the TCO (or Total Cost of Ownership) will be when the Benefits these research projects can bring (and have already previously brought) to Australia as a whole make me despair about the state of the economy we are leaving to our children.
    CSIRO and other research bodies are doing amazing and world-recognised leading work on many areas, and to simply take the line "debt is bad" without understanding where there is benefit in borrowing money to investment in future capabilities and infrastructure - just as the NBN would have been - same as with past investments made for electricity , water, sewerage, roads and rail - we cannot manage a country's economy on the same basis that you would for a household.
  • It's a shame the Liberal's have no vision at all

    It seems they'd prefer Australia to be a technological backwater...
  • Cut pollies entitlements.

    Cut the hubs to save a measly $100K. You could save more than that if Hockey tightened up on the "educational" trips (holidays) these free loading politicians take. They should also be made to use domestic flights too.
    Freezing their wages for 6 years would also be a responsible move. Even if we went bankrupt the pollies would never cut their own lurks and perks and the rorting of their entitlement expenses would continue.
  • Baby Bonus

    We have to re-direct those funds towards "Women of Substance" while keeping the serfs ignorant.
  • small minds, small imaginations, doubtless small appendages...

    ... we are in the hands of a technically bereft and economically insane cadre of 1950s throwbacks, who will do more damage to the tech sector in three years than can previously only have been imagined.
    • Who voted for them?

      It's Confirmed. The law of averages holds true. The self-interested, low IQ morons - about half the population - who run businesses or who thought the lies the Libs told were true, voted for them. Whoops! Love the way the libs spin every cut with some pap about how it is the best hing to happen to... (whatever program they are cutting). We now have running the country, a pugilist, a lunatic with tonsils and a simple minded fool who thinks a country's finances can be equated to a household budget.
      Dr. Ghostly