Yesterday, the WA Premier and Treasurer Colin Barnett handed down the state budget, allocating $120 million to upgrade mobile coverage on the state's highways.
The three-year project is planned to expand mobile phone coverage on regional highways in Western Australia, with $8.3 million dedicated to addressing blackspots in 2010-11. The bulk of the funds will be used to upgrade communications systems for regional police and emergency services, with Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls stating: "The shortcomings of mobile telephone coverage on the state's major regional highways need to be improved."
The project will be funded by Western Australia's Royalties for Regions, a state program fuelled by the equivalent of 25 per cent of WA's mining and on-shore petroleum royalty revenue, which is then invested in regional areas.
In a separate program, $30 million will also be spent on upgrading the state's speed and red light cameras, with an intelligent transport system also proposed for the Kwinana and Midland freeways to monitor traffic and incidents.
Computing received a boost with Commerce Minister Bill Marmion announcing $3.616 million for the Interactive Virtual Environments Centre (iVEC), an organisation responsible for constructing and running the Pawsey High Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science in Western Australia. iVEC is a joint venture between CSIRO and WA's four public universities, with support from the State Government.
The Pawsey Centre is part of the government's $80 million promise in last year's budget to build a supercomputer 55,000 times faster than an average PC. It is expected to help Australia's bid for the Square Kilometre Array telescope. "The centre will significantly boost Australia and New Zealand's chances of securing the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a revolutionary international radio telescope for the 21st century. It will also help process and manage the large amounts of data from the Australian SKA Pathfinder radio telescope which CSIRO is currently building," Marmion stated.
The budget also allocated $78 million to Western Power's IT programs for asset management, a mobile workforce and metering and billing systems, with a further $34 million dedicated to upgrading existing IT assets for the utility company.
WorkCover, the state's worker's compensation agency, also received $4.183 million as part of a plan to replace or upgrade its core business systems, set up an external website and a document management system.
Finally, the state's budget contributed $5.5 million to the national Health Call Centre Network and $1.9 million to the development of a national e-health system. This follows the Rudd Government's allocation of $467 million to an e-health program.
Update at 12:27am, 25 May 2010: Article changed to reflect that the $3.616 million in funding was allocated to iVEC, the organisation responsible for the construction of the Pawsey High Performance Computing Centre for SKA Science in Western Australia, not the Pawsey Centre itself.