Budget 2012: slim pickings for IT

In a tight budget year, funding for IT projects is scarce.

In a tight budget year, funding for IT projects is scarce.

In seeking to turn a $44.4 billion budget deficit in 2011-12 into a $1.5 billion surplus in 2013, Treasurer Wayne Swan told journalists in the budget lock-up today that he has forged a serious and responsible Budget.

As a result, IT spending is not a key feature of the Labor government's fifth Budget since coming into power in 2007.

But it isn't all bleak; aside from continued investment in e-health, the National Broadband Network (NBN), its document-verification scheme and IT systems for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the government did commit to spending $43.7 million over four years for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to replace its market surveillance system with "an enhanced, integrated system with increased data mining and analysis capacity".

While the government has not indicated in this year's Budget how much it intends to receive from the auction of the 700MHz and 2.5GHz spectrum at the end of this calendar year, it has also allocated $143.2 million over the next five years to make sure that broadcasters vacate the digital dividend "in a timely fashion", and to allow the re-stacking of the spectrum for use in mobile telecommunications services.

Of this, $26.1 million will be provided for a public campaign to inform the country about the digital dividend auction, and the associated switch-off of analog television signals.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority picked up $9 million over four years for the redevelopment of its IT systems. As part of a redesign of the vocational education and training (VET) loans scheme, $2.8 million will be provided to enhance IT systems "to streamline the exchange of information between the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and Registered Training Organisations".

There has been $6 million allocated to continue the development and expansion of the government's MySkills website for job seekers.

In addition, $5.5 million has been allocated to the development of an IT system to support the implementation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which changed the way that environmental impact processes are conducted.

While the government backed out of its deal with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie for pokie machine reform across Australia, it has agreed to undertake a limited trial of pre-commitment technology for poker machines in the Australian Capital Territory. It is funding the purchase of the infrastructure, administration, facilitation costs and evaluation costs.

As the tender process for this trial is underway, the government has declined to reveal the expected cost of the trial to "protect the interests of the Commonwealth".

While IT is not overall a major spending point for the government, neither was it listed as a point of major savings. The vast majority of the $33.6 billion that the government is hoping to save in the 2012-13 Budget come from not proceeding with a planned company tax cut; cuts to Department of Defence (DoD) spending; deferring Australia's official development-assistance target; and changes to tax reform and welfare payments.


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