PBO checks off NICTA funding

The Australian Parliamentary Budget Office has said that the government's election announcement of AU$42 million in additional funding to National ICT Australia will not affect the underlying cash and fiscal balance because it had already been announced.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

One of the Labor party's announceables at this election — AU$42 million in additional funding for research organisation National ICT Australia (NICTA) — has received a tick from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), because the funding had already been announced prior to the election being called.

In the early weeks of the campaign, Minister Assisting for the Digital Economy Kate Lundy and Health Minister and Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek visted NICTA's offices in Redfern to announce AU$42 million in funding for the organisation out to 2015-16, after funding for the organisation was set to run out in 2014-15.

The announcement didn't generate much in the way of media coverage, because the funding was originally contained in Treasurer Chris Bowen's economic note released at the beginning of August just prior to the election being called. It is understood that the funding for NICTA was one of the last agreements signed off on before the government entered caretaker mode.

Although the economic note originally only mentioned that AU$21 million in funding for NICTA would come from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and AU$12.8 million would come from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the election announcement contained an additional AU$8.2 million in funding that was coming from the Australian Research Council's existing funding allocation, bringing the total to AU$42 million.

The Australian Labor Party submitted the NICTA funding announcement along with a number of other policies to the PBO to be costed earlier this week. Yesterday, the office released its finding, stating that because the funding was originally disclosed in the economic statement and incorporated into the forward estimates, "there are no additional financial implications as part of this costing request".

The ALP has submitted over 30 of its policy announcements, including three National Broadband Network (NBN) funding announcements to the PBO to be costed. The Greens have submitted over 50 policies to the PBO to be costed.

The Coalition has stated that it submitted its policies to the PBO for costing, but despite criticism over the lack of detail in the Coalition's policies to date, the costings have yet to be released. Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that his party and the PBO had reached a mutual agreement that the PBO lacks the proper expertise to be able to cost his alternative NBN policy.

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