The Biggest Tech and Science News From the 2020 Federal Budget

The Biggest Tech and Science News From the 2020 Federal Budget

This week the Morrison government handed down the 2020-2021 Federal Budget. While the big ticket items were all about tax cuts and COVID-19 recovery, there was a bit in there about science, tech and telco as well. Here’s what you need to know.

NBN Upgrade

A few weeks back NBN Co confirmed a $4.5 billion fiber upgrade across business and residential connections. This was reiterated in the Budget on Tuesday night.

5G Roll Out Support

All three major Australian telcos are now rolling out their 5G networks, with Telstra and Optus leading the charge. But the government will be throwing in some more coin too.

According to the Budget it will be spending $22.1 million over three years to establish the “Australian 5G Innovation Initiative to support private sector investment in 5G testbeds and trials.”

A further $7.2 million will be put towards the “accelerated deployment of 5G infrastructure by improving the allocation and management of spectrum.”

Back in August the Australian government announced the bidding limits on the next 5G spectrum auction. 2.5 GHz of 26 GHz spectrum will be released in 2021 and telcos will have a 1 GHz allocation limit.

myGovID Biometric Verification

The Federal Budget reveals that $256 million will be spent over the next two years to expand the Digital Identity scheme. Part of that will include biometric verification.

“$256.6 million over two years from 2020-21 to continue development and expansion of Digital Identity to improve access to government services and payments online,” the Budget papers read.

“This funding would enable completion of biometric verification and the integration of myGov, onboard additional services to support businesses and individuals to access more Commonwealth Government services on-line, trial use of digital identity with the states and develop legislation to enable use of digital identity to be expanded to other levels of Government and the private sector.”

Read more about it here.

Women in STEM cadetships

$25 million is going towards a Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)Industry Cadetship program.

This program aims to “support 500 women working in STEM industries to complete an Advanced Diploma through a combination of study and work-integrated learning experiences.”

Read more here.

Space Launch Tax Deferral

Yeah you read that correctly. The government is giving up an estimated $300,000 to defer a regulatory charging arrangement for space launches and returns. You can read more about it here.

Vehicle-To-Grid Trial

$5 million is going to a South Australian Advanced Manufacturing Facility in South Australia. This will be designed to manufacture electric vehicles as well as facilitate the manufacturing and assembly of a bi-directional vehicle-to-grid trial.

This basically means that an EV will be able to feed power back to the grid through its battery. This is something Nissan talks about a lot during its Leaf product launches. The car manufacturer has been open about it seeing its EVs not so much as a car, but as a mobile battery.

The facility will also “examine the concept and operation of systems which support solar home charging, grid services and virtual storage infrastructure

CSIRO

As part of its JobMaker plan, $459.2 million will be given to the CSIRO over four years.

This will be “to address the impacts of COVID-19 on its commercial activities and ensure it is able to continue essential scientific research. This includes $5.0 million in 2020-21 to support the
upgrade of CSIRO’s agriculture and grazing research facilities.”

Cyber-Crime Law Enforcement

On the yikes front, $1.6 million is being given to the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman to help oversee the use of the controversial Telecommunications and other Legislation Amendment
(Assistance and Access) Act 2018 by law enforcement agencies.

There’s a lot to unpack on this one, and we have an explainer on the bill here.

A further $202 million will be going towards cyber defences.

RDTI abandoned

The controversial research and development tax incentive (RDTI) reforms have now been scrapped as per the Federal Budget. But that’s not the way the government has positioned this news. Instead, the Budget reveals that $2 billion will be sunk into research and development (R&D), $1.8 billion of which will come from the RDTI plans.

This could be important for smaller tech companies. As the Budget papers outline, companies with less than $20 million annual turnover will have a refundable R&D offset of 18.5 per cent above its tax rate.

Troll Fighting

$39.4 million is going to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner “to continue its work keeping Australian families safe.”

The Budget papers state this funding will be used to enable the Office to respond to the increased demand for “its existing programs and fulfil additional functions and responsibilities, including overseeing a new adult cyber abuse takedown scheme under the new Online Safety Act.”

Recycling

$10 million is also being sunk into the Cooperative Research Centres Projects program, which develops recycling and reuse solutions for plastics, paper, tyres and other “problematic materials and hard-to-recycle waste.”

This story is updating…