The Biggest Tech and Science News From the 2021 Federal Budget

The Biggest Tech and Science News From the 2021 Federal Budget

This week the Morrison government handed down the 2021-2022 Federal Budget. And this year there was a bit more cash injected into the tech, telco and science sectors. Here’s the biggest news.

Digital Economy Strategy

We already knew a bit about what the 2021 Federal Budget has in store for the tech sector. Last week the government announced a $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy. It includes a few things:

My Health Record gets $300 million

The controversial centralised health platform, My Health Record, is getting $300 million for mostly COVID-19 related updates.

This will supposedly provide Australians with their test results as well as their vaccine status. It will also send vaccine-related alert notifications to people’s device of choice.

Part of the funding will also go towards connecting My Health Record to Residential Aged Care Facilities to “[deliver] improvements in medication management and transitions of care between health care settings.”

You can read more here.


MyGov is getting some upgrades

Meanwhile, MyGov is getting $200.1 million for a chat bot, advanced service dashboard and a document upload functionality that will allow for management of payment, claims, debt status and activities in one place.

According to the Morrison government, it wants myGov to “deliver a simpler and more tailored experience for Australians based on their preferences and interactions, through streamlined and enhanced digital delivery of the government services they need.”

As for the new digital assistant, or chat bot, it will apparently “[make] it easier for Australians to find the services that meet their needs, whether that be seeking childcare providers or disaster relief support.”

$130 million for regional connectivity

The Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) is also getting a $140 million boost to improve connectivity in parts of regional Australia.

This will include upgrades to mobile, wireless and satellite internet coverage.

$106 million will kick off the second round of funding for the program, $45 million of which will be used in the northernmost part of the country.

“The pandemic has shown many Australians the value of the regions, both as economic powerhouses and as desirable destinations to live, work, and raise a family,” Minister for Regional Communications, Mark Coulton, said in a statement

“In order to ensure regional Australians can continue to do the heavy lifting the nation asks of them, the government recognises — and is investing in — the need for improved connectivity.”

A further $16.4 million will also be given to bushfire-prone areas that sit between rural and urban landscapes.

“Improving coverage on the peri-urban fringe will help communities access vital information during emergencies, seek help if needed and stay in touched with loved ones,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a statement.

You can read more here


The Federal Government is now supporting video game development

A Digital Games Tax Offset is also being introduced as part of the Digital Economy Strategy.

The 30 per cent refundable tax offset will be available to eligible businesses that spend a minimum of $500,000 on Australian-made games. While the criteria is yet to be defined, the Federal Government has said that games with gambling elements or that can’t get classification won’t be eligible.

The offset will be available from July 1.

You can read more here.


Drones get a boost

$32.6 million will be used to establish the establish the Emerging Aviation Technology Partnerships program over the next two years. A further $3.1 million over two years will go into the New Drone Rule Management System and a National Drone Detection
Network.

While this will let drone users to access info regarding drone use in their area, it will also “support a new enforcement scheme to allow infringement notices to be issued for minor breaches of airspace rules.”

You can read more here.


$1.9 billion for ASIO over the next decade

In his budget speech, treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that while Australia has been battling COVID-19 more threats have emerged.

“To keep Australians safe from these threats, whether domestic or foreign, the government is providing an additional AU$1.9 billion over the decade to strengthen our national security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies.”

A big focus of this spend will be on technological advancements.

“This will support ASIO’s technological capabilities, enhancing its ability to address threats to Australia’s national security,” the budget papers read.

You can read more here.


5G and NBN

5G and NBN got a couple of small shout outs as well.

$22.1 million will be used to establish the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative over the next three years. The aim of this is to help support private sector investment in 5G testbeds and trials.

A further will be used to support the accelerated deployment of 5G infrastructure over the next two years.

An an unnamed amount will injected into the NBN via private debt markets.


$13.3 million for the Australian Space Agency

The Australian Space Agency is getting $13.3 million in funding over the next four years.

“The Federal Budget 2021 announced funding to support the regulatory activities of the Australian Space Agency and to keep pace with the growth of the space industry. $13.3 million will increase our capacity to support the growth and transformation of the industry,” the Australian Space Agency said on Twitter.

You can read more here.


Renewable energy projects

$1.9 billion across 12 years will be dedicated to continued funding of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as well as additional investment into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

Part of the funding will also go into development of low emissions technologies and network infrastructure.

The 2021 Budget also offered up funding to some additional renewable energy projects across Australia. These include:

  • Up to $30.0 million for the Katherine-Darwin Interconnected System big battery project and microgrid rollout in the Northern Territory.
  • $19.3 million over three years for the development of a renewable energy microgrid (incorporating hydrogen) for the Daintree community in Far North Queensland.
  • An undisclosed amount will go towards the South West Interconnected System Big Battery Project in Western Australia.

Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of electric vehicles or public charging networks in the 2021-2022 budget.


Medicinal cannabis added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Medicinal cannabis has finally been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This means that it is now eligible to receive government subsidies to dramatically decrease its cost.

And it’s not the only treatment that has been added to the PBS list, which is getting $878.7 million worth of funding for medicinal subsidies.

Treatments for chronic migraines, breast cancer, ADHD, hypertension and more have all been added to the list.

You can read more here


No pests, thanks

Deep in the budget papers you’ll find a couple of initiatives to protect Australian flora.

The first is $3 million towards the eradication of the Crazy Yellow Ant. We’ve seen this crop up a few times over the past few years due to its ravaging of a World Heritage Site in Queensland.

$4 million over four years will also be put towards the National Plant Health Surveillance Program. This is a biosecurity program  that focuses on the early detection of plant pests entering and becoming established in Australia.

You can read more here.

This story is updating…