The federal government last night splashed about a lot of cash as part of the 2022 Budget. As expected, there was funding around COVID-19, for health measures but also economic bounce-back. There was also a lot of, well, there wasn’t much, really.
While a federal election is yet to be officially called, it’s almost certainly coming in May. Budgets usually set out spending for the next financial year beginning July 1, but this year it’s a pre-election Budget, which means the measures announced will only come into effect if the Coalition wins the federal election.
To save you the trouble of weeding through the hundreds of pages that tell us what each government department and agency is spending their allocated funds on, here’s a wrap up of the technology and climate-related initiatives given cash.
2022 Federal Budget
Handing down his fourth Budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg kicked things off by saying, “As we emerge from the pandemic, we are building an even stronger, more secure and confident Australia”. He called the 2022 Federal Budget “a plan for the times”, with funding pumped into ‘cost of living relief’, jobs creation, essential services and defence and national security.
First up, an investment in cyber capabilities.
Cyber, but spicy
We got REDSPICE – a Resilience, Effects, Defence, Space, Intelligence, Cyber and Enablers package. For a cost of $9.9 billion, REDSPICE aims to “significantly enhance the offensive and defensive cyber and intelligence capabilities” of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). If you’re unfamiliar, the ASD is the Australian government agency responsible for foreign signals intelligence, support to military operations, cyber warfare and information security.
“This is the biggest ever investment in Australia’s cyber preparedness,” the Treasurer said.
It will see, he says, the creation of 1,900 jobs, more data analysts, computer programmers and software engineers to “boost our capacity to prevent and respond to cyber threats”. His speech neglected to mention this investment and promise of jobs will come over a 10-year period.
Cyber-adjacent (Defence), the 2022 Federal Budget also pledged to increase the Australian Defence Force by up to 18,500 people by 2040.
Small business tech boost
Still kind of on cyber, the 2022 Federal Budget also offers small businesses a bit of incentive for investing in tech, or, as Frydenberg said, “backing small businesses that are embracing the digital revolution”.
As of last night, every $100 small businesses spend on digital technologies like cloud computing, e-invoicing, cybersecurity and web design will see them get a $120 tax deduction. In addition, for every $100 dollars a small business spends on training their employees, they will get a $120 tax deduction. More than 3.6 million small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million will be able to claim a bonus 20 per cent deduction for the cost of expenses and depreciating assets, up to $100,000 of expenditure per year.
Elsewhere, the 2022 Federal Budget is also committing $56.2 million to support more women into a “greater array of occupations and jobs of the future”. Building on its existing $147 million of investments to support gender equity in STEM, the Budget papers say additional funding is being provided to “encourage women to consider taking up careers in manufacturing and the technology workforce”. Support is also being provided to further enable more women to develop entrepreneurial skills.
The 2022 Federal Budget also provides new funding ($328.3 million) for manufacturing. This includes the funding to make Victoria the first place in the southern hemisphere to manufacture mRNA vaccines, announced last week, but also $53.9 million to fund a third round of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund to enable small to medium manufacturers to innovate and adopt new technologies and $200 million that the government says will drive collaboration between universities, CSIRO and industry to “rapidly commercialise new technologies in clean energy, medical supplies, defence and other high priority areas”.
There’s also a new patent box for the agriculture and low-emissions technology sectors. This will see income from new patents developed in Australia taxed at almost half the rate that applies to large companies. Speaking of low-emissions…
According to Frydenberg, Australia is on the pathway to Net Zero emissions by 2050 and we’re playing our part in responding to the critical global challenge of climate change.
“Technology, not taxes, will get us there,” he said. Referencing that time his colleagues said ‘tech’ 62 times in a speech about climate change without saying exactly what tech that was. But alas, we got some answers. Rooftop solar.
In his 2022 Federal Budget speech, Frydenberg said Australia has the highest uptake of rooftop solar in the world. He declared the government was investing in clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, batteries and large-scale solar. Those investments include in microgrids to support regional and remote communities that don’t otherwise have access to the grid with small-scale renewable energy projects like solar and wind. We love windy boys.
Unfortunately, that was about it on the climate change front, it was given a ‘2’ in the ‘$b’ column next to ‘climate spending’ but this was mostly pre-announced initiatives, such as cash to protect the Great Barrier Reef and the Emissions Reduction Fund, a carbon offset scheme. There was, however, a little bit for car owners.
If you’ve had to fill your car up in the last few weeks, you’d have noticed the price of petrol is through the roof. We’re paying around $2 a litre and that is just for the standard unleaded fuel. The 2022 Federal Budget is providing some relief under its ‘cost of living’ banner.
Fuel excise will be cut in half for the next six months. This means you’ll save 22 cents a litre every time you fill up your car. The cut in fuel excise took effect from midnight last night and will flow through to the bowser over the next two weeks. The ACCC will be watching, Frydenberg said.
Car-adjacent is a $12 billion investment in roads, announced as part of the 2022 Federal Budget, too.
NBN & telco
Announced last week, the federal government is pledging a $480 million investment to improve NBN infrastructure in regional, rural and remote areas. NBN Co will chip in $270 million more from its own funds, bringing the total value of the upgrade to $750 million.
The government says the upgrade will extend the coverage range from towers, and allow higher-speed services to everyone served by those towers. This upgrade will see NBN offer new higher speed services to the fixed wireless network: 100 Mbps to all 750,000 premises able to access the new, expanded coverage footprint, and a 250 Mbps service will be available to 85 per cent of premises, the government says.
A telecommunications package to expand mobile coverage across 8,000 kilometres of regional transport routes was also touched on during the Treasurer’s 2022 Federal Budget speech. The $1.3 billion funding will be used to enhance regional telecommunications, that is, improved communications infrastructure and connectivity in regional, rural, remote and peri-urban communities.
Also under this banner is the establishment of a Cell Broadcast National Messaging System (CBNMS) to deliver near real time warning messages to mobile phones, to inform the public of emergency and disaster events.
While not exactly telecommunications or NBN (but it is under the Communications portfolio), the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has also received a $31.6 million 2022 Federal Budget pledge, to be spent on “Online Safety initiatives” over the next five years. $16.6 million of the funding will be used by eSafety to support victim-survivors of technology-facilitated abuse (part of the Online Safety Act).
Other 2022 Federal Budget tech things
The government is also committing $38.4 million over three years from 2022-23, and $12.6 million per year ongoing from 2025-26 to implement initiatives under the Consumer Data Right (CDR). The CDR, if you’re unfamiliar, enables you to switch providers (banks, energy, telco) while bringing your data with you.
Antarctica is also getting drones (and helicopters and other vehicles) to enable exploration of areas of East Antarctica’s inland that no country has been able to reach. It will be given $839.9 million to get the job done.
The Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Electoral Commission and the ATO are also splashing cash on IT upgrades within their department.
Some other important 2022 Federal Budget stuff
Firstly, there’s a $420 one-off payment to “help with the cost of living”. If you also live in Sydney, you’ll know this is barely one week’s rent. But thank you. The cash will be up for grabs when you file your 2022 tax return and will be available for Australians earning up to $126,000 a year. This will be paid on top of a previously extended tax offset for low-and-middle income earners, which is worth up to $1,080. $250 cost of living payment will also be made to around 6 million Aussies – pensioners and carers, those on JobSeeker are among the recipients of this one.
The temporary pause on Centrelink debt activities was lifted on 9 January 2022, with repayments to recommence from 1 July 2022, the Federal Budget confirmed. But it also promised greater access to medicines, including telehealth services. Lifeline is also getting $52.3 million over four years.
Again, worth remembering that these measures will only come into force if the Coalition is successful at the next election. Labor’s Budget reply is due tomorrow and that should give you a gauge on where they want to open the purse if they take helm in (probably) May.
If you want to check out the other announcements across things that aren’t tech adjacent, here’s where you’ll find the 2022 Federal Budget papers.