$101M for Quantum and AI, $34M for Space: All the Tech in the 2023-24 Federal Budget

$101M for Quantum and AI, $34M for Space: All the Tech in the 2023-24 Federal Budget

The Australian government on Tuesday night unveiled its 2023-24 Budget, one that, and I quote, “Lays the foundations for growth by embracing clean energy, and investing in value‑adding industries, people, skills, technology, and small business”. It’s a Budget that’s peppered with a handful of tech investments, but many that have already been promised.

Notably, it’s a Budget that doesn’t have an exact direction for what it wants to do with technology as a whole, rather a handful of initiatives that it’s choosing to prioritise. Despite being a little light on tech, it’s still a welcome change actually talking about technology on Budget night.

Tech stuff from the 2023-24 Budget

It seems the future is paved with tech

The thing that caught our eye first in the chunky Budget doc was the $116 million (over five years) given to the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources to “support the development of critical technologies in Australia to drive economic growth, boost technology industries, and support the creation of new jobs”.

Included in this is $101.2 million to support businesses in integrating quantum and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies into their operations. The whole thing is about using quantum and AI to solve “significant national challenges”. With Australia’s National Quantum Strategy launched just last week, it seems only fitting the first initiative is establishing an Australian Centre for Quantum Growth to “support ecosystem growth and commercialisation in Australia’s quantum industry”.

Interestingly, under the same umbrella is the allocation of $14.8 million (over four years) to establish the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre to develop advanced technology and skills as part of the government’s Australian Made Battery Plan, which was announced pre-election last year.

To infinity and beyond

We love a bit of space and the 2023-24 Budget has given us just that. The government will “refocus” support for the Australian space industry by maintaining investment in successful space programs and providing “appropriate regulation for the space industry”. Space regulation, you say? Yes, there’s super old laws in place that prevent the space industry in Australia from really taking off (sorry).

Funding includes $34.2 million (over three years) for the Australian Space Agency to continue to lead the national policy and strategy coordination of Australia’s civil space sector activities. We’ve had a space agency for over three years and there’s not been much happen since it set up shop, so this is something you love to see.

Getting kids excited about tech

While it looks like the government is throwing $132.7 million (over four years) to boost Australia’s capability, capacity and outreach in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), included in that is the already-announced nearly $60 million for Questacon, and $9 million to explicitly promote STEM. The rest of the cash is being used on tech upgrades, including for the National Measurement Institute. $91 million is being used at schools over the next few years to build better IT platforms… but that’s it.

It doesn’t really fit under ‘kids’, but the 2023-24 Budget provides an additional $134.1 million (over four years) for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to continue doing its thing.

Startups shunned in 2023-24 Budget

While nothing explicitly screams startup, the department is also going to use $392.4 million (over four years) to help small businesses and startups commercialise their ideas and grow their operations. Startups will also benefit from the tax updates/breaks given to small businesses, including if they “electrify” as much as they can.

About $18 million (over four years) was included in the 2023-24 Budget for helping small businesses get involved with government tenders.

What else?

There are a few things we couldn’t put into the one section, including the 2023-24 Budget touching on a $112.2 million investment to attract investment from large-budget screen productions. We have no more details, but that’s a little cool. The government will also provide $7.9 million (over four years) for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to combat online misinformation and disinformation on global digital platforms to “reduce the spread of harmful content”.

The department that handles transport is also getting $35.6 million for IT systems to support infrastructure investment and road vehicle safety regulation – that’s gotta affect us, right? There’s also a $18 million data-capturing project, and a handful of other tech initiatives peppered in the total $264 million given to the department under ‘Supporting Transport Priorities’ in the 2023-24 Budget.

Already announced (last month, actually), the 2023-24 Budget provides $86.5 million (over four years) to combat scams and online fraud. And funding for the Consumer Data Right ($88.8 million to be exact), will be given to support the CDR in banking, energy, and the non-bank lending sectors, as well as to deliver a cyber security uplift.

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The government gets some tech treats

While all of that is what will impact us more directly as a consumer, the government is also getting a handful of tech upgrades or investments. Including $44.3 million for Australia to get a standalone Privacy Commissioner, one who will “progress investigations and enforcement action in response to privacy and data breaches, and enhance its data and analytics capability”. Another $1 million is also being used on the Privacy Act review. The 2023-24 Budget also allocates the Australian Secret Intelligence Service $468.8 million (over four years) to modernise. 21st Century, tech-savvy spies. Cool.

Staying in cyberspace and $101.6 million (over five years) will be used to “support and uplift cyber security in Australia”. Funding includes $46.5 million to establish the Coordinator for Cyber Security and $23.4 million will be used for the standing up of a small business cyber wardens program to support small businesses to build in-house capability to protect against cyber threats.

The issue-plagued Digital ID is getting funded in the 2023-24 Budget to the tune of $26.9 million. It’s for the people but it really should be thrown out and started all over again. Staying with things they should bin, the 2023-24 Budget also sees myGov get a $134.5 million cash injection to keep on truckin’.

The government will provide $3.4 billion (yes, billion) (over 10 years) to establish the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator within the Department of Defence to “lift capacity to translate disruptive new technologies into Defence capability rapidly, in close partnership with Australian industry”. $4.5 billion (over 10 years) will also be used to support the initial steps in Australia’s acquisition of a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability.

Elsewhere, the ATO is getting $588.8 million (over four years) for “a range of activities that promote GST compliance” – sophisticated analytical tools to combat emerging risks to the GST system. A couple million dollars (about $26 million) is also handed to the overseeing of Australia’s national security agencies, and Austrac is getting $8.6 million (over three years) to continue its anti-money laundering-thwarting duties (mostly tech-enabled, super cool, actually). The electoral commission is also getting some tech upgrades, but the details were ‘not for publication’. Boo.

By the way, the federal government spent $3.6 million in 2022–23 on lawyers ahead of the Royal Commission into Robodebt.

Looking for 2023-24 Budget telco announcements? You’ll find them over here.

How about the ones that the government reckons will make us a renewable energy superpower? They’re right here.

This article has been updated since it was first published.

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