Funding for the development of a national, opt-in e-Health record was one of few major ICT initiatives to be announced in an otherwise conservative budget handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan overnight.
The Budget, which Swan projected to return to surplus by 2012-13, was sold by the Government as being "fiscally conservative" - as most of its major spending initiatives had already been announced.
"This time last year we expected our economy to enter a recession, with GDP forecast to contract by half a percent in 2009-10," Swan said in handing down the budget.
"Instead the Budget estimates that GDP will grow by around two percent."
Swan said the economy is expected to "rebound powerfully from the recent downturn", forecasting real GDP growth of 3.25 percent this fiscal year and 4 percent in 2011-12.
Commentator Ross Gittins found the Budget "responsible", even if it was a piece of by "slick marketing", whilst Alan Kohler thanked smokers and mining companies for helping steer Australia toward a better outcome than predictions that were otherwise wildly off the mark.
Budget 2010: the IT numbers
Beyond a $466 million investment in eHealth records, there were slim pickings for the ICT industry.
The Government announced it would invest $125.2 million in a national online system for registering business names, which will replace disparate State-based systems and be managed instead by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
ASIC also secured $5.1 million to put towards data centre space and will share part of a $73.2 million pot allocated to the maintenance and operation of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program with APRA, the ATO and Department of Treasury.
The SBR program is designed to streamline business to government reporting.
As expected, the Government used the Budget to announce a handful of the 41 ICT projects approved for funding as part of the reinvestment of savings from agency responses to the Gershon review.
Big winners included Centrelink - which alongside a $71 million boost for fighting welfare fraud had virtualisation and shared services projects approved.
Other winners included Geoscience Australia (data storage) and Tanner's own department - which will redevelop the Federal Government's Central Budget Management System.
Did ATO get short-changed?
The Federal Government also committed $11.4 million to the Australian Tax Office to help streamline the tax return process for some 6.4 million Australians.
Treasurer Wayne Swan announced two measures to simplify tax returns - optional "standard deductions" for workplace expenses for those that wish to avoid paying tax professionals for advice, and a 50 percent discount on the tax the Government would otherwise levy on the first $1000 of interest earnings in an individual's bank account.
Swan said the initiatives will "remove the hassle of shoeboxes full of receipts and the costs of professional tax advice.
"This is an important step towards a 'tick and flick' system of pre-filled tax returns," he said.
RMIT professor Sinclair Davidson told iTnews yesterday that such initiatives have massive cost implications for the ATO.
"It will need a lot of money upfront," he said.
ICT: The projects
$466 million - Development of Australia's eHealth system$125.2 million - A national online system for registering business names, to be managed by ASIC$101.6 million - For telecommunications interception by national security and law enforcement agencies$100.8 million - A new passport issuing system$73.2 million - Continuing the Standard Business Reporting program$71 million - Centrelink's system for fighting Welfare fraud$69.4 million - A biometric-based visa system for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship$44.4 million - The cost to ACCC, DBCDE, Finance and ANAO to manage NBN Co$38.7 million - A pot of money via which the Australian Public Service Commission might develop an online register of public service skills$24 million - To develop AUSTRAC's "advanced analytical systems" to combat money laundering and organised crime$23.6 million - To further the unpopular Document Verification Scheme$14.7 million - A Centrelink virtualisation project$13.3 million - A Defence data centre Infrastructure Upgrade project.$11.4 million - For ATO to implement income tax changes$9.2 million - To continue supporting the Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS) that allows participating countries to automatically verify the status of passports$8 million - A Centrelink ICT Shared Services project$5.6 million - Two new ICT projects at Medicare Australia$5.1 million - Data centres for ASIC$2.95 million - Approved ICT projects for the Bureau of Meteorology$2.9 million - New data storage systems at Geoscience Australia$1.7 million - Identity management and thin clients at the Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
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