The Tasmanian Government has announced a four-year, $1.7 million investment in systems to simplify the registration and licensing of small businesses.
The project mirrored efforts to be made by every state and territory government in Australia - signatories of a 2009 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreement to centralise information and cut red tape caused by local, state and federal rules.
COAG agreed to create the "nationally‐coordinated system by which businesses can access information and services that will assist them in managing their regulatory responsibilities and... allow more effective interaction between businesses and all tiers of government".
Tasmania revealed funding for its part of the deal in the state's 2011-12 budget this week.
The state's economic development minister David O'Byrne said it would streamline processes for 35,000 small businesses in Tasmania.
"In many ways, they're the engine room of job creation, and help provide the vital services Tasmanians need," O'Byrne said.
Darren Alexander, president of industry body Tas ICT, applauded the move.
"We certainly see that the opportunity get rid of red tape for any small business is very important," he told iTnews.
"When you don't have a lot of money, that's one area you could assist small businesses to hopefully increase productivity."
The COAG project would be rolled out in six releases spanning September 2010 to the end of 2012. Business licensing and registration was stage one.
Each state government was responsible for advertising its element of the system and maintaining accuracy of information at each site.
Businesses also won other funding in the Tasmanian budget. The state committed $680,000 to help businesses become "digital ready", with tutorials, information and one-on-one assistance to help them understand digital economy business models.
Health in upgrade spree
Elsewhere in the Tasmanian budget, the Department of Health received a funding boost to continue $11.3 million worth of upgrades to ICT equipment begun in 2009.
The $3.543 million funding set aside for the coming financial year would allow for upgrades to hospital local area networks (worth $4 million since 2009), medical imaging (worth $3.7 million total), mental health services reporting ($1.6 million in total) and a total $2 million spent on client messaging and identifier systems.
Some $1.2 million was also allocated to ICT in support of a $31.2 million initiative to establish specialised cancer centres across the state.
ICT cuts cemented
The spending was contrasted with $3.9 million in cuts to ICT spending across the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 financial years, foreshadowed in a mid-year financial review [PDF] and cemented in the budget this week.
The cuts affected projects included attempts to connect Tasmanian schools with videoconferencing, as well as trials for in-home healthcare and smart grids.
Treasurer and Premier Lara Giddings said the cuts would continue in an effort to save almost $1.4 billion across forward estimates.
An advisory council set up by former Premier David Bartlett to distribute $1 million in funds for the state's "digital future" appeared to have been spared.
It escaped the knife in the mid-year review and a spokesman for O'Byrne said it would continue to exist, despite no mention in the budget papers.
Alexander, also a member of the council, said he hadn't been notified of any changes to the council, which was expected to meet for a third time next week.
He hoped that if the state's finances improved, that ICT investment would be put back on the Government's radar.
"In the state where the NBN is being rolled out, clearly with that infrastructure you'd hope you have efficiencies across all industry sectors, not just ICT," he said.