In a move with ramifications for the IT industry, Treasurer Peter Costello last night promised a $3.7 billion cut in business tax over the next four years to encourage Australian business to invest in new plant and equipment – “to keep pace with new technology”.
In other IT-related matters Costello also unveiled spending plans for the proposed health smartcard; a whopping $496 million for the much-anticipated upgrade of the Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Department’s IT programs; and establishment of the national Do-Not-Call telemarketing register.
On the health smartcard, now being officially dubbed the Health Card, the Budget reveals spending plans of $207 million in the coming year – and more than $1 billion over the next four years.
Some $71 million will be go on capital expenditure in 2006-07: $57 million at Centrelink, $11.54 million at Medicare; $1.9 million at the Department of Veterans Affairs; and just $500,000 in Human Services Minister Joe Hockey’s department. Human Services is to administer the introduction of the card.
Another $136 million will go to Centrelink, Medicare, Human Services and Veterans Affairs this year to help fund the card. This amount will increase to $281 million in 2007-08, $314 million in 2008-09, then drop to $238.6 million in the final year.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority scores $8.4 million in the coming year for establishment of the Do-Not-Call telemarketing register, with $800,000 going to Helen Coonan’s DCITA. The Government will provide a total of $33 million for this project over four years.
There’s big spending in store at Amanda Vanstone’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural affairs, with almost half a billion dollars to be provided over the next four years to “address significant shortfalls in the department’s existing information systems” This includes $153.3 million in capital funding as part of the IT upgrade.
A major increase in funding for DCITA’s NetAlert program to raise awareness about offensive online content – flagged by The Australian yesterday – didn’t happen. NetAlert scores a meagre $500,000 for this year only, with no announced provision for further funding.