VC's Update - 2018 Budget

9 May 2018

Hi everyone,

It has been almost impossible to avoid following the Federal Budget announcements over the last few days. Last night I got to watch the budget speech on your behalf within Parliament House and today, I want to share my thoughts on how some of these policies will impact the University and our community.  

The Government has announced it will invest $301 million in Australia's space industry and related technology. The Australian Space Agency will be established with funding of $41 million over the next four years. This is a great opportunity for ANU and Canberra to play an expanded role in Australia's future space industry. This initial funding envelope includes $26 million to establish the Agency plus seed-funding of $15 million dedicated to partnering with international space agencies. A further $260 million will go towards the development of better global positioning systems and satellite imagery.

ANU is home to key national space resources and has vast capacity and capability to support a new space agency with broad expertise from science through to law and policy. Our staff at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics are deeply engaged with industry, government and academia along with other national space agencies around the world.  Through our national facilities which include the Advanced Instrumental Technology Centre (AITC) at Mount Stromlo and the Siding Spring Observatory, ANU already plays a leading role in the national space industry. We are also an international partner in one of the world's largest telescope projects -­ the Giant Magellan Telescope currently being built in Chile. The Government's new investment is a solid down payment in the development of Australia's space story. We look forward to bringing our extensive cross-disciplinary capability to support the Agency, its initiatives and activities.

Last December, The National Computational Infrastructure received $70 million in the Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook announcement. Last weekend, the Government committed a further $70 million to upgrade the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Western Australia, showing their commitment to Australia's High Performance Computing capabilities. This investment is crucial to our nation and Australia's long-term prosperity. The additional funding will boost research capacity across a vast array of disciplines and underpins our future success in fields like medical research, nanotechnology and astronomy. If our nation is to attract and retain the world's best scholars and scientists, we must ensure they have access to research infrastructure that allows them to make the important discoveries. This significant funding commitment supports Australian industries to be more efficient and productive, making us globally competitive in this arena.

The Government also announced a $6 billion investment in Australia's medical and health research sector.  The funding includes $3.5 billion for the National Health and Medical Research Council, $500 million for the Biomedical Translation Fund and $2 billion to the Medical Research Future Fund. I welcome the diverse range of investments to support medical and health research, including the focus on mental health, genomics, heart disease, diabetes and personalised medicine. ANU has significant research expertise in these areas and I commend the Government for its national commitment to support research that will transform the provision of healthcare in our society, achieving significant benefits for all Australians.

The Government has announced its support for an end-to-end regional medical school network with a focus on improving the health outcomes for regional areas. To achieve strong rural, regional and remote health benefits, the health workforce must be distributed to areas of greatest need, and we must equip Australia's medical workforce through better teaching, training and retention. I'm pleased to see the Government's commitment to invest in training medical students, but this program will not result in an increase in places for students. Rather, the network will draw from the existing pool of Commonwealth Supported Places. Since we have one of the most successful programs at providing doctors for regional Australia, we are working closely with the Government to ensure minimal impacts are felt on the ANU Medical School, and especially our students.

A fortnight ago, the Government announced a $500 million investment in the Great Barrier Reef. This is welcome news to many Australians with concerns for the long-term health of this delicate ecosystem. Although climate experts have been calling for a substantial investment for more than a decade, we must continue to invest in new strategies to safeguard the Reef and look to reduce the causes of this damage. ANU is home to some of the world's leading coral reef researchers who are working to better understand our reefs and the effects of changing pH levels, mass coral bleaching, reductions to coral and reef life, as well as the deviations to ocean temperature.  Interestingly, funding is to be directed at mitigating identified stressors to the reef, and to build resilience to provide the world with more time to find longer-term solutions. This is a huge ask, but we have a national responsibility to help lead in this research and contribute to work that figures out how to best maintain, not just our reefs, but similar reefs in our region and around the world.

I was pleased to see the Government commit to 500 newly funded pathway places into university for regional Australians. The only thing that separates one person from another is access to education, and this is a strong commitment to providing greater opportunity for more Australians to access higher education. In the 2017 mid-year budget (MYEFO), the Government announced capped places for undergraduate students which has impacted the number of places that will be available at ANU and around the country. I will continue to advocate the belief that every Australian student who wishes to come to university should have the opportunity and admission should only be based on their capacity to succeed.  I will also continue to advocate for a strong education system that includes world-class universities, but also state-of-the-art vocational education, and lifelong learning for everyone. 

In the long-term, capped places will mean fewer of our citizens will be able to become the skilled graduates that our nation needs to retain and increase its productivity. As my fellow Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman said, "Productivity isn't everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything. A country's ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker." Education is an essential investment for the economy and we should be equipping the nation with the skills we need now and into the future.

We are still working through the finer details of the 2018 Budget and I will keep you informed of any other opportunities and impacts it may have via my Blog. In the meantime if you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at vc@anu.edu.au.

There is more information about the Budget on the Department of Education's website.

Brian

Comments

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Comment by Frank Bongiorno
1pm 9 May 2018

There seems to me to be little to celebrate in this budget from the point of view of those of us who work in the social sciences and humanities, and who rely on institutions such as the National Library and National Archives for our research infrastructure. Both have again been cut by millions each, on the back of years of cuts. And for the ANU, this comes at a time when it has lost 10% of its own library collection in flooding.

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Comment by Peter Sutherland
1pm 9 May 2018

In relation to the development of clinical medical training in rural/remote Australia, there may be possibilities in the medium term for the ANU to expand on the existing, growing  Hotdesk and Internship relationship between the the Kimberly Community Legal Service (KCLS)and the ANU College of Law.  There are major gaps in access to medical services for the mainly Aboriginal population of the Kimberley, including very obvious failures in respect of childrens' health, access to disability support pension and carer allowances, access to redress, etc.

 

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Comment by Nerilie Abram
3.45pm 9 May 2018

There also looks to be good news for Antarctic research funding in the budget. Welcome news for the great Antarctica work that many ANU researchers are doing.

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Comment by Simon McClusky
9.45am 16 May 2018

Dear Brian,

I just wanted to follow up with a few more details on your Blog post today re funding announcements in 2018/2019 budget last night.

In particular I wanted to convey to you some of the background and ANU's involvment surrounding the $224M  "GPS" funding announced by the Treasurer.

The story about how this funding came to being announced is a long one that originates in the 1960's with Australia's early involvement in the development of Space Geodetic techniques raising from involvement in NASA's Deep Space tracking facilities. I won't go into the detail here, but I will say that I think this is a very nice example of how investment in fundamental (Space) science through a number of different funding schemes has lead to, and is continuing to lead to new economically valuable and productivity enhancing applications. 

The announcement of this particular funding can easily be directly traced back to the initial Australian Government NCRIS funding of the AUSCOPE program in 2006. ANU played a significant role in establishing AUSCOPE and securing this funding.

One part of the AUSCOPE funding (~$15M) was earmarked to support the Geospatial Framework and Earth Dynamics Program http://www.auscope.org.au/geospatial-framework-and-earth-dynamics/ which deployed space geodetic infrastructure, which to quote from the AUSCOPE web page was to;  "improve the accuracy of Australia's Geospatial reference frame, as well as allowing Australian scientists to investigate pressing questions such as sea-level variation and earthquake hazard." Over time this infrastructure which is managed by Geoscience Australia (GA) has evolved to the point where today it provides the framework for all of Australia's civilian positioning requirements and will provide the input data for the positioning service to be developed with funding announced last night.

The GPS (more accurately Global Navigation Satellite System - GNSS) positioning program funding announced last night for the most part will be going to Geoscience Australia (GA). The funding is "$224 million for precise positioning technology that makes GPS signals accurate to centimetres, not metres, which unlocks efficiency and automation possibilities in agriculture, mining and transport.". The GA group who will be tasked with delivering this new program is know internally to GA as the "Positioning Group". This group is lead Dr John Dawson, an ANU RSES PhD graduate.   

The funding announced will largely be used to modernise and further enhance what is now know as Australia's National Position infrastructure. A major component of this enhancement is the development of a platform for delivering "corrections" (via a number of different technologies including Satellite Based Augmentation Systems SBAS). These "corrections" are what will enable GNSS positioning across all of Australia and NZ in realtime with accuracies of better than a decimetre in real-time.

The seed funding for the prototype of this new infrastructure platform was largely developed over the last 5 years by a project funded by the Collaborative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSi) http://www.crcsi.com.au/. The core technology that derives the "corrections" is know as  the Analysis Centre Software (ACS) platform  http://www.crcsi.com.au/research/1-positioning/1-14-development-of-analysis-centre-software/. This program is currently lead by another ANU RSES PhD graduate, a former student of mine, Dr Michael Moore. Three other members of the GA Positioning and Geodesy groups are also PhD, Masters or Honours graduates of ANU. Myself and my former supervisor Professor Tom Herring from MIT comprise the Expert Technical Committee (ETC) which has overseen the development of the ASC software to-date.

The Earth Dynamic group at RSES is still heavily involved with ACS development and we are hopeful that this new funding will offer new opportunities to work on research questions arising from the ongoing development of the ACS.

FYI, I have attached below the GA announcement of the NPI program

Regards

Simon

Simon McClusky
Research School of Earth Sciences,
The Australian National University

World-leading positioning for Australia

 

In Budget 2018-19 the Australian Government announced an investment of $224.9 million towards developing a world-leading satellite positioning capability for Australia. Funding of $160.9 million will support the development of an Australian Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) and a further $64 million will be dedicated to upgrading Australia's ground Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) network. The funding will also improve coordination across government and the private sector and ensure Australian industry has access to world-leading software tools for positioning. Together the measures will build an integrated Australian positioning capability to accelerate the adoption and development of location-based technology and applications.

 

Satellite-Based Augmentation System

 

The Australian SBAS measure will augment Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals to deliver a precise positioning capability across all of Australia and its maritime zones with decimetre accuracy. It will also support the aviation, maritime and road transport sectors which have a requirement for high-integrity positioning (i.e. guaranteed performance with metre level accuracy).

 

National Positioning Infrastructure

 

This national positioning infrastructure measure will improve and augment the accuracy, integrity and availability of basic GNSS signals. This will be done by:

 

·         Integrating existing stations and building new GNSS ground stations to deliver nationally consistent and accurate positioning with 3 cm accuracy in areas with mobile phone coverage. 

 

·         Establishing a GNSS data analytics capability to ensure Australian industry has access to world-leading software tools for positioning.

 

·         Engaging existing and new industries and service providers to raise awareness of the opportunities positioning opens up for businesses through increased productivity, safety and innovation.

 

Next Steps

 

The Geoscience Australia team has now commenced the planning required to ensure successful implementation of these two important measures over the next four years. Over the coming days my staff will be talking to key positioning stakeholders across Australian industry and governments. We will look forward to working with you all on these nationally important and exciting measures.