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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is more information about the Budget on the Department of Education's website.