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BUDGET 2018: SPACE AGENCY FUNDED, PARLIAMENT GETS BOOSTED CYBER DEFENCES

The Australian federal government has revealed just how much money it will allocate to the establishment of a space agency and its industry, while also promising several million dollars in funding to defend the nation’s parliament from cybersecurity threats.

In its annual budget, the Turnbull government announced the allocation of A$41 million for the space sector.

The A$42 million is made up of A$26 million over four years from 2018-19 to establish a national space agency, which will coordinate domestic space activities for Australia, and A$15 million over three years from 2019-20 to establish an “International Space Investment” project.

The investment project will provide grants to strategic space projects that generate employment and business opportunities for Australians, the budget papers state.

“With this budget, the government is trying to walk a fine line between enabling successful Australian businesses in the high-tech space game, and creating a sector dependent on government largesse,” said academic Anthony Wicht, who co-authored Australia’s Satellite Utilisation Policy while working for the federal government.

“The A$41 million over four years is about the minimum viable amount to start towards these goals. Sensibly spent, it is enough to achieve the core aims of an Australian agency,” he said.

Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO of Fleet Space Technologies, welcomed the news of funds for a space agency.

“This is huge,” she said. “This is the moment that everything changes. In twenty years time, we will be looking back and pinpointing this period as one of the most transformational in Australian history.

“The A$41 million assigned to the Space Agency in the federal budget will enable the government to define the future of our nation as humanity takes its next great step. The funding will rapidly launch us into the next era – the fourth industrial revolution.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Parliamentary Services is getting an A$9 million funding boost over four years to establish a cyber-security operations network.

In somewhat of a surprise, further funding of A$260 million was put aside to go towards better GPS and satellite imagery.

Under the package, A$160.9 million will deliver a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (the technology underpinning GPS) to improve the reliability and the accuracy of positioning data from five metres to 10 centimetres­­ across Australia and its maritime zone.

An A$64 million investment in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability will also be made to improve GPS to an accuracy as precise as 3cm in areas of Australia with access to mobile coverage.

Additionally, a further A$36.9 million has been put forward for Digital Earth Australia, a technology that will give Australian businesses greater access to reliable, standardised satellite data that identifies physical changes to the Australian environment.

“We rely on satellite and GPS technology for just about every aspect of our lives – from Google Maps on our individual phones, through to air traffic control at the busiest airports,” said Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan.

“More precise technology will make Australian businesses more productive, safer and more efficient.

“More accurate GPS will improve productivity by allowing new technology to be created and used across the economy. Growing Australia’s digital economy will also benefit developed sectors such as mining, transport, construction, aviation and agriculture. This investment will improve competitiveness and secure jobs across the Australian economy.”

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