The government has cut $100 million from its planned spend on the Centrelink IT overhaul, but has dished out additional cash to the Medicare payments system and a new supercomputer program, according to the MYEFO update.
The government unveiled the mid-year economic and financial outlook (MYEFO) report on Monday, showing that the federal deficit position had improved by $5.8 billion compared to its May forecast.
In the update, the government said it had achieved cost savings of $103.7 million from the second tranche of Centrelink’s Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT).
This would be done using existing commercially available software to “deliver an improved user experience”, and bringing forward three yet unnamed, projects.
The WPIT project will replace Centrelink’s aging mainframe-based payments platform, and in the second stage was allocated $374 million, with this number now revised to $270 million over the next four years.
The provision for this funding has already been included in the forward estimates.
“The savings from this measure will be redirected by the government to repair the budget and fund policy initiatives,” the government said in the MYEFO report.
The government also announced that it would inject nearly $17 million into its 30-year-old Medicare payments system to ensure it keeps on running while it seeks a cloud-based replacement.
The old platform, which facilitates 600 million payments worth $50 billion each year across Medicare, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS), as well as veterans and aged care recipients, has been provided $16.6 million for this year.
The platform is made up of 200 separate applications and 90 different databases, and the government is searching for a supplier to provide a cloud-based digital replacement.
This project was allocated $67.3 million in this year’s budget.
The government said these costs had been met from existing resources within the Health department.
Government also announced a $70 million upgrade to the Australian National University’s National High Performance Computing Facility. It would provide $69.2 million this year and $800,000 in the following year to enhance the university’s supercomputer and “bring it to the current world-class standards”.
“This measure will ensure that Australia remains globally competitive in data intensive research fields and can deliver the nation’s science and research priorities,” the government said.
The investment will mean that the new supercomputer will be up and running by the time the ANU’s existing capabilities in the field are decommissioned at the end of next year.
Innovation minister Michaelia Cash said the supercomputer was utilised by the likes of the Bureau of Meteorology and NASA.
“The NCI supports more than 4000 researchers involved in nearly 500 projects, spanning 35 Australian universities, science agencies and medical research institutes, as well as researchers overseas. Our investment is key to strengthening Australia’s world-leading research,” Senator Cash said in an accompanying statement.
“I look forward to hearing more stories about the NCI’s successes and breakthroughs.”
More than $5 million has been allocated by government to establish five new Industry 4.0 Testlabs in Australian educational institutions. The labs were announced by the government earlier this year, and will be receiving $5.1 million in funding over three years.
“The initiative will accelerate collaboration between the tertiary education sector and industry, particularly small to medium enterprises, and build the skills to capitalise on technological opportunities presented by Industry 4.0,” the government said.
The government will also be providing $8 million over four years to the Digital Transformation Agency to implement a secure cloud strategy that will “support government agencies adopting cloud computing services”. The funding would be met from existing resources within the DTA.
It was also revealed that the government’s new small business digital taskforce, to be led by Australian entrepreneur Mark Bouris, would cost $200,000 to establish.
The taskforce was announced last month, and would “promote small business engagement with digital technologies and examine the impediments small business face in engaging with digital technologies”.