Government opens IT pork barrel

Government opens IT pork barrel

The Federal Government's grand plan for the IT future of Australia was launched today at Sydney's Technology Park Redfern. Despite the pro-active subtitle, which read "an innovation action plan for the future", the Government's statement focused on increases in the Federal Government's research funding, as well as providing improved tax concessions for private sector R&D.

According to a joint statement from Ministers Minchin (Industry Science and Resources), Alston (IT, Communications and the Arts) and Kemp (Education, Training and Youth Affairs), the Federal Government will address the IT skills shortage through increased investment in tertiary education and further liberalisation of the skilled migration arrangement designed to attract migrants with specific skills.

The increased funding will include a $151 million investment for universities in maths, IT and science education.

As well as creating an estimated 21,000 undergraduate places, the Government has announced an "income-contingent loans scheme, for postgraduate fee-paying students", designed to apply to 240,000 Australians.

Meanwhile, the 125 per cent R&D tax concession has been increased to a premium rate of 175 per cent for companies that can prove a three-year sustained investment.

The Federal Government has also pledged $129.5 million to an information and communication technology centre, and assistance in the process of commercialisation of research ideas.

The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts will administer $13 million to promote Internet-based business services, however there is no indication that the Government is prepared to wade into the bandwidth availability debate.

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