Did the Rudd government’s first Budget deliver their election promises? Let’s see… Is there a National Broadband Network? Yes. Tick.
A Digital Education Revolution? Yes. Tick.
Something about a “safer” internet? Yes. Tick (and a nod to Senator Fielding).
So, is everything OK? No. Dig into Budget Paper No. 2 and there’s a frustrating lack of detail and commitment.
Of $4.7b promised for the National Broadband Network, only 0.16% has been committed: $2.1m this financial year and $5.2m next for “establishment and implementation”. The remaining 99.84% — you know, actually building the thing — is all “nfp”. Not for publication. We’ll get back to you.
Spending is now “up to” the pre-election $4.7b figure. Broadband is competing with run-down roads, railways and ports for a share of the $20b Building Australia Fund, where “disbursements… will be subject to budget consideration, and will be spent responsibly, in line with prevailing macroeconomic conditions.”
Whatever the final budget, Australia will still be rolling out a 12Mb/sec network in 2012. Other countries are rolling out 100Mb/sec networks now.
The Digital Education Revolution is more of a thin red line too. $1.2b is spread over 5 years, the biggest lump of $400m in 2008-09. Schools will be granted “up to” (those weasel words again!) $1m to “assist them in providing new or upgraded computers and communications technology to students in Years 9 to 12.” Spread across 1.4m secondary students, that’s only $280-odd each, including administration.
Meanwhile, tax changes mean businesses depreciate their computer software over 4 years, not 2.5. This pulls in $1.3b in tax but discourages upgrading.
(However it might be good news for vendors of software as a service and proponents of open source software . Similarly, Fringe Benefits Tax rules for laptops and PDAs given to employees have been tightened, discouraging a more flexible, mobile workforce.
On a brighter note, there’s finally a little more clarity internet censorship. A $125.8m Cyber-safety Plan replaces Howard’s NetAlert — though the total includes continued funding for AFP investigations and DPP prosecutions relating to child s-xual exploitation.
Internet Service Providers get a one-off subsidy to start filtering an expanded ACMA blacklist (i.e. illegal nasties), and there’ll be an “examination of options to allow families to exclude other unwanted content” as well as an education program for teachers and the community and research projects on cyber-safety issues. That emphasis on education and putting families in control is spot on.
The rest? All. Too. Slow. And. Vague.
Stilgherrian blogs at stilgherrian.com.