This article was written by Scott Farrell, Frankie Barbour and Pei Xuan Liu.
The Treasurer announced that the Government was moving forward with its Open Banking Regime and Consumer Data Right, providing approximately $45 million over the next four years to fund the work of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and CSIRO’s Data 61.
The Consumer Data Right is to commence with Australia’s banking industry (through Open Banking) be extended to other industries, such as the energy and telecommunications industries, and eventually apply economy-wide. The consumer data right is to give “Australians the ability to take control of their personal data and share it safely with trusted and accredited service providers”.
Whilst these announcements, and the other mentions of the Consumer Data Right in the papers, are consistent with the recommendations made in the Government’s Review into Open Banking, detail on implementation is yet to come.
The Government announced a range of measures in relation to technology and the digital economy, including a number of interesting new scientific initiatives under the “Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan”.
Taxing Digital Businesses
The Treasurer announced a discussion paper to be released in several weeks which will explore options for taxing digital businesses in Australia. The budget speech noted that this arises out of the work done by the Government with other members of the G20 over the last year. It likely that this will pick up on concepts and tax issues discussed in the OECD/G20 Interim Report 2018, “Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalisation”, published in March 2018 and arising out of Action 1 of the BEPS Project.
Measures under the “Australian Technology and Science Growth Plan”
Satellite navigation improvements
The Government is allocating $224.9 million between two separate items over four years from 2018-19 to improve the accuracy, integrity of satellite navigation, covering the entirety of Australia (including areas without mobile phone coverage) and its maritime zones. The measure is intended to deliver positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data to increaseaccuracy through the creation of a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS). This budget measure builds on the $12 million provided in the 2016-17 MYEFO measure for a two-year test of the safety, reliability and efficiency of SBAS, conducted via the “SBAS testbed project” in collaboration with New Zealand and private enterprise. Other measures
The Government has also committed to funding:
- a review of existing domestic and international measures of innovation ($1.0 million over 2 years from 2018-19 to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science). The review will inform the development of new metrics to ensure that innovation is more accurately measured in Australia;
- measures to strengthen Australia’s capability in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) ($29.9 million over four years from 2018-19). The Government will support business innovation in sectors such as digital health, digital agriculture, energy, mining and cybersecurity through:
- funding projects from AI and ML capabilities;
- funding AI and ML-focused PhD scholarships and school-related learning to address skill gaps; and
- the development of a roadmap and frameworks to identify global opportunities and guide future investments;
- the replacement and upgrade of Australia’s computing and data capability at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, which is a critical component of the national research and innovation system ($70.0 million in 2017-18);
- measures to encourage more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and careers ($4.5 million over four years from 2018-19);
- measures to grow the Australian space industry, including by establishing a National Space Agency ($41 million over four years from 2018-19). The cash injection is part of a longer-term plan to boost local space capability and build international representation in the increasingly lucrative sector, following on from announcements in September 2017;
- the development of a detailed business case to modernise IP Australia’s patents management system and streamline access to its services via digital channels. This measure will support Australian businesses to protect their intellectual property and in doing so, support and strengthen innovation in the Australian economy;
- establishing the Asian Innovation Strategy ($20.0 million over four years from 2018-19) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Export Hubs program ($20.0 million over four years from 2018-19). These initiatives will help Australian businesses and researchers take full advantage of new growth opportunities overseas, especially in Asia; and
- measures to provide governments, businesses, researchers and individuals with access — through the Digital Earth Australia program — to reliable standardised satellite data ($36.9 million over three years from 2019-20 (and $12.8 million ongoing). This data can be used to:
- build new digital products and services for commercial purposes,
- interpret and analyse changes to Australia’s physical landscape, enabling better understanding of environmental changes;
- assist farmers to monitor patterns and increase the efficiency and utilisation of their land;
- assist governments in improving disaster planning.
For a full analysis of this year's Budget measures, please see Australian Federal Budget 2018-19.