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Budget 2012-13: E-health gets funding boost while gov staff job cuts expected

Budget 2012-13: E-health gets funding boost while gov staff job cuts expected

Total IT spending to reach $1 billion over the next five years

E-health and welfare were the big winners in Treasurer Wayne Swan’s Federal Budget this year with more than $627 million committed to e-health/welfare projects, but it was a different story for government staff with more than 3000 job cuts expected.

According to the Budget 2012-13 documents, total government staffing is expected to fall from 261,637 to 258,563. Media reports have revealed that departments such as Defence/DMO will lose 674 staff while the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy will lose 22 staff.

The cuts are part of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s strategy to make savings of $34 billion over the next 12 months.

Ovum Australia research director, Kevin Noonan, said the government sector was a technology intensive business.

“Fewer staff generally translates into a drop in technology requirements. However, the impact of staff cuts this year will be offset by a renewed focus on productivity,” he said in a statement.

Noonan added that it was not all doom and gloom as there would be a lot of new work for IT project managers coming out of the Budget.

In total, government IT spending came in at $1 billion over the next five year--largely in line with projects coming out of the 2011-12 Budget.

“Managers and vendors need to follow the money. Significant investment in new programs has delivered a positive message of action and opportunity, against overall backdrop of funding cuts,” Noonan said.

E-health

Swan has committed $233.7 million over three years to implement the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR). From 1 July, PCEHR will allow Australians to register and create their own personal patient record online.

The government has also committed $240.3 million over four years to fund the IT requirements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This includes the development of an ICT system to monitor, track and evaluate the operation of the first stage of the project, plus a platform for a national rollout.

In addition, $198 million in funding was announced for an aged care Gateway initiative over five years from 2012-13 which includes $29 million for a My Aged Care website.

The Budget also outlined a strategy involving a number of Digital Productivity trials spanning government agencies. These include $6.2 million worth of funding for videoconferencing to streamline the delivery of Human Services to remote areas, and $22.2 million for the expansion of telehealth pilot projects.

Welfare

The government will provide $27.2 million to improve income reporting processes for recipients of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).

The income reporting process will allow people in the $6,000 to $18,200 income range to update their incomes online, over the phone or in person with the Department of Human Services (DHS) so that their FTB entitlement can be reconciled or it can be determined if they qualify for a CSHC.

Other projects to receive funding boosts include the Australian Business Register (ABR) which will get $68.5 million over four years to improve the quality and currency of data held in the ABR.

Education

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Australia received a one-off boost in the federal budget, scoring $11.7 million of funding. In addition, budget measures mean that donations to OLPC Australia will be tax deductible from 1 July.

The National Broadband Network

The Budget has also allocated $20 million to market the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The money will be used to help highlight the advantages of the NBN, primarily in regional and remote areas where the NBN will be provided by fixed wireless and satellite services. The funding will also be used to provide up-to-date information on the network.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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