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Budget 2004: Strengthening communications, IT, arts and sport.

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11 May 2004

The 2004-05 Federal Budget demonstrates the Australian Government's continuing commitment to the communications, information technology, arts and sports sectors.

In particular, it provides funding to foster innovation, strengthen the arts and broadcasting in regional areas and to ensure the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games are safe, successful and secure.

Developing Australian innovation and our information and communications technology (ICT) capacity is a key feature of the $5.3 billion Backing Australia's Ability - Building Our Future Through Science and Innovation package.

The package covers a number a portfolios. Initiatives funded in this portfolio include the ICT Centre of Excellence, the Advanced Networks Program and the ICT Incubators program.

National ICT Australia Ltd (NICTA)

NICTA, the ICT Centre of Excellence, will receive a $251 million over five years from 2006-07, including $125 million provided through the ARC's National Competitive Grants programme.

This will ensure that NICTA achieves its goal of being a world-scale, leading edge strategic research institution that builds Australia's competitive advantage in ICT.

NICTA will eventually be home to 300 researchers and up to 100 PhD students, providing opportunities in Australia for the development of local talent and skills.

This additional funding will bring total funding provided by the Australian Government for NICTA over the 10 years from 2001-02 to $380 million.

Advanced Networks Programme (ANP)

The ANP will receive an additional $21 million to extend its projects for three years from 2004-05 to

2006-07, bringing total funding to $60 million since the programme began in 1999-2000.

The ANP supports very high capacity and experimental networks to enable research and development of network technologies and applications such as e-health, e-science and film post-production.

Two ANP projects, CeNTIE and GrangeNet, have already built very high-speed (10 gigabits per second) optic fibre networks linking research institutions in Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane - the first such networks in the southern hemisphere.

The third project, m.Net, is an advanced wireless network in Adelaide that enables research into wireless network technologies and applications.

Building on IT Strengths (BITS) Incubators

The BITS Incubators programme will be extended by four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08 with an additional $36 million. This brings the total funding for the programme to $122 million since 1999-2000.

The ICT Incubator programme provides start-up ICT companies with incubation services such as seed capital, business coaching and advice, mentoring and introductions to broader industry and financing networks.

Improving the development and coverage of local content in regional areas is another focus of tonight's budget.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) - Regional Local Programming

An additional $54.4 million over three years will be provided to continue the ABC's Regional and Local Programming (RLP) initiative.

This funding builds on the $71.2 million provided to the ABC in the 2001-02 Budget in response to the broadcaster's proposed National Interest Initiatives.

It will allow the ABC to plan with greater certainty for the continued development of regional and local programming, including business, finance, children's and educational content, across all media platforms.

ABC - Television programming funding

The ABC will also receive an additional $4.2 million per annum to help meet the costs of purchasing new domestic and overseas programs.

In recent years, the ABC has been required to adjust its programme purchasing in response to significant increases in the cost of a range of television programming.

This extra funding will help to provide ABC television audiences with a greater choice of high quality domestic and overseas television programming.

It is also expected to indirectly benefit the local film and television production sector through the ABC's increased capacity to purchase local programming.

Critical infrastructure

The 2004-05 Federal Budget provides $5.5 million over four years to support portfolio aspects of the Government's Critical Infrastructure Protection strategy, including the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN).

The TISN allows owners and operators of critical infrastructure to share information on issues related to the protection of critical infrastructure within and between their respective industry sectors.

This funding will be used to assist the telecommunications, broadcasting and postal industries to improve the protection of Australia's communications infrastructure through improved information sharing and cooperation.

Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games (M2006 Games)

The Australian Government will provide a package of assistance worth approximately $273 million for the M2006 Games, including $139.8 million in new funding and $132 million in services and support to be provided from within existing resources.

Australian Government support will comprise: $102.9 million in direct financial assistance, a total of $84.8 million in security services and support, a total of $27.1 million in non-security related services and support, and an estimated $55.3 million in direct assistance for M2006 sports through existing programmes of the Australian Sports Commission.

It will also include waiving of visa application costs and tax exemptions worth a total of $2.4 million.

This substantial support from the Australian Government will help to ensure that Australia delivers a secure, harmonious and successful event while showcasing our sporting, cultural and business achievements.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA)

The Australian Government is declaring 2007 the Year of the Surf Life Saver and has allocated $1 million to the SLSA to celebrate its centenary year in 2007.

The SLSA is one of the largest volunteer organisations in the world and funding will help to recognise and celebrate the efforts of those volunteers who have patrolled our beaches for nearly 100 years.

Regional Arts Fund

The Regional Arts Fund programme has been renewed with funding of $10.7 million to be provided over four years from 2004-05.

The Fund provides opportunities for people in regional areas to participate in and experience cultural projects. It also helps regional areas to develop their own arts communities and provides employment

opportunities for local artists.

Since its introduction, the fund has supported more than 1000 projects, with an average of $2.5 million in funding provided each year.

Art Indemnity Australia

Art Indemnity Australia (AIA) will receive $6.1 million over four years to help meet increased insurance costs and ensure that as many Australians as possible are able to access significant cultural material including art, antiquities and scientific objects, with some exhibitions to tour to regional areas.

National Institute of Circus Arts

The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) will receive an additional $2.4 million over four years to meet the production costs of performances that will give the opportunity for all NICA students to demonstrate their talent and skills and, in 2003-04, $6 million to enable NICA to expand its existing premises.

The funding will also be used to employ additional production and injury prevention staff and help bring salaries for circus teachers into parity with the rest of the vocational training sector.

Australia Council for the Arts

The Government will maintain triennial funding of $398 million and provide an additional $10 million over five years, to the Australia Council for the Arts. New triennial funding will provide greater financial certainty for the many arts organisations across the country that receive support through the Australia Council for a range of projects across all art forms.

Additional funding of $10 million over five years will be used to support arts organisations, assist in the expansion of international markets for Australian artists and for the production of high quality music recordings through support to the Melba Foundation.

National Library of Australia

The National Library of Australia will receive $9.9 million over four years to meet its collection storage requirements.

The funding will enable the National Library to construct and operate a purpose built storage facility so that valuable records are preserved for future generations.

Educational Lending Right (ELR) Scheme

Funding of $44 million over four years from 2004-05 will be provided to continue the ELR Scheme.

The scheme is designed to encourage the development of quality Australian children's literature and education materials.

It provides payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers whose books are held in educational

lending libraries, on the basis that potential royalty payments are lost when books are borrowed rather than purchased.

Film tax offset

The Australian Government has also recognised the importance of the film and television production industry by extending the refundable film tax offset scheme to include television series as an eligible format.

The film tax offset scheme has been successful in attracting large budget film productions such as The Matrix series, the third episode of Star Wars and Stealth to Australia.

Playing Australia

An additional $2 million per annum will be provided to the Australian Government's national performing arts touring programme, Playing Australia.

This takes the programme's base funding to around $5.8 million per year and gives all Australians, wherever they live, better access to some of the country's best performing arts.

Under the Playing Australia programme, the Australian Government provides assistance to performing arts organisations to expand their touring activities, help venues and locally based organisers to host touring activities, and encourages producers of particularly innovative and high quality programs to tour their work across Australia.

Media contacts: Carina Tan-Van Baren (Mr Williams) 02 6277 7480/ 0439 425 373 Richard Wise (Senator Kemp) 02 6277 7350/ 0438 204 554