BUDGET 2011: Global telescope bid receives $40m

CSIRO gains $3 billion in funding over four years
The CSIRO-run Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope will utilise fibre links from Murchison to Geraldton, and Geraldton to Perth

The CSIRO-run Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope will utilise fibre links from Murchison to Geraldton, and Geraldton to Perth

The Federal Government has invested $40.2 million over four years to continue Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid to host the global Square Kilometre Array project.

The commitment forms part of a record $3 billion in the 2011/2012 budget to keep CSIRO going over the next four years.

[See the complete coverage of ICT spending in Computerworld Australia's Federal Budget 2011 section]

Under the $40.2 million funding, the government will provide $6.3 million to promote negotiations with stakeholders and other countries over site proposals, as well as $34 million for pre-construction of the project, should the countries’ bid be successful.

Australia and New Zealand are jointly in competition with South Africa for the $2.1 billion project, which would begin construction in 2016. The project will ultimate involve a dish array spanning 3000 kilometres with participation from a total 20 nations, and would generate up to an exabyte a day of data when it is launched in 2024.

At least two of the telescope arrays that form part of Australia's bid for the global project are likely to utilise part of the 426km fibre run between Perth and Geraldton in Western Australia forming part of the 6000 kilometre Regional Broadband Blackspot Program rolled out by Nextgen networks. The link will ultimately connect to the Pawsey Centre high performance computing hub run by iVEC and hosted on CSIRO's Perth campus.

Science and innovation minister Senator Kim Carr said it wasn't easy finding room in such a tight budget but that it proved the importance of CSIRO to Australia. He said the organisation has long helped give Australia a competitive edge, with 150 companies having been directly founded off CSIRO's research.

Other research spending in this year’s budget included a $20 million commitment to the Tasmanian ICT centre from the Federal Government, forming part of $50 million in funding from federal and state governments, as well as CSIRO and industry to keep the research centre running for a further five years. The funding was foreshadowed by independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week following negotiations directly with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Lapsed Defence projects yield surplus

The Australian Defence Force also revealed $1.5 billion in savings from this year’s capital equipment and operating expenses, despite confirmation from defence minister Stephen Smith that the department would cut 1000 jobs over three years. It will also hand back an additional $1.3 billion from planned spending over the next four years, as a result of sipped projects resulting in unspent money. This included a $70 million communications satellite.

The department has in the past week revealed first pass approval from government for trials of its forthcoming next generation desktops project and a $500 million telecommunications consolidation project.

Smith described the move as a budget realignment.

"The reprogramming is necessary to better reflect realistic achievement of milestone delivery payments by industry for capability and infrastructure projects,” he said in a statement. “This accommodates anticipated delays in project delivery from industry."

With AAP

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Tags: CSIRO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, Federal Budget 2011
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