Infosec, e-health, Vets' Affairs scoop up cash in Oz federal budget

Australia's needy IT sector gets its annual dose of validation

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The IT sector always loves it when the Australian government acknowledges its existence in the federal budget, and 2017-2018 is no exception.

Infosec professionals are basking in the warm glow of bureaucratic validation this morning, with AU$10.7 million devoted to establishing a Cyber Security Advisory Office.

Operating as part of the Office of Eternal Beta, the Digital Transformation Agency, the CSAO's job will be to centralise “governance and assurance” across government, working with other government agencies to “ensure they are appropriately managing the risks of cyber and other digital vulnerabilities on digital services (sic)” (Vulture South thought that fell within the Australian Signals Directorate's remit).

It's the government's response to having the 2016 Census hosed by too many users some kind of denial-of-service attack last year.

The Bureau of Meteorology will get money (the sum hasn't been announced) to improve its security, and vendors will be ramping up their tender teams to bid for a coming systems refresh at the Department of Veterans' Affairs (sorry, Big Five, you don't get the whole $167 million, some of it will be spent on overhauling DVA's services).

E-Health: everybody gets a health record

The government has lost patience with recalcitrant Australians who haven't registered for their personal electronic health record, so it's shovelling nearly $375 million into a system that's already swallowed around a billion dollars.

The government reckons it'll realise more than $300 million in “efficiencies” from the system, and says Australians (we refuse to write “health consumers” and you can't make us) will be able to use the system to access their own records of things like medical tests and vaccination history.

Son of 'Robodebt': algorithmic drug tests for welfare recipients

Welfare recipients, already enjoying the benefits of data-matching in the notorious “Robo-debt” program, will have a brand-new big data robot to deal with.

The government is going to require Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients to agree to being subject to drug testing as a condition of their payments.

The kicker: the government is going to run profiling algorithms to identify individuals whose characteristics “indicate a higher risk of substance abuse”.

Those who fail drug tests would be put on the cashless debit card for welfare payments, and possibly referred for treatment.

It's worth remembering that the government's previous attempt at automating welfare profiling, its "Robo-debt" program, worked so well Centrelink had to hire 370 new staff to make it work.

Many of the budget measures were already known, such as the $315 million for Centrelink's IT, and having last year abandoned the idea of outsourcing the Medicare payment system, there's $67.3 million for the system refresh.

Geosciences Australia's Digital Earth project gets $15.3 million to push more of its satellite imagery online, including 10-metre resolution images of the continent on a five-day cycle.

Astronomers will have another $26 million to fuel Australia's partnership with the European Southern Observatory, starting in 2018.

Australia's Bitcoin fans get a tax cut: trading in the currency won't be caught by the Goods and Services Tax; that tax will only apply when Bitcoin are spent. ®


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