Budget 2023-24: Connecting, informing and protecting Australians
The Albanese Government will deliver a more connected, informed, and empowered Australia by providing funding stability to critical institutions in the communications sector in the 2023-24 Budget.
Labor’s commitments provide certainty, and support many important areas that were either left unfunded by the former Liberal-National Government, or were simply ignored.
These measures will collectively improve online safety, safeguard our democracy, enhance emergency communications, and support regional and First Nations communities – key priorities for the Government.
Our investment in Communications will:
- Deliver an additional $132.1 million over four years to the eSafety Commissioner to improve safety online, increasing its base operational funding from $10.3 million to $42.5 million per year;
- Provide five-year funding terms for the national broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – and increase base operational funding by rolling three current terminating measures in an ongoing basis.
- Extend funding to continue the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service across regional and remote Australia for an additional seven years to 2030-31;
- Provide $5 million to support the Australian Associated Press (AAP) newswire service while the News Media Assistance Program (News MAP) is developed.
- $2.5 million to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts to partner with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) to support media literacy in CALD communities;
- Provide $10.9 million to support the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to establish an SMS Sender ID Registry to help prevent scammers from spoofing key industry or government brand names; and
- Strengthen Australia’s ability to help save lives during natural disasters and emergencies by rolling out a cell broadcast National Messaging System, and investing $10.1 million to establish a Taskforce to progress a Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) capability.
Funding certainty to improve safety online
The Albanese Government will quadruple ongoing base funding to the eSafety Commissioner from 2023-24 onwards, addressing the funding cliff left behind by the Liberals and Nationals. This will provide certainty and stability to the online safety regulator and build a safer experience online for Australians.
eSafety’s responsibilities have grown significantly since it was first established in 2015, but base funding has never been increased. Funding decisions taken by the former Liberal-National Government meant this key agency was facing a funding cliff. Without intervention, eSafety’s funding would have dropped from $51.8 million to just $21.3 million next year, before declining further to just $10.3 million from 2027-28, severely impacting the regulator’s ability to do its important job.
The Albanese Government’s investment will allow eSafety to keep up with demand for its takedown schemes, deliver more education programs and hold industry to account for keeping their users safe. This funding will also ensure eSafety can better coordinate with law enforcement to remove child sexual exploitation materials, commission additional research and evaluations to guide its work, and elevate the voices of young people in the development and delivery of online safety policies.
Stable funding to support media sustainability and safeguard democracy
The Albanese Government recognises that a sustainable media sector is central to keeping Australians connected, and to support the resilience of our democracy by holding power to account.
- The Government is delivering on its election commitment to five-year funding terms for the national broadcasters – with annual funding of $1.1 billion for the ABC and $334.9 million for SBS. This funding stability underpins the delivery of quality content and services that inform, entertain and educate millions of Australians, including children, regional audiences and diverse multicultural communities.
- The ABC and SBS will receive an additional $72 million over four years to extend and roll three previously terminating programs into ongoing funding:
- ABC Enhanced News Gathering, which supports regional journalist positions in regional bureaus throughout Australia;
- SBS Media Sector Support, which provides news, content, subtitling and English learning resources to Australians who speak languages other than English, with a focus on Chinese and Arabic communities; and
- ABC and SBS Audio Description, to make screen content more accessible to audiences who are blind or vision impaired.
- The ABC will receive $8.5 million over four years to expand transmission infrastructure in the Pacific under the Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy. The funding will provide further access to Australian content, boosting media connections in the region.
- The Albanese Government is funding the extension of the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service across regional and remote Australia for an additional seven years until 2030-31. This supports the provision of free-to-air commercial television to over 1.5 million Australians. The VAST service was established as a safety-net by the then-Labor Government in 2009-10 and, unlike the former Coalition Government who reverted to short-term contract extensions, Labor recognises the importance of stability and certainty for industry and consumers when it comes to long-term investment.
- The Albanese Government will also provide $5 million to help sustain the Australian Associated Press (AAP) while the News MAP is developed to guide news media policy intervention, and support public interest journalism and media diversity.
- The Government will also provide $2.5 million for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts to partner with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) to support media literacy in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. This partnership aims to empower multicultural communities to combat harms associated with the proliferation of deceptive information including mis and disinformation, and support improved economic and civic participation.
Tackling scams to keep Australians safe
Scams cost victims around $3.1 billion in 2022 – nearly a 390 per cent increase from 2019. There were around 500,000 reports of scam activity in 2022, with vulnerable groups bearing the heaviest burden.
The Albanese Government is delivering on its commitment to combat these scams and protect Australians with $10.9 million in funding for a comprehensive package of anti-scams measures.
- ACMA will receive $10.5 million to establish an SMS Sender ID Registry for brands to record their primary and associated names used in text message headers. The initiative will help telecommunications companies prevent scammers from spoofing industry or government brand names – such as Linkt or myGov – in text message headers to deceive Australian consumers.
- This complement a total of $58 million to establish the National Anti-Scam Centre in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which will deliver an innovative, world-leading public-private sector partnership to disrupt illegal scams.
Safer communities, more capable emergency service responders
- The Albanese Government will roll-out a cell broadcast National Messaging System (NMS) to help keep Australians safe. This will significantly improve the way the States, Territories and the Australian Government are able to send emergency messages, alerts and warnings at-scale to mobile handsets during a crisis or emergency event, in near real time.
- In addition, $10.1 million will establish a central Taskforce to drive the delivery of a Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) capability. The Taskforce will establish the framework for delivering a mobile broadband service that provides Public Safety Agencies with fast and secure voice, video and data communications and instant access to data, images and information in critical situations. This is a critical step in advancing the national PSMB program following a 2022 PSMB Review.
Both measures will be jointly developed and implemented by the Minister for Communications and the Minister for Emergency Management, Senator the Hon Murray Watt.