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Budget GPS funding lift as mobile scheme ends

Plan to lift GPS accuracy to within 3cm in cities, but mobile blackspot funding out


The Federal Government will invest $224 million over four years in schemes it says will make global positioning systems (GPS) more accurate across the country.

Announced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget released on Tuesday, the investment includes $160.9 million over four years to develop a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) – the technology underpinning GPS – with the system to also receive $39.2 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23.

When completed, the SBAS will deliver comprehensive positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data to an accuracy of 10 centimetres across all of Australia and its maritime zones, including to areas without mobile phone coverage, the Budget said.

A further investment of $64 million in the National Positioning Infrastructure Capability (NPIC) scheme will help improve GPS to an accuracy of 3cm in areas of Australia with existing access to mobile coverage.

“This measure will reduce barriers to accessing and using PNT data, allowing Australian businesses to maintain their competitive advantage in industries such as agriculture and resources, and in emerging sectors such as automated transport,” the Budget said.

Resources minister Matt Canavan said the GPS improvements could be used to better manage cattle and livestock over vast distances, as well as enabling the resource sector to better control mine infrastructure.

“This is a practical investment to improve the lives of Australians and make businesses more productive. This technology provides instant, reliable and accurate positioning information, anytime and anywhere around Australia,” he said.

But the policy comes as the government chose not to commit new funds to the Mobile Blackspot program, meaning new investment in mobile towers will halt in the next financial year.

The program had come in for criticism by the Australian National Audit Office in a 2016 report which said the it had been poorly administered, but its termination was nonetheless condemned by the National Farmers’ Federation CEO Tony Mahar.

“Connectivity is so important for farm businesses, and mobile coverage is the gold standard,” he said.

“This is a big disappointment for farmers who are waiting for a tower in their region.”

Other Funding Commitments

The government will also provide $125 million over five years from 2017-18 for infrastructure projects in Western Sydney, including up to $50 million to develop a business case for Western Sydney Rail, including a rail link from Schofields to Macarthur, to be jointly funded with the NSW government.

It will also provide another $5.1 million over four years, to be found from within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, to develop a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to make freight movements more efficient.

And finally, and as announced in February, the government will also provide the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with an extra $8.6 million over three years to oversee the compulsory recall of vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags, which have been found to cause a risk to drivers and passengers.

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