National Marine Science News & Updates

May 2018 – Special Budget Update

17 May 2018

Dear colleagues,

It’s my pleasure to update the national marine science community on the 8 May Federal Budget.  In summary, it provides great support for marine research and for marine research infrastructure.


The Australian Government will invest more than $500M to protect the Great Barrier Reef, secure its viability and the 64,000 jobs that rely on the Reef. $444M will be invested via the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) “to tackle crown-of-thorns starfish, reduce pollution into the Reef and mitigate the impacts of climate change”.  The GBRF media release can be found here.  Of the total amount, $100M will go to funding science that supports Reef resilience and adaptation, and $40M to enhancing Reef health monitoring and reporting to track progress and inform better management. A further $56M will go to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and Department of Environment and Energy to expand environmental management and compliance operations on the Reef.

The Australia Government will also invest $107.1 million over 11 years from 2018-19 to deliver a revitalised Australian Antarctic Science Program through two new initiatives.  The Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science ($56M over 7 years), and the Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative ($50M over 10 years).  The Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative (ASCI) will commence from 1 July 2018 with the initial focus on finalisation of program design and consultation with stakeholders.  Announcement of long term funding for Antarctic science is a great relief for many in our community.

Research Infrastructure

The Budget announced that the Government will provide an additional $1.9 billion over 12 years from 2017-18 ($393.3 million over five years) to implement the Research Infrastructure Investment Plan (the Plan), informed by the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

The Minister for Education and Training and Minister for Jobs and Innovation subsequently launched the Government’s response to the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, including its Research Infrastructure Investment Plan. The response can be found here.

Two of the high priority recommendations in the National Marine Science Plan have been addressed by the Investment Plan, with respect to research vessels and IMOS.

The Investment Plan includes $31.2M to expand the operations of the RV Investigator by an additional 120 days a year.  This is a wonderful outcome, and congratulations go to our colleagues at CSIRO and the Marine National Facility who have worked tirelessly to achieve this.  Pleasingly, the Investment Plan says ‘work will also be undertaken with key stakeholders to develop a national coastal vessel capability beyond 2021–22’.

The Investment Plan commits $1.5 billion over 10 years (2019-29), indexed, for operational costs of facilities under NCRIS.  Under this commitment, IMOS operational funding already approved for 2018-19 ($16.46M) will be extended for another four years (to 2022-23) with indexation.  Subject to ongoing performance and future national priorities, the NCRIS commitment presents an opportunity for IMOS to be sustained into a third decade (2028-29).  There will also be new investment in IMOS of $22M in 2017-18 to 2021-22.  This is a mix of much needed capital re-investment and increased operating expenditure (2017-22). This is fantastic news, and the IMOS community is extremely grateful for the tremendous support provided by Australian Government through NCRIS.

The National Research Infrastructure Roadmap includes other good news for marine, climate and Antarctic science:

  •     Investment post 2021-22 to open up merit-based access to the Australian Institute of Marine Science hosted SeaSim for researchers.
  •     $140M to upgrade and purchase new supercomputers for Australia’s two Tier 1 HPC facilities: the National Computational Infrastructure facility and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.
  •     $72.2M for critical upgrades to virtual laboratories, research cloud storage and data security.
  •     Scoping studies to explore requirements for a more advanced climate and environmental prediction through an enhanced ACCESS model and establishment of a national environmental prediction system will also be undertaken.

In addition, our colleagues at Geoscience Australia  will receive $260 million for satellite positioning infrastructure and imaging.  The Government will provide $160.9 million over four years from 2018-19 (and $39.2 million in ongoing funding from 2022-23) to improve the accuracy, integrity and availability of satellite navigation. This measure 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.

Collectively, these decisions speak strongly to the importance of science, research and education in driving the development of Australia’s blue economy.  Congratulations to all of you involved in achieving these excellent outcomes.  We now have the opportunity to do some great marine science in the national interest.


Tim Moltmann, Chair

on behalf of the National Marine Science Committee