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Cyber a winner in NSW Half Yearly Review

by Cameron Sinclair •
Free resource

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has bought the year to a close with more than $140 million in cyber security funding with the release of the state’s Half Yearly Review on Thursday, 16 December. The review was followed by a Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday in which Minister Victor Dominello retained the Customer Service and Digital portfolios.

Digital Restart Fund

The half-year update includes several new ICT project announcements since the June Budget, albeit most of them are funded from the existing pool of the $2.1 billion Digital Restart Fund (DRF).

The government has established a new $75 million “cyber reservation fund” inside the DRF to support small and independent agencies. The update allocates $31.2 million from the fund to 14 agencies. This new investment in cyber security will address ongoing concerns, including some especially sharp criticism from the NSW Auditor-General in October.

A further $67.5 million has been allocated to address cyber-threats across four large agencies: Transport for NSW, the Department of Education, the Department of Customer Service, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

There is an extra $40 million over three years for the NSW Spatial Digital Twin platform to improve the quality of 4D spatial data of the state’s physical and built environment.

NSW prison inmates will benefit from $40.4 million over two years for access to digital rehabilitation programs, including an inmate Learning Portal, library and mental health services.

An extra $8.9 million has been allocated to develop a Digital Identity Hub and a Digital Wallet within the popular MyServiceNSW App; and a Commercial Credential Exchange for business credentials such as licenses and building certificates.

New Policy Measures

The NSW Electoral Commission received an extra $29.1 million in the current financial year to address the impact of rescheduled local government elections. It is likely that this includes funds to upgrade legacy ICT and cyber technologies.

Election Commissioner John Schmidt has recently expressed his frustration at having requests for cyber security funding knocked back, including being rejected by the DRF.

The commissioner has maintained that the agency’s business-as-usual funding is insufficient to meet its cyber security needs. In particular, he has pointed to the 2019 state election, in which the Department of Premier and Cabinet had to provide the electoral commission with a $600,000 “emergency” grant to set up a necessary security operations centre.

The funding boost comes more than a year after the NSW Audit Office singled out funding shortfall for NSW integrity agencies in a Special Report in October 2020.

The Half-Year Review also confirms that the government is making progress on “at least 30” of the 60 initiatives suggested in the NSW Productivity Commission White Paper, released in May 2021.

For example, there is now more flexibility for strata owners’ corporations, community land associations and incorporated associations to meet and vote electronically.

The PC also published a paper on Regulating Emerging Technologies, such as drones, personal mobility devices, and e-bikes.

Cabinet Reshuffle

Perrottet assumed office on 5 October 2021 following the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian.

Halfway through his third month in the top job, his pre-Christmas reshuffle responds to four resignations (Berejeklian, Barilaro, Constance, and Gibbons) and two retirements (Hancock and Harmon).

  • Most importantly for the government’s digital agenda, Victor Dominello has retained his broad responsibilities for digital transformation (but has lost responsibility for gaming to Better Regulation and Innovation Minister Kevin Anderson).
  • Alister Henskens becomes the new Minister for Skills and Training; and for Science, Innovation and Technology. This will be a key convergence of roles as the government continues to implement its productivity reform agenda, seeks to grow the local ICT industry, and expands the digitally-literate workforce in anticipation of expected shortages.
  • Rob Stokes adds Minister for Cities to his existing responsibilities for infrastructure.

Additionally, there are nine first-time ministers in the new Cabinet, who will have over a year to make their mark before the next NSW election in March 2023.

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