Budget Review 2022–23 Index
The Australian Government has committed to strengthening Australia’s
Antarctic strategic and scientific capabilities through
a package announced
on 22 February 2022. This $839.9 million package is described in the
2022–23 Budget as the cross‑portfolio measure ‘Strengthening
Australia’s Leadership in Antarctica’ (Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2022–23, pp. 55–56). The budget does not provide
new funding as it has already been provided for by the Government. A summary of
the funding allocation is provided in the ‘Foreign
affairs overview’ article in this Budget review.
The measure aligns with the recently updated Antarctic
strategy & 20 year action plan (Strategy & Action Plan),
which outlines the Australian Antarctic Program’s (AAP) key priorities for 5
years to 2026. The strategy also articulates Australia's national interests in
Antarctica, including to 'maintain Antarctica's freedom from strategic and/or
political confrontation' (p. 7). The package is intended to strengthen
Australia's national interests in Antarctica in an increasingly complex
geopolitical setting and challenging physical environment—which is facing a
variety of pressures, including from climate change, increased fishing, tourism
in the nexus between science and diplomacy.
Australia asserts sovereignty over roughly 42%
of the Antarctic continent, called the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Australia’s activities in the Antarctic are coordinated
through the AAP, including logistics, transport and scientific research. The
Australian Antarctic Division
(AAD) leads and coordinates the delivery of the program and is part of the Department
of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE). The AAD maintains 3 year‑round
research stations in Antarctica (Davis, Casey and Mawson) and one in the sub‑Antarctic
region on Macquarie Island. As the program is collaborative, multiple government
agencies are also involved (including the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience
Australia), as well as national and international research institutions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that the measure
will support 685 jobs, 100 of which are specific to the AAP. The 2022–23
Agriculture, Water and the Environment portfolio budget statement (DAWE
PBS 2022–23) shows an increase in the average staffing level (ASL) for the Antarctica:
Science, Policy and Presence program, from 503 in 2021–22 to 599 in 2022–23 (p.
The measure also follows
some major changes to 2 long-term infrastructure projects, the Macquarie
Island research station project and the Davis
runway and aerodrome project. In November
2021, the Minister for the Environment announced that the runway
project would no longer proceed. The AAD confirmed in March 2021 that from
2016–17 to 2019–20, a total
of $28.3 million had been expended on the planning phase of the project. The
funding for the project, confirmed in October 2021, was $91.6 million up to
30 June 2022.
In 2016, the Government announced
$50 million for a new research station on Macquarie Island, to be completed
in 2020–21. In March 2021, the upgrade was announced
as a renovation, expected to be completed within 7 years. In response
to a question on notice asked in July 2021, the AAD stated that a
renovation was found to be the best option within the allocated budget, following
a 2-year planning phase and delays caused by COVID-19 restrictions (p. 1, answer
Measure funding breakdown
The Antarctic package is a cross‑portfolio
measure involving DAWE and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The 2022–23
Budget does not provide details on how the funding is to be distributed between
the departments, but the departmental portfolio budget statements (PBS) provide
The DAWE PBS 2022–23 (p. 35, footnote l) notes that funding
for the measure was included as a decision taken but not yet announced (DTBNYA)
in the 2021–2022
Agriculture, Water and the Environment portfolio additional estimate
statement (p. 26). It also provides a breakdown of
the 5‑year departmental impact of the measure, as outlined in Table 1.
Table 1 ‘Strengthening Australia’s
Leadership in Antarctica’ departmental impact (DAWE) from PBS ($ million)
figures have been rounded to one decimal
place. The total has been calculated from the figures provided in the PBS.
Source: Australian Government, Portfolio Budget Statement 2022–23: Budget Related Paper
No. 1.1: Agriculture, Water and the Environment Portfolio, Table 1.2, footnote (l), 35.
Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio budget statement (p. 21,
footnote g) states that the measure was included as a DTBNYA in the 2021–22
Mid‑year economic and fiscal outlook.
Most of the $839.9 million package will strengthen Australia’s
capabilities and presence in Antarctica; however, 2 components are more directly
focused on science and research. Most commentary has focused on the strategic
and geopolitical context of the measure, such as this ABC
News article. The Bob
Brown Foundation has expressed concern that it fails to protect the
Under the updated Strategy & Action Plan, marine and
climate science are identified as priority Antarctic science and research
themes (p. 15). These themes are reflected in the 2 more science-focused
components of the measure, detailed in Budget paper no. 2 (pp. 55–56 ):
- $17.4 million over 5 years from 2021–22 for research facilities
and marine science in the Southern Ocean, including a new krill aquarium in
Hobart—with $4.8 million a year from 2026–27
- $7.4 million over 5 years from 2021–22 for research on Antarctic
ice sheet science to build a global understanding of climate change impacts—with
$1.7 million a year from 2026–27.
A further $44.2 million is provided over 5 years (with $3.9
million a year from 2026–27) to boost the capability and longevity of
the RSV Nuyina, Australia’s new Antarctic research and supply icebreaker.
The Government has stated that this money will allow the RSV Nuyina to focus
on extended science voyages.
The $109 million provided by the measure for aerial and
inland capability will also play a role in supporting scientists to conduct
research. This includes $35 million for 4 new medium-lift helicopters which
will be based on the RSV Nuyina and $60.6 million for drone
fleets and other autonomous vehicles. One expert has noted
the dual military and research applications of this funding, terming the
investment as a ‘move into the grey zone of dual‑use technologies’.
The measure’s science and research funding build on the Government’s
commitment made in 2018 of over
$100 million for Antarctic Science. This included $50 million over 10 years
(from 2019–20) to establish the Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative and $56
million over 7 years (from January 2020) for the Australian Research Council’s
Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science.
The science and research component of the AAP falls under
Antarctic Science Program (AASP). The management of Australian Antarctic
science and research conducted under the AAP has undergone scrutiny in recent
In 2017, the former Department of the Environment and Energy
a review into the governance of the AASP (the Clarke Review). Responding to
a recommendation in the 2017 Clarke Review, the Australian Government
established the Australian
Antarctic Science Council in 2019. The council proceeded to implement
another recommendation, developing and updating the Australian
Antarctic science strategic plan (Science Plan). This updated plan, published in 2020,
provides a high‑level overview of the
key research priorities for Australian Antarctic science.
In 2021, the AAD
commissioned an independent expert panel to conduct
a review of its Science Branch (the O’Kane Review). The division has accepted
all recommendations made by the review and has stated that it will work
with AASP partners to implement them. The AAD
In response to the recommendations of the 2021 O’Kane Review,
the Australian Antarctic Division has formally asserted that “Science is the
central driver of all its activities” and has adopted as its unifying narrative
that its purpose is “Building comprehensive knowledge of East Antarctica and
its ecosystems to inform our Antarctic stewardship and enhance our
understanding of climate change”.
The O’Kane Review also observed that implementation
of the Science Plan was lacking, and recommended developing a 10‑year
Australian Antarctic science plan (Decadal Plan) to facilitate implementation the
Science Plan (pp. 5; 7). It also recommended that the division update the Science
Plan and undertake annual reporting against the Decadal Plan. This recommendation
is in line with the Clarke Review, which recommended developing comprehensive
performance measures to assess the impact of the AASP (p. 4).
Additionally, in response to the O’Kane Review
recommendations, the division has announced changes
to the scope and delivery of the AASP in the key areas of program focus, operation
support, and project requests and assessments. These changes included halting
the AASP grants program and redistributing the associated $1.05 million
funding to support the AASP by contracting research projects to deliver
specific government priorities, purchasing scientific equipment, and supporting
early career researchers.
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