It's official!! Tonight's budget statement for AIATSIS confirms that AIATSIS will be allowed to carry a deficit over the 2011-2012 financial year to enable a six month extension to their digitisation program:
"Funding for the digitisation program terminates on 30 June 2011, and the Finance Minister has approved an operating loss for AIATSIS to continue digitisation in 2011-12. Digitisation has been occurring to preserve Commonwealth cultural heritage materials in the face of identified deadlines for the disintegration of analogue magnetic tape collections. The temperature and humidity controlled vaults housing the collections and rare books can only slow the deterioration process, not reverse it. In addition the equipment to play certain formats of archival material is rapidly becoming unavailable. Given the current rate of obsolescence in analogue and other dated technologies, AIATSIS has a maximum period of 15 years to digitise this material. Further funding beyond 2011-12 would be needed to continue digitisation at current levels."Pg 88-89 AIATSIS Agency Resources & planned performance
Of course this isn't good enough. At a time when the Treasurer Wayne Swan is making jobs the centrepiece of the budget he and the government are being highly selective about how this is applied. If you are a public servant (no doubt who will be at the forefront of delivering services relating to the increased expenditure in mental health) or working in an Indigenous organisation or if you are an Indigenous Australian it doesn't bode well for you in terms of jobs. The short term reprieve to the 37 staff at AIATSIS who would be out of a job come 30 June 2011 will now occur at the end of December 2011. And hopefully the deterioration of frail audio and video material will be contained until AIATSIS can manage to secure further funds after December 2011.