news The Labor opposition has said that, while it supports the Government’s pledge to add a further $60 million to the Mobile Black Spot Programme if reelected, allocation of funding across Australia is missing out areas that need it most.
In a statement on 24 May issued by Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare and Shadow Regional Communications Minister Stephen Jones, Labor said: “Like the Turnbull Government’s promise to deliver the NBN, the Mobile Black Spot Programme has over-promised and under-delivered.”
According to the figures provided by Labor, of the 499 mobile towers funded in Round 1 of the programme, only 21 had been switched on as of 4 May.
Of those 499, it added, 416 towers “are in Liberal and Nationals’ electorates”.
Furthermore, Labor pointed to some “glaring omissions” in the programme, suggesting that there are locations that should have been funded but were not.
It cites as an example the electorate of McEwen in Victoria – one of the most fire-prone areas in the country. Over the last six summers, McEwen has seen the same number of major disasters, including being the worst hit in the Black Saturday fires of 2009.
Despite the identification of 95 blackspots in the electorate, the statement said, the area has received only two of the 499 funded towers from Round 1 of the Mobile Black Spots Programme.
“This is critical infrastructure that saves lives in an emergency and is also central to every business in the country and the daily life of all Australians,” the Opposition party said, adding that it is committed to ensuring regional Australia has access to the broadband and mobile phone services it needs.
Earlier this week, the Coalition Government announced that it would invest an additional $60 million in the Mobile Black Spot Programme if it is returned to power in July’s federal election.
The extra funding would be allocated to black spot locations that have not previously received funding under the programme, along with locations that have been ignored by mobile network operators because they lack commercial viability.
The potential investment would bring the Coalition’s total investment in eliminating mobile blackspots to $220 million, the government said at the time.
Also this month, Vodafone called on voters in regional seats to use social media to raise the “urgent need” for more funding for mobile black spots with their federal representatives and candidates ahead of the Federal Election in July.
Dan Lloyd, Vodafone’s Chief Strategy Officer, said many people in regional Australia still do not have “reliable, competitive 21st century telecommunications services”.
“It’s time for Australians in regional and rural areas to send a clear message to their local MPs and candidates that action needs to be taken to end the mobile class divide between cities and rural and regional Australia,” Lloyd said.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting