Thursday, 29 October 2020
Questions without Notice
Mobile Black Spot Program
My question is to the minister for communications. Can the minister confirm that, despite announcing $160 million for two new rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program in March last year, 17 months later the government had spent just $1.2 million? Is the gap between the government's announcement and delivery a potential danger for the upcoming bushfire season?
I do thank the member for her question in relation to the Mobile Black Spot Program. Some $380 million has been committed, generating a total investment of more than $836 million, which has funded a total of up to 1,229 mobile base stations across Australia. I can further report that, as at 30 September 2020, 879 of those base stations have been activated, and more continue to be activated all the time.
What's important for the House to realise when getting a full appreciation of this context is: what was the starting point? What was the starting point? How many dollars did the Labor Party commit to mobile black spots?
Mr McCormack interjecting—
It's on direct relevance. The question doesn't go to alternatives. It goes very specifically to the delivery of two announcements worth—$160 million and $1.2 million—being spent. The minister now wanting to turn to other policies, given the nature of this question, is beyond the realms of relevance.
The second part of the question spoke about a proposition that a gap between delivery announcements and delivery caused danger. What the minister is exposing is the fact that the members opposite weren't going to build a single mobile tower—not one—which one might think is more dangerous than 800-plus mobile phone towers.
There are a number of words that the Leader of the House just, I suspect deliberately, omitted when he described what was at the end of that question. They referred to the upcoming bushfire season.
I'll continue to listen carefully to the minister. I point out the question didn't ask about alternative policies. What he needs to do, and I believe he has been doing, is relating his material to the substance of the question. I'll listen to him very carefully. I do agree with the Manager of Opposition Business to this extent: he's very much on the line, if not leaning over it. But I'll keep listening.
The policy context here is the starting point. When we came to government not one dollar of public money had been allocated to the provision of mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia for six years—not one dollar. We have committed $380 million. And I'll make the point that we did recently announce additional funding, because we're getting on with it. We have also announced $37 million for strengthening telecommunications against natural disasters, with $8 million going to temporary facilities, such as satellite COWs—cells on wheels—and satellite Road Muster trucks to be delivered by NBN. Some of those Road Muster trucks will be available before the end of this year.
Ms Templeman interjecting—
On one side of this House we've got a party that did nothing about mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia. They did nothing about keeping Australians—
Ms Templeman interjecting—
in regional and remote Australia safe from bushfires in terms of supporting public funding to additional mobile base stations. From this side of the House there has been $380 million over 879 base stations funded under this program. The other side of the House spent zero. They delivered zero. They committed zero. I'll tell you what: 000 has been a longstanding well-known number in Australian telecommunications—it took this side to turn it into a policy in relation to mobile coverage in the bush.