Thursday, 18 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Senator Reynolds. How are the Liberals and the Nationals in government supporting jobs and economic recovery for regional and rural Australians, including by improving telecommunications access through the Mobile Black Spot Program?
I thank Senator Davey for the question. I also commend her for her commitment to rural and regional Australia. The Morrison-McCormack government recognises the vital importance of mobile phone coverage to Australians living, working and travelling in regional and remote parts of our great nation. That's why we're delivering on our commitment to improve mobile coverage across Australia through our $380 million investment in mobile black spots.
The first five rounds of this program are funding over 1,200 mobile base stations across Australia. Over 800 base stations have been activated and are now delivering real benefits to regional and rural communities right across Australia. The Eden-Monaro communities of Rosewood, Forbes Creek and Yass River Road are examples of how these base stations are delivering better coverage for all Australians. Thirty-four mobile base stations have been funded in Eden-Monaro under the first five rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program. Twenty-two of these base stations have been completed and are now providing coverage to residents in the electorate.
In addition to the $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program, we are delivering $60 million to the Regional Connectivity Program—but there is yet more. Other initiatives to improve telecommunications for all Australians include a community focused telecommunications grants round, a digital technical hub to provide additional advice and assistance to Australians in regional and remote areas, and trials of alternative technologies that will provide voice telephony services in remote areas. These initiatives are all yet further evidence of the coalition government's unwavering commitment to Australians who live and work in regional, rural and remote areas of our great nation.
As part of this government's $650 million bushfire recovery package, announced last month, we are investing over $37 million to strengthen telecommunications resilience in bushfire- and disaster-prone areas across our nation. This will ensure that individuals and communities in regional areas of Australia can stay connected during emergencies. Our investment in the telecommunications emergency resilience package contains three key measures to address telecommunications outages during natural disasters. Firstly, there is $80 million to upgrade backup power and also backhaul for mobile base stations and other telecommunications infrastructure. Secondly, there is $10 million for portable facilities that mobile carriers and also NBN Co will deploy to address temporary coverage gaps caused by power outages. Thirdly, there is $7 million to install NBN satellite connections at 2,000 rural fire depots and evacuation centres. (Time expired)
The coalition government is working very closely with NBN Co to ensure that all regional Australians stay connected during this very challenging period. NBN Co is providing an additional 45 gigabytes of data for each standard Sky Muster plan until the end of August. This effectively doubles the average monthly data limit. They've also established a $150 million financial relief and assistance fund to support customers affected by the pandemic. This includes $50 million to help low-income households with school-age children to access the internet.
These initiatives are working. There are now more than 100,000 Australian homes and also businesses who are receiving faster broadband over Sky Muster satellite services.