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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4138

South Australia: Mobile Black Spot Program

Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator McKenzie. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government is delivering better mobile coverage to the many parts of rural and regional Australia, particularly in the electorate of Mayo?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:49): Thank you, Senator Gichuhi, for your question and for your advocacy for South Australia. We're delivering better mobile phone coverage through our $220 million investment in the Mobile Black Spot Program, unlike the Labor Party and the previous South Australian Labor government. Regional South Australians missed out, with only 37 of the 867 base stations funded under our program actually being located in regional South Australia. Fortunately for South Australians, things are changing for the better. At the federal level, the coalition is delivering on our commitment to improve mobile coverage, with a further $25 million committed to a fourth round of the coalition's $220 million Black Spot Program. But, now that there is a Liberal state government in South Australia, regional South Australians are in the box seat for better coverage, including the people in the seat of Mayo. The new South Australian Liberal government has committed $10 million to address black spots across regional South Australia, and I look forward to partnering with them. When I was walking the streets of Mayo with the local Liberal candidate, Georgina Downer, we spoke to small-business owners—owners of restaurants, cafes, travel agencies—about the importance of 21st century telecommunications infrastructure and what it means for their local businesses. Our commitment, combined with that of the South Australian Liberal government and a strong advocate like Georgina Downer being elected in the seat of Mayo, will mean that those regional communities will remain vibrant, sustainable and connected to essential emergency services and will use that increased digital connectivity to grow their local businesses and increase local jobs.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gichuhi, a supplementary question.

Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:51): Can the minister update the Senate on how the Mobile Black Spot Program is benefiting regional small business in my home state of South Australia?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:51): Yes, I can, Senator Gichuhi. When I was recently in South Australia, in the seat of Mayo, with Georgina Downer, we were speaking about the importance of the wine industry to the local area, particularly in the Adelaide Hills. We know the wine industry is worth about $6 billion to the GDP of South Australia and employs a lot of people in that area, but it's an international business and it requires digital connectivity to ensure they can compete internationally. Bec Hardy proudly runs the business Wines by Geoff Hardy with her family in the Adelaide Hills and she spoke about the importance of our investment to her business. It means that, at their cellar door in Kuitpo, customers can check in on social media, post a selfie while enjoying a drop in the Adelaide Hills or place an online wine order, post-tasting, on their mobile handset, allowing them to grow their business and employ more people locally. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gichuhi, a final supplementary question.

Senator GICHUHI (South Australia) (14:52): Is the minister aware of any alternative to the Mobile Black Spot Program?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:53): Well, sadly, Senator Gichuhi, I'm not. The Australian Labor Party's approach to regional telecommunications policy is actually a lot like regional black spots: nothing; silence; absolutely no bars. We can look across the aisle and ask: what are they doing for regional black spots in regional Australia? Let's compare them. Two hundred and twenty million dollars from us has been leveraged with state governments and telcos to deliver $680 million of investment. Labor: silence. There are 867 base stations across the country, which I'm hoping, with our increased investment, will grow to 1,000. But, when we look across the aisle, there is absolute silence. The coalition government is the only government that backs regional Australia and our entrepreneurial spirit through increased connectivity.