Legislative Council: Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Mobile Phone BlackSpot Funding

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (15:07): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development in another place, a question about mobile blackspot funding?

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: At the 2018 state election the Liberal Party promised $10 million to fix mobile phone blackspots with a South Australian mobile phone blackspot fund. In early April this year, the federal government announced the allocation of $80 million for round 5 of its Mobile Black Spot Program, with applications closing on 26 July 2019. In late May, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development announced the state government would allocate $3 million from the South Australian mobile phone blackspot fund towards applications for round 5.

The minister also announced a new expression of interest process, something that requires 'a minimum community contribution of $50,000', oddly one that only had a two-week deadline for submissions, which closed on Friday 7 June 2019. Our hardworking federal Centre Alliance colleague, the member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, wrote to the Premier to share her concerns about the short time frame and barriers this co-contribution presented the less affluent communities. Those concerns fell on deaf ears, the Premier writing back saying that the concept of the co-contribution came about after round 4 of the Mobile Black Spot Program was announced, and communities and businesses approached the minister asking how they could effectively jump to the head of the queue.

He went on further to say that communities only had to register an expression of interest by 7 June and only had to come up with the money ahead of the 26 July deadline. My questions to the minister are:

1. Why did the government wait until 24 May to publicly announce an expression of interest process that only gave a two-week window to submit applications?

2. Why demand regional communities come up with $50,000 within two weeks and enter into a memorandum of understanding outlining how their financial contributors will provide $50,000 within that time frame?

3. Does the government believe the expression of interest process will lead to equitable outcomes for regional communities?

4. Were those communities and businesses that asked to elevate their blackspot sites given advanced warning of the new expression of interest process?

5. Aside from the expression of interest process, does the state government have its own shortlist of mobile blackspot sites for prioritising the $3 million it set aside for the co-contribution in round 5 of the commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Program, and, if so, what sites are on that list, how were they prioritised, and how will the government's new expression of interest procedure for regional communities affect the priority order of the short list? Got that?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (15:10): I will run out of time writing it down; I might have to ask him to repeat the question. The Marshall Liberal government is absolutely focused on providing extra mobile phone coverage in regional South Australia, unlike the members opposite when they were in government. They spent the least amount of any state government to support our regions when it came to mobile phone blackspots. Of course, as a result, we got the smallest number of towers. Other states, like Tasmania, and smaller states, smaller economies, got a larger share of the pie.

It is in stark contrast to the members opposite, who turned their back on regional South Australia during their term in government. Mobile phone coverage in the regions is about productivity, it is about tourism, it is about public safety. When the members opposite were in government, they turned their back on regional South Australia. For the member who has asked a very extensive question with, I don't know, 10 or 12—a large number of questions, it will be a pleasure to take them on notice and refer them to my very good friend, the Hon. Tim Whetstone, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, and bring back a reply.