Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 06, 2024


Regional Connectivity

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:31): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister please update the chamber about the historic investment in regional connectivity in the Limestone Coast region, announced as part of the Australian government's Regional Connectivity Program?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:31): I am delighted to be able to answer the member's question. I was delighted by the December announcement that the Albanese Labor government would support Telstra's application for the Limestone Coast project to the Regional Connectivity Program through a $15 million funding commitment—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! I can't hear the minister.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —combined with the $5.5 million funding commitment already made by this government, as well as the $1 million committed by local councils and local industry and a $7 million investment from Telstra. The project will now install 27 new mobile base stations in the Limestone Coast region, and this will add around 2,400 square kilometres of new 4G coverage, representing a significant 44 per cent increase in the landmass covered by this mobile technology.

The new towers will increase mobile coverage, wireless broadband and data-sharing capabilities in the region. At a practical level, this will mean more efficient communication and monitoring in the forestry, dairy, agricultural, wine and wool industries, as well as providing better connectivity for tourists and improved access to remote health services.

Valuable insights on some of these benefits has been provided by the President of the SA Dairyfarmers' Association, Robert Brokenshire, a former member of this place, who explained on ABC Radio North and West after the announcement, and I quote:

We can't run our businesses today as farmers unless we have good access to mobile telephones and Wi-Fi and internet...as we get more and more high-tech databases available for machinery and cattle then you need that connectivity to be able to actually run your farm.

In this context, Mr Brokenshire offered his support for the Limestone Coast project and the benefits that will flow to his members. I quote again:

I'd have to congratulate both the State and Federal Governments as well as the other partners in getting this to happen…It's vital now, the southeast has had some terrible issues in trying to get connectivity when it comes to Wi-Fi and phone etc., this will make a huge difference.

The project will also deliver improved communications for emergency services and increase 000 connectivity for users of other non-Telstra networks in emergency situations. This project will greatly enhance the productivity and livability of the Limestone Coast region while also improving community safety.

But these projects don't just fall out of the sky, they take collaborative effort. One of the most impressive aspects of this co-investment project has been how key stakeholders came together, recognised the benefits of enhanced connectivity and committed their own funding to this project.

In addition to the funding contributions of state and federal governments and Telstra, six of the seven councils in the Limestone Coast region have also committed project funding, as have the South Australian Forest Products Association. At a total project cost of about $28 million, I am advised by Telstra that this combination of funding represents the largest mobile co-investment project Telstra has ever put together in South Australia and one of the largest nationwide.

It was this combination of industry, state and local government funding which presented such a compelling case to the Australian government's Regional Connectivity Program. I was thrilled to celebrate this announcement in the region with parliamentary colleagues in the other place Troy Bell MP and Nick McBride MP, the members for Mount Gambier and MacKillop. Alongside local councils and local industry, their advocacy was important in building support for this project.

Telstra have advised that they expect construction of the towers to begin this year, and I very much look forward to the rollout of this project and the benefits it will bring to industry and communities.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I do hope that those opposite will actually get behind this and celebrate it, as they should, as a wonderful, wonderful achievement and progress in an important part of our state.