Telecommunications

Telephone, internet and the NBN

Modern Australia has come to depend upon high-quality, reliable telecommunications. Unfortunately, the digital divide between rural-regional Australia and our cities is growing. With the completion of the roll-out of the NBN, we now have 2,773 premises allocated satellite NBN within a 25km radius of the GPO in Adelaide. Nearly 88 per cent of premises within 25km of the Adelaide GPO marked for Sky Muster satellite cannot order an upgrade via Technology Choice. In 2020 Hobart came a distant second to Adelaide with 264 Sky Muster connections within a 25km radius of the GPO and Sydney had 28 Sky Muster connections. The high-quality telecommunication services promised to regional Australia via the NBN are not being fully met. The delivery of the NBN has been a significant source of complaints from the community.

With mobile phones replacing landlines, reliable mobile coverage is critical to the safety of our communities, many of which live in high bushfire risk areas. The mobile network is not covered by the Universal Service Guarantee. A fact that continues to surprise my community (and many others) who consider mobile connectivity an essential service, particularly in high-risk bushfire areas.

The Black Summer bushfires in 2019/2020 on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills highlighted the community’s reliance on the mobile network to receive timely information to protect life and property. Particularly on Kangaroo Island, identified mobile black spots caused firefighting, alerting, and evacuation issues. Lack of mobile coverage also hampered the efforts of emergency services. Notwithstanding that fire did destroy or significantly damage critical infrastructure in those fires, mobile coverage (while operational) was relied upon extensively within the timeframe of the going bushfire.

As a result, I am working hard to encourage the Government to continue the Mobile Black Spot Program and revise its criteria to deliver more results in Mayo regional Australia. I am also advocating

This means:

  • Advocating for future Rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP) to help plug the mobile telecommunication gaps across Mayo
  • Advocating for reforms to the MBSP criteria to allow more flexibility to apply for funding bespoke solutions as new technologies emerge, to increase the cap on Commonwealth contributions to incentivise investment in regional blackspots, and to encourage co-location by multiple Mobile Network Operators
  • Lobbying for greater government investment in improving the redundancy and resilience of backhaul links and telecommunications networks during power outages and natural disasters, specifically auxiliary backup power and extended backup power
  • Advocating for a subsidy for households in marginal black spots to purchase mobile coverage extension devices for their homes or vehicles
  • Lobbying for ongoing financial support to improve NBN connectivity through the NBN Co Regional Co-investment Fund and the Regional Connectivity Program
  • Advocating for government support for low income households to stay digitally connected

Results:

  • Successfully lobbied for future rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Programme; Mayo will share in the millions of funding being made available to rural and regional Australia
  • Introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would guarantee 24 hours of standby power for mobile phone services in bushfire zones; discussions and negotiations with the Government are still underway
  • Successfully advocated for NBN Co to investigate an alternative site for an NBN wireless tower to service the Mylor region.
  • Successfully secured more than $200,000 towards a $370,000 upgrade of mobile connectivity in the Cherry Gardens district which was deemed ineligible for MBSP funding

Media Releases:

Speeches and Questions in Parliament:

I have also asked Questions in Writing on the following topics:

  • Safeguarding communications in high bushfire risk areas
  • Mobile Black Spot election commitments to Mayo
  • Payphones in rural and regional Australia

Fighting for the ABC

I am a staunch defender of an independent, sufficiently-resourced ABC.

Our national broadcaster plays a critical role as a cultural resource for the nation, and as a source of quality, reliable and independent reporting. In a time of globalising culture and declining resources for investigative journalism in the public interest, maintaining a strong national broadcaster is more important now than it has ever been at any time since Australia’s Federation.

This means:

  • Opposing 'privatisation by stealth' and further cuts to the ABC
  • Restoring funding to the ABC to pre-2014 levels
  • Safeguarding the independence of the ABC from political influence
  • As part of media reforms in 2017, negotiating an ACCC inquiry into the business practices of digital platforms which led to the creation of the News Bargaining Code

Results:

  • Introduced a motion in Parliament and tabled a petition signed by nearly 700 people from Mayo calling for a return to pre-2014 funding for the national broadcaster and an end to speculation that the Government would privatise the ABC
  • News Media Bargaining Code has allowed the ABC to be financially compensated for the use of its journalism on the Facebook and Google platforms.

Speeches in Parliament:

Media Releases:

Fighting for Community Broadcasters

I am also a big supporter of community radio and community television station Channel 44 in Adelaide. These broadcasters produce local content for local audiences and have played a vital role in connecting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also the training grounds for our future broadcasters, videographers and producers.

Results:

  • Successfully advocated for the government to allow regional MPs to use their communications budgets to advertise public awareness information on their community radio stations
  • Successfully advocated for successive extensions to the licences for Channel 44 in Adelaide and Channel 31 in Geelong/Melbourne, culminating in securing free-to-air broadcasting access until 2024

Media Releases:

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