Nationals’ Mark Coulton has claimed that Labor skewed mobile phone black spot funding to their electorates at the expense of rural NSW, but it appears the Member for Parkes may have got his programs mixed up.
Mr Coulton claims Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has chosen Labor electorates for 25 out of 26 available grants in New South Wales under the Improving Mobile Coverage Round of the Mobile Black Spots Program.
He said in a statement that the Improving Mobile Coverage rounds were initiated by the previous Coalition Government to ensure everyone on the road had access to quality mobile coverage.
“Mobile coverage is crucial on all rural roads and I am not opposed to other electorates receiving funding, but it seems as though the Communications Minister thinks it’s only roads in Labor seats that matter,” Mr Coulton said.
“It’s unbelievable to me that some of the areas which obviously need it most have been completely left out of this funding.”
“None of the funding has gone into seats like Farrer, Riverina or Parkes – not a cent.”
“These are areas which cover roughly 70% of NSW and support some of our most productive agricultural zones.”
“Mobile coverage is one of the key needs for Western NSW so I would expect to see this reflected in the grant allocations.”
However, it appears Mr Coulton is confusing his mobile phone coverage funding programs. The Improving Mobile Coverage program is a new program to fulfil an election commitment of the Albanese Government to provide funding for improved mobile coverage in targeted areas, identified by Labor before the election. Round three of the Regional Connectivity Program – the black spot program that was started by the Coalition – has not yet opened for applications.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the Albanese Government is improving connectivity in rural and regional Australia by substantially increasing funding for regional communications.
“The Albanese Government is committed to expanding mobile coverage and improving broadband through our Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia.”
“Our Budget Plan includes $400 million to expand mobile coverage and improve communications resilience, including by investing in future rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program.”
“The Plan also includes $200 million to fund place-based communications solutions through additional rounds of the Regional Connectivity Program.”
“These application-based programs will open in the coming months, and I strongly encourage local residents and councils in the New England area to work with telcos to secure local funding,” the minister said.
“The entirely separate Improving Mobile Coverage Round fulfils commitments the Government took to the 2022 Federal Election to address mobile coverage issues in identified areas across the country.”
“These areas were identified in Opposition by local Members and Senators working with their communities to advocate for coverage improvements, including along major regional highways and high-risk bushfire areas like the South Coast of New South Wales,” she said.