Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has said the federal Budget has to make ends meet when asked why it contained no new funding for the regional Mobile Blackspot program.
Mr Joyce referred to the federal government’s investment in the nbn satellites and investment in Australia-wide communications.
"With any budget you've got to make ends meet. We're always going to bat for better outcomes but we've always got to do it in such a way that over the long-term we have our surplus.”
My Joyce visited the Yeoval Show with Calare Federal MP Andrew Gee on Tuesday.
The Daily Liberal asked Mr Joyce why no funding was allocated for Stage 4 of the Blackspot progam to fix mobile and data connectivity problems, which were an issue for the Central West and Western NSW.
He said: “We've made sure that 25 new mobile towers have been financed in the seat of Calare, so we provide the finance for the construction of new and upgrading phone towers. We are making sure we roll out a service. Remember the Labor/Green independent alliance never put one out, not one.”
The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition, which is championing better mobile and data connectivity in the regions, said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the funding miss.
The coalition’s members include the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Country Women’s Association of NSW and Cotton Australia.
The Budget disclosed there would be no new money for the Blackspot program past the next financial year.
NFF rural affairs manager Mark Harvey-Sutton said “disappointing” was the best way to describe the issue.
“We were hoping Round 4 would be included in the Budget,” he said.
He said the reason it was not was because construction of communications stations “is still being done from Round 1 and 2. Round 3 funding allocations are expected to open this year”.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said not only does better mobile coverage enable people to run their businesses effectively, but it also ensures better safety in rural areas.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to expand mobile coverage. I think in the short-term we’ll continue to push for the fourth Round.”
Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said: “We absolutely need the same if not the equivalent to metropolitan areas.”
He said not only do farmers have to be able to operate their farm business effectively, but they need better connection to have a modern family life.
“Farmers don’t just need internet access at home or in the office, but they need it all over their farm.”
Mr Murray said much farm machinery and equipment recorded data which can often take “hours and hours” to download.
“We have these tools and opportunities available but we can’t utilise them because of the limitation on data,” he said.
“It’s becoming more frustrating. Telecommunication access to data is now as high an issue as the water issues were.”