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Is Labor planning more cruel cuts to regional communications?

Shadow Minister for Communications, Sarah Henderson, has called on the Albanese Government to come clean over its failure to confirm delivery of $140 million of investment in regional communications.

Under Round 2 of the Coalition’s Regional Connectivity Program (RCP), $140 million was awarded to 93 communications infrastructure projects [See] across Australia as follows:

  • New South Wales: $8,995,000 for 14 projects
  • Northern Territory and Christmas Island: $15,001,650 for 10 projects
  • Queensland: $43,587,245 for 21 projects
  • South Australia: $9,778,802 for 11 projects
  • Tasmania – $8,008,802 for 4 projects
  • Victoria – $14,794,966 for 15 projects
  • Western Australia – $37,866,938 for 18 projects

The grants were decisions of government taken well before the federal election.  The Department of Communications notified successful applicants of the grants in writing on 6 April 2022 and, following the federal election, even issued draft funding agreements.

“Since the federal election, we’ve heard nothing but stony silence from Labor’s Communications Minister about this critical funding for regional and remote communities.  Minister Rowland’s failure to confirm this funding has the potential to put these projects at risk, along with third party project funding committed by telco companies and state governments,” Senator Henderson said.

The Department of Communications states on its website that ‘Following the outcome of the federal election, information on the successful Round 2 RCP projects will be published in the coming weeks.’  [See]

“So after almost three months, where is this information Minister?  Why have you failed to confirm these grants?  Why the silence?” Senator Henderson said.

“I am deeply concerned that the Albanese Government is secretly planning to make cruel cuts to the Regional Connectivity Program. In at least one case, I have learned that a funding agreement issued by the Department on the minister’s watch, which was returned signed by the applicant in early June, has not been finalised by the minister.  This either demonstrates Labor’s incompetence or something much more sinister,” Senator Henderson said.

Labor went to the election refusing to match the Coalition’s very substantial commitment to regional communications. This demonstrates how little regard Labor has for the needs of regional communities.

Following the election, the Albanese Government was forced to reverse its opposition to the Coalition’s Peri Urban Mobile Program (PUMP) and deliver $28.2 million to fix black spots in peri-urban areas of regional cities.  Labor continues to refuse to match the Coalition’s $78.5 million commitment to extend the PUMP program to regional cities.

“Regional communications is critical infrastructure.  The Albanese Government must take the needs of regional communities much more seriously and deliver this funding uncertainty,” Senator Henderson concluded.

19 August 2022

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