Queensland Country Hour with Charlie McKillop > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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42 Florence Street
MENTONE VIC 3194

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24-November-2017

Queensland Country Hour with Charlie McKillop

Parliament House, Canberra
22 November 2017

12:25pm

 

Subject: Mobile Black Spot Program, NBN E & OE


CHARLIE MCKILLOP:

The Federal Government is about to roll out another tender to get more mobile black spots sorted out. Federal Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield says another 106 locations are the latest priority for better phone coverage.

FIFIELD:

While we’ve got about 99 per cent of the population covered by mobile, we only have about 30 per cent of the land mass covered. And we’re the first government that has ever had a mobile black spot program. The mobile network is something that’s rolled out commercially. But we recognise that there are places where the maths don’t add up for the Telcos and that’s where we put money on the table to make the difference, so that we can have those black spots attended to.

MCKILLOP:

So what are you going to do about the other 70 per cent of the land mass?

FIFIELD:

What we did when we came into government was we called for community nominations. What are the spots that members of the public have identified themselves as being black spots. And as a result of that exercise the community put forward about 10,000 black spots. And through round one, round two and now this latest priority round, we’re going to be able to address about 6000 of those 10,000 black spots. We’ve already got the best part of 765 new mobile base stations in the pipeline. We’ve delivered 312 of those and we’re just calling for tenders now for the next 106 base stations.

MCKILLOP:

Where will they be?

FIFIELD:

Well, they will be all over Queensland. We’ve got a list which is available so if people go to the Department of Communications website they’ll be able to look not only at those 40 sites, but also the other sites that are already in progress.

MCKILLOP:

Righto, I won’t make you read them out that could be fraught with danger for both of us. But can I ask you quite seriously why has it taken almost two decades to fix mobile black spots when it’s a form of communication that most of us can take for granted, or feel that we should be able to.

FIFIELD:

Absolutely, and the community should expect that there’ll be good coverage. The mobile phone network has developed differently to the fixed line network which was essentially a government exercise by the old PMG and Telecom and then Telstra. The mobile network has grown organically and commercially and the Telcos have got good coverage of the population. But given they’ve got to make the maths add up we recognise there are places where that’s not the case and what we do is we put money on the table that makes the difference for those Telcos. And look, I readily recognise we’re making up for lost time because our predecessors, the Labor Party when they were in government didn’t spend a single dollar on mobile black spots. We’ve already put $220 million down that’s generated in total $658 million worth of towers when you take into account the money that the Telcos themselves put in, the state governments have put in, we’ve put in and also local government.

MCKILLOP:

There was no new money announced in your most recent budget Senator Fifield. There was some suggestion that was because you didn’t need the money in this financial year because the Telcos simply didn’t have the capacity to keep building at the rate that you’re funding the new towers. Has that issue been resolved? Is the capacity and the money there now?

FIFIELD:

The Telcos are really putting in a big effort to deliver round one and round two and now this priority round. Our objective is to have all 871 of these towers in place by the end of next year. But as I say, we are making up for lost time.

MCKILLOP:

Senator Mitch Fifield is speaking with us on the Queensland Country Hour. He’s the Federal Minister for Communications currently acting as the Minister for Regional Communications as well. Minister, while I’ve got you have you managed to sort out that NBN?

FIFIELD:

The NBN overall is tracking well. It’s on time and it’s on budget. I know our opponents say the contrary. But we’re on track to have it completed by 2020, which is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under the plan of our predecessors. And also at about $30 billion less cost. With a project of this size and complexity where you’re essentially trying to do over the space of seven years what it took the PMG and Telecom 70 years to do, you’re going to have some issues. And I guess they really fall into two parts. One is, the actual migration experience and the Telcos and NBN have put a lot of effort into that and have improved that. And the good news is you’ve only got to migrate to the new network once. The other issue is the expectations that people have in terms of speed. And we’ve got some important things under way to address that. We’ve got the ACCC embedding 4000 probes in people’s premises throughout the nation so that they can report what are the speeds that the retailers are actually providing. So the consumers can shop around.

MCKILLOP:

It’s also the expectation that they’ll actually be able to get it. I was speaking to an accountant in the main street, in the main arterial route into Cairns the other day, hardly a backwater, saying he still hasn’t been able to access the NBN. How long will small business owners in regional centres have to wait?

FIFIELD:

The NBN is currently available to around 60 per cent of the nation. By the middle of next year it’ll be 75 per cent and all done and dusted by 2020. We’ve actually front end loaded regional Australia with the NBN rollout so nationwide in regional areas it’s about two thirds complete. So the regions are ahead of metropolitan Australia when it comes to the NBN rollout.

MCKILLOP:

Minister for Communications and Regional Communications Mitch Fifield thanks for joining us on The Country Hour today.

FIFIELD:

Good to chat Charlie.

[ends]