The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed a joint announcement by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor’s Regional Communications spokesperson, Stephen Jones that a Labor Government would invest $245 million in bush telecommunications.
“A meaningful injection of funding to improve regional telecommunications is one of the NFF’s key election asks and we are delighted that Labor has responded with a significant funding commitment,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.
Mr Mahar said without reliable and affordable connectivity and telecommunications, on par with that enjoyed by urban consumers, farmers and all regional Australians would continue to be constrained from reaching their potential.
Labor’s commitment of $160 million towards the Mobile Black Spots Program and $60 million for a regional connectivity and digital literacy program matches the commitment made by the Coalition as part of the Government’s response to the Regional Telecommunications Review.
“While no details on the allocation of the additional $25 million were announced this morning, the additional funding and a pledge to deliver important policy initiatives is very much welcomed,” Mr Mahar said.
“The NFF and our members have worked hard to raise the profile of regional telecommunications needs, and it’s great to see these issues being taken seriously by our parliamentarians.
“Reliable, affordable connectivity is an essential part of modern life, but is something that regional, rural and remote Australians often don’t have access to.
“Improved connectivity will unlock new growth opportunities by allowing our agricultural industries to adopt the latest digital technologies and support our farmers in reaching $100 billion in agricultural output by 2030. The Australian Farm Institute predicts that the application of digital technology, alone could yield up to $20 billion for agriculture’s bottom line by 2050.
“Labor’s commitment to work with industry and regulators to deliver more accurate mobile coverage mapping, and also to focus on infrastructure-sharing and co-location opportunities for new mobile towers are important initiatives for regional Australians.
“It’s important that the new regional connectivity program is well targeted to get the maximum benefit from the funding available, and the NFF would welcome the opportunity to engage with an incoming government on the program’s design.”
The NFF is calling for the next Government to commit to implementing the recommendations of the Regional Telecommunications Review in full.
Explore NFF’s Agriculture: Growing Australian election priorities at farmers.org.au.