Shadow Minister for Regional Communications Stephen Jones has written to Regional Services Minister Bridget McKenzie, calling for a commitment to re-instate ABC Shortwave Radio right now.
Labor last week announced $2 million towards re-establishing the vital service which is relied upon by Australians living in remote parts of the country with extremely limited mobile and internet coverage.
Labor believes that it was premature to cut ABC shortwave radio services and that if the ABC had not been under intense budget constraints, this decision would never have been made.
There’s no good reason to delay re-instating these services.
That’s why Labor is calling on the Government to join us in committing to reverse what was a bad decision.
Funding could be allocated to be able to help restore this vital service immediately.
Australians living in remote areas already face significant communications challenges and the loss of access to ABC services from shortwave radio cuts people off from emergency broadcasts as well as being an important connection to the rest of Australia.
The Northern Territory Government estimates that some 50,000 people live outside the urban areas of Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine and potentially relied on shortwave transmission services.
Organisations like the NT Government, NT Cattlemen’s Association, Northern Territory Seafood Council representing commercial and tourist fishing businesses and the Toyota Land Cruiser Club representing Grey Nomads have raised concerns about the loss of these services. The Territory is a draw card for grey nomads with around 600,000 visits each year.
It’s estimated there are 600,000 tourist visits per annum to remote areas of the Northern Territory and there are a minimum of 650 commercial fishing and fishing tourist operators in Northern Territory waters every year.
We know there are members of the Coalition who agree that this service needs to be restored.
Minister for Regional Services Bridget McKenzie labelled the decision to end shortwave services to the Northern Territory ‘short-sighted’
"This is of vital concern for Territorians, with the decision made to axe the service without any consultation locally.
I would have thought that the ABC would have asked Territorians their views before making this decision as it will have significant impact in remote and indigenous communities in the NT….
It is clearly wrong and ill-advised but for what end? It saves the ABC very little money and snubs the corporation’s bureaucratic nose yet again at people who don’t live in the capital cities."
Bridget McKenzie Media Release - ABC Short Changes on Short Wave - Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion criticised the ABC’s decision but was unable to convince his own government to reverse it.
“Shortwave radio transmission is an essential service – especially in times of emergencies such as cyclones and floods – for people in rural and remote areas of the Territory.
This is a really poor decision by the ABC Board which is supposed to ensure the broadcaster provides services – such as the shortwave radio service – not provided by other organisations.
There is still time for the Sydney-based city-centric ABC to do the right thing by Territorians and reverse this decision.”
Nigel Scullion Media Release – Territorians urged to speak up on ABC Shortwave Cut – Tuesday, 31 January 2017
The Government knows this is a vital service, and the only way to get it back as soon as possible is for both sides of politics to commit to funding it.