The Victorian Government’s decision announced today to co-invest in 25 new mobile base stations across Victoria is further evidence of a crisis of confidence in the Commonwealth program.
The Coalition’s Mobile Black Spot Program (MBSP) has failed to deliver on its stated policy objectives and has instead been used for political reasons by the Liberal and National parties.
State Governments are clearly fed up with the lack of a fair or evidence-based approach to the funding of mobile black spots, an area which has traditionally seen cooperation between Federal, State and private operators.
The program is failing to meet community needs and expectations and instead has been little more than a rort to direct Commonwealth funding to Liberal and National Party electorates.
In Rounds 1 and 2, 80 per cent of the locations announced were in Liberal or National party electorates.
Critical locations in areas of Victoria, particularly bush fire prone areas, have missed out.
The Productivity Commission found that there was “a risk that Australian Government funding is directed at expanding mobile coverage in locations for political reasons rather than to locations where overall community wellbeing might be better served,” and recommended substantial changes to the program.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission in its major report into communications also identified that the MBSP had failed to meet one of its two objectives – improving competition in regional Australia.
Despite the condemnation of the ANAO, Productivity Commission and ACCC, the Coalition is now proceeding with a third round of the MBSP based on funding the Coalition’s 2016 Election commitments.
It’s no wonder that the States are going it alone.
It’s time for the politics to be taken out of this program and for priority to be given to funding mobile black spots based on consultation with stakeholders like State governments and emergency services experts.