The Turnbull Government must use this Tuesday’s budget to reform the Mobile Black Spots program.
The $220 million program has been plagued by delays, political interference and dubious decision-making which has attracted fierce criticism from independent agencies.
The Program has come under sustained criticism from the Australia National Audit Office (ANAO), Productivity Commission, Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) and numerous state governments with the Productivity Commission finding 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.’
The Government must heed the advice of the reports which have issued scathing assessments of the Government’s handling of this multi-million dollar program.
For far too long, the Government have used the program to meet political priorities rather than community needs. Around 75 per cent of locations announced under Rounds 1, 2 and 3 are located in either Liberal or National party electorates.
The blatant politicisation of the program has led many States to abandon the program and resulting in an underspend of $14 million for that round.
The Coalition allocated $60 million towards its Priority Locations Round but only spent $45.6 million to address 102 mobile black spots. An opportunity to fund an additional 20 mobile black spots with this $14 million underspend was missed because of the exclusive focus on electoral politics.
On budget night, the Minister must adopt the recommendations which rectify the problems identified by the ANAO and ACCC; and ensure future rounds of the program meet community priorities.