Labors Regional Communications spokesperson Stephen Jones has today warned northern New South Wales communities were being let down by a flawed Mobile Black Spot scheme.
The $220 million programme is supposed to improve public safety and expand mobile phone coverage across Australia.
But on Thursday the Australian National Audit Office issued a damning report into the Governments handling of the programme.
It found that weaknesses in the programmes guidelines resulted in the Turnbull Government wasting public money funding base stations that providers like Telstra were going to build anyway. There was also insufficient attention paid to specific localised information about where black spots should be fixed.
On his visit to Lismore today, Stephen Jones said that people affected by black spots across regional Australia deserve better.
The Turnbull Government has been caught funding sites that would have been built by the mobile phone companies anyway. That means that part of the funding for round one of this programme was wasted on locations that did not fill critical gaps in mobile coverage or even meet community need.
Even worse, according to the ANAO, 25 per cent of new mobile phone towers funded in round one provided no new or no extended coverage.
Unfortunately, the report found that little consideration has been given to specific local issues or community need, including information about natural disasters.
This scheme was supposed to improve mobile coverage in areas prone to natural disasters like bushfires and floods but it failed on this key measure. Many parts of the Northern Rivers are vulnerable to bushfires and flood, so mobile phone reception is vital.
Labors policy on mobile black spots is to take the politics out of this programme and place a far greater emphasis on a fair distribution of funds across regional Australia. We will make sure that areas affected by natural disasters are given priority consideration, especially where human safety is at stake.