Question time response - communication measures in Federal Budget

MS REBEKAH SHARKIE, MEMBER FOR MAYO: My question is to the Minister for Communications. During the election Labor made a number of commitments to Mayo including $1.5 million for mobile coverage in Rapid Bay and Cuddly Creek, NBN upgrades to 20,000 Mayo homes and boosted farm connectivity. Would the Minister please provide an update with respect of these announcements?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you. I thank the member for her question. I acknowledge her long-standing advocacy on the importance of communications right across the portfolio in her electorate. I can inform the member for Mayo that this government is delivering on all its election commitments in the communications space.

That includes making sure that Australian families and businesses are better connected than ever. We have invested in this budget over $2.2 billion in regional communications, and that represents one of the most major funding boosts to regional coms since the National Broadband Network was announced. To the specific issues the member raises I can go through and itemise the better connectivity plan for rural and regional Australia which is in addition to the $480 million already committed to the upgrade of the fixed wireless network which in turn improves satellite connectivity as well for those constituents of hers who may also be on the satellite network.

We have committed $400 million to improve regional mobile coverage but also hardened communications networks against natural disasters and I know the member is very familiar with that. We have $200 million to run further rounds of the regional connectivity program and that funds a broad place based communications solutions. We do have $30 million to expand on farm connectivity and drive productivity through machine to machine networks which will be very keenly felt by farmers.

We have $20 million for an independent audit of mobile coverage to see where the true blackspots really are so that evidence based decisions can be made on that basis. We also have $6 million to extend the regional tech hub which provides expert advice to regional customers on how to connect and stay connected. Of course, Mr Speaker, this is in addition to our announcement of $2.4 billion to upgrade full fibre access for 1.5 million additional premises rights across Australia. They include 660,000 premises in the regions. This government, Mr Speaker, is committed to making sure that more than ever Australians can be connected, they can be informed and they can experience the best improvements in productivity that can be provided through these communications investments.

I would note also, Mr Speaker, The Nationals like to talk about being the friend of the regions. There was one party, one party, that went to this last election with a policy of improving on farm connectivity, and it was this Prime Minister. This Prime Minister who will be delivering substantial upgrades not only in terms of connectivity but in terms of ensuring that every Australian, irrespective of where they live, irrespective of where they work or irrespective of what they earn, have exactly the same opportunities right across the regions.