QUESTION TIME TRANSCRIPT
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:17 :21 ): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development. As the relevant state minister for the federal government’s Mobile Black Spot program, can the minister explain to the house why the state government offered no financial contribution towards this program which has led to South Australia receiving only 11 out of the 499 new mobile phone base stations which were built across the nation?
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE ( Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (15:17:49): As the Minister for the Public Sector, I am indeed responsible for engaging with the commonwealth on telecommunications matters, and I say it that way because part of the way to understand this is that telecommunications has always been a federal responsibility in combination with the telecommunications companies. It has always been the case.
Some time in the last year the federal government came to us and asked us if we were interested in contributing to what has always been their responsibility and at a time when we were dealing with—take your pick—stopping giving money to pensioners for their rates concessions, the removal of years 5 and 6 from the Gonski agreement that we had been led to believe they had signed up to, what they walked away from in health, homelessness. So, what we were confronted with is yet another example of the commonwealth government saying that something that has always been their responsibility suddenly is not entirely theirs.
In that instance, we decided to see what would happen, and what has happened is that we have received the equivalent of 8 per cent of the $100 million that the commonwealth had set aside. We have received about our proportion of the $100 million that they set aside. We have had 11 mobile black spot towers—
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:
The SPEAKER: I warn the Treasurer.
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: We have had 11 mobile towers put in to deal with black spots, six of them in the APY lands which is not a particularly commercial decision to make for the telecommunications company but extremely important for the APY. There are also two in the Riverland, two on the Yorke Peninsula and one in the Hills.
We have let that run, we have seen what has happened, we have seen the extent to which the commonwealth government views states that do not want to participate in taking over their responsibility from them. There is another round coming up and we will very carefully scrutinise the circumstances under which the other states received what they received, and make a very careful and considered decision about what our participation may or may not be next time.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:20 :22 ): A supplementary, sir: given the minister’s answer, and the fact that New South Wales contributed $24 million to the program, Victoria contributed $21 million, Western Australia contributed $82 million to this program and Queensland contributed $10 million to the program, can the minister explain to the people of regional and remote South Australia why they should believe this government considers them a priority?
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE ( Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (15:20:53): People of regional South Australia should be very clear who is responsible for telecommunications, and it is the federal government. They can spread the responsibility and the blame around as much as they like, but everyone knows what the federal government has been up to. They have been retreating from areas that are traditionally their responsibility—
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:
The SPEAKER: The Treasurer is warned for the second and final time.
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: I am concerned about the impact on regional South Australia of the decision the federal government has made, and I have therefore undertaken to diligently and carefully assess what occurred, why it occurred, and how it occurred in the other states. There is another factor, and that is the commercial proposition represented by mobile towers and therefore the contribution made by the telecommunications companies. So I need to carefully understand what part that played in the decisions that were made in the other states versus this state, and we will then make a considered decision, as a government, as round two becomes available.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:21 :55 ): When will the minister complete that assessment?
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE ( Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for the Public Sector) (15:22:02): In time for round 2.