Ripon MP Louise Staley says Victorian split from Commonwealth mobile blackspot program bad for region

The State government has split with a Commonwealth program to build rural mobile towers.
The State government has split with a Commonwealth program to build rural mobile towers.

Ripon MP Louise Staley has criticised the state government’s move to split with Canberra over the mobile blackspot program, saying it would delay coverage in the region.

Victorian Innovation and Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis said the state would ‘abandon’ the federal government program to improve rural and regional mobile reception.

The state government will now establish “its own system which chooses mobile tower locations based on merit and necessity rather than political interests.”

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull continues to choose sites that are in his political interests, not the interests of regional Victoria,” Mr Dalidakis said.

“We are putting regional Victoria first – helping people stay connected in their homes, at work and when they’re travelling.”

Ms Staley said the federal government’s chosen sites had benefited communities in the Stawell and Ararat regions and beyond.

“Daniel Andrews’ Government reckons improving mobile reception in Ripon is not in the ‘interests of regional Victoria’ and has cancelled participation in the Commonwealth Mobile Black Spot Program.” Ms Staley posted on Facebook.

“Victorian Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was selecting sites ‘that are in his political interests, not the interests of ­regional Victoria’.

“Tell that to the people of Amphitheatre, Lexton, Moonambel, Landsborough, Marnoo, Wallaloo East, Avon Plains, Mount Bolton and Korong Vale.”

The state government now plans to use the $11 million it planned to invest in the third round of the Commonwealth program to build new mobile towers across regional Victoria.

Western Victoria MP Jaala Pulford said the state government would do a better job with community consultation. 

“We will not compromise when it comes to community needs and safety. We’re working with Emergency Management Victoria, local councils and Regional Partnerships to get this right,” she said.

“We know how frustrating the digital divide is for rural Victorians and we’ll continue to bridge the gap for rural industries, motorists, train travellers and residents while the federal government try to fix their botched NBN roll out.”

Pomonal is due to receive a new tower under a deal between the state government and Optus.