Unacceptable mobile phone dollars for one region only

13 Dec 2023 media release

Member for Narungga Fraser Ellis MP believes it is manifestly unacceptable that a State Government invests exclusively in one region’s mobile phone infrastructure at the expense of all others, as per the recently announced 27 new mobile base stations to be constructed in the Limestone Coast region.

“Mobile phone coverage is not a luxury, it is an essential tool for business, community safety and regional service delivery, thus resource allocation must be made according to need and not postcode”, Mr Ellis said.

“Yes, the Limestone Coast has black spots but so does the Yorke Peninsula and Mid North. Our community has been as loud as any in demanding improved services yet somehow, we have not been heard.”

Mr Ellis said in the past year he has met with telco managers, visited black spots, held constituent meetings, addressed the chamber on the topic (most recently on 1st and 30th November), formally communicated with Ministers, and written letters of support for grant applications for telecommunication projects, all emphasising the vital need for improvements to mobile phone coverage across the Narungga electorate.

“Sustaining and attracting business, industry and service providers to rural SA cannot occur without reliable telecommunications, and nor can rural towns retain or grow their populations.

“Yorke Peninsula and the Mid North cannot afford to continue to miss out altogether on any telecommunications funding on offer”, Mr Ellis said.

The $115.23 million available in round 3 of the Federal Government’s Regional Connectivity Program has been announced as funding 74 successful projects from around Australia, with just three located in South Australia -- $15 million for the Limestone Coast project, $900,000 for an NBN Fixed Wireless upgrade in Coober Pedy, and $1.3 million for mobile phone improvements in Lock on Eyre Peninsula.

Mr Ellis said for years South Australia has disproportionally missed out on Mobile Black Spot Program funding federally, and now it is additionally frustrating that the State Government appears to have started to pick and choose and impose conditions on what regions are deserving of public money spent on mobile phone coverage, over others.  

“To put $5.5 million into leveraging the Federal Government for just one project is unprecedented and I questioned the Premier on this in the chamber on 30 November.

“He stated the investment in the Limestone Coast was due to it being a collaboration with multiple local councils, industry, Telstra and the Federal Government and that if a similar proposition for Yorke Peninsula came before him it would be considered.

“I agree much can be achieved when tiers of government and industry work together on projects but I do question what ratepayers in the Yorke Peninsula and Mid North will make of a State Government expectation that councils provide money for new towers in order to be in the running for better phone services.

“That said, the Premier’s pledge for similar consideration is at least positive and I envisage putting together a combined effort from stakeholders which would potentially include agriculture and tourism industries, retail and health sectors, emergency services, progress associations, local councils and the RDA to develop and present our case”.

The Limestone Connectivity Project is valued at $28.5 million, with Federal Government contributing $15 million, State Government $5.5 million, Telstra $7 million, and local councils $1 million.

The 27 new towers will increase mobile coverage, wireless broadband and data-sharing capabilities and vitally, also provide additional Triple Zero connectivity for users of other networks in emergency situations and improve health teleconferencing services.

When making the project announcement, Premier Malinauskas described the project as “historic” and “life-changing” and praised the Members for Mackillop and Mount Gambier, both former Liberals and now Independent MPs, for their cooperation and advocacy.

“I will continue to advocate for our region until we receive the same treatment as the Limestone Coast”, Mr Ellis said.