The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:33): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development and Primary Industries. Minister, can you please explain why regional communities are having to put a minimum contribution of $50,000 if they are to submit an EOI for consideration for prioritisation for round 5 of the South Australian Mobile Black Spot program? With your leave, Mr Speaker, I will explain a bit further.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: A letter from the minister states:
On…24 May 2019, I opened an Expression of Interest…process to help decide which sites will be prioritised for Round 5 of the [mobile black spots]. Communities are invited to submit an EOI demonstrating how their site will support economic growth, and a minimum community contribution of $50,000…This process will enable us to gain a better understanding of the communities’ coverage needs, as well as improving each application’s chances of success.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:34): I thank the member for Frome for his important question. Yes, round 5 expressions of interest are out there. I think it’s important to note that round 5 is an early tranche of the latest commonwealth, state government and telco partnership collaboration. It is done for the simple reason that the previous government ignored blackspots here in South Australia.
What we have seen over the first three rounds is that South Australia received 20 towers out of some 860 towers nationally, and I think that’s been a disgrace—an absolute disgrace. Obviously, the previous government thought there were no blackspots in South Australia or that there were no telecommunications issues in South Australia. What I would say—
The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN: Point of order: clearly debate, sir.
The SPEAKER: The point of order is for debate. I have given the minister some time to elicit some background information, as I do from time to time. I ask him to come back to the substance of the question.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: Coming back now to round 5, the blackspot program is an initiative that, as I said, is a collaboration between the commonwealth government, the state government and the telcos. With round 5 and round 6, $160 million is being put on the table by the commonwealth. The remainder of the $10 million commitment that the state government committed to our dedication to address the blackspot issue has been run. In round 4, we saw 29 towers in South Australia awarded to regional areas. Round 5 is open now.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Point of order: relevance. I asked about the contribution of communities of $50,000.
The SPEAKER: I have the point of order, member for Frome. With respect to the member for Frome, you were granted leave, you inserted some facts into that question and so you could expect a fair bit in the answer. I have pulled up the minister once to come back to the substance of the question. Minister, please get to the point.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: Addressing the member for Frome’s concern about the $50,000, that was a public ask of how they could progress their way up the priority list to have their area, their businesses, their communities, given more priority when it comes to those towers.
When it comes to assessing those towers, it is done by the commonwealth government and by the telcos. You would very well know that everyone in South Australia who has blackspots and grey spots needs the telecommunication connection, and they are looking for a leg up. They are looking for ways that they can progress their tower, their concern, up the list. That ask came from the community and so we have responded to the communities concerned. We have given them the option that if they would like to see their tower prioritised then they might, perhaps, make a contribution.
It’s not saying that they have to make a contribution. If they wish to make a contribution they may do so. If they don’t want to make a contribution, that is entirely up to them. To date, we have had a number of applicants who are very forthcoming. They don’t actually have to put the money up-front. It’s an initiative where they put an expression of interest up first.
They now have the option to put that application in with the commitment that they will put up to $50,000 with that application to prioritise their blackspot tower.
So that is round 5. That is what has been asked of the community. The telcos, the commonwealth government and the state government are working in collaboration to make sure that we address many of those blackspots.