Victoria looks to own project

By Country News

The Victorian Government has reiterated its willingness to go it alone on the Mobile Black Spot Program after no additional funds were outlined for the program in the recent Federal budget.

After two successful rounds of the federal program, the state government announced in January that it would not take part in round three due to what it believed was a lack of consultation and transparency from the Federal Government.

Instead, the $11million allocated to mobile black spots in the 2017-18 Victorian budget was dedicated to our own project — the Victorian Mobile Black Spot Project.

Innovation and the Digital Economy Minister Philip Dalidakis took aim at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the decision.

‘‘First Malcolm Turnbull was using the Mobile Black Spot Program as a political tool to gain votes, now he’s abandoned it altogether. I’m not sure which is worse,’’ he said.

‘‘If Malcolm Turnbull decides he actually cares about those living outside Point Piper (in Sydney), we would welcome Commonwealth funding to help connect more regional communities.’’

Federal Regional Communications Minister Bridget McKenzie was unavailable for comment.

This year’s Victorian budget allocated another $11million to the VMBSP to fund a second round of towers with announcements on round one locations to be made in the coming months.

This funding builds on existing commitments to co-fund 141 new mobile towers with the Federal Government, Telstra and Optus.

National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said he was disappointed to see the Federal budget overlook the Mobile Black Spot Program.

‘‘Connectivity is so important for farm businesses, and mobile coverage is the gold standard,’’ he said.

“While this government’s investment in new mobile towers has been strong, we’re now facing a situation where new investment will halt next financial year.’’