Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:13): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development—and I would like to wish him a happy birthday. Can the minister update the house on how the Marshall Liberal government is delivering better services by funding mobile blackspot towers?
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:14): Yes, I can. I thank the member for Hammond for that very important question. I know that he has had concerns, where regional South Australia stands, with the lack of digital connection around South Australia. Sadly, with the promotion of rounds 1 and 2 of the commonwealth Mobile Black Spot program, South Australia missed any opportunity to have the regions connected with the rest of the world. Those people who live in the regions were denied the access.
What I can say is that the Marshall government has seen fit to invest $10 million into the state government's blackspot program in collaboration with both rounds 4 and 5 of the commonwealth government's Mobile Black Spot Program. That gives us the ability to connect regional South Australia or start the process of connecting regional South Australia to the rest of the world.
I can say that it has been a great outcome. Round 4 has seen $5.3 million invested by the state government to leverage commonwealth government funding—$19.4 million. That is providing better services and making the regions more competitive by having that digital connection. The Marshall Liberal government has seen fit to support the regions that a previous administration always ignored. For far too long there was a lack of support out in the regions. Not only were they ignored but they were not even given the courtesy of connection, particularly with mobile blackspot towers.
What I will say is that the result has been a responsible collaboration and has seen those 29 new base stations to fix those priority sites. There are nearly 500 blackspots in South Australia. As a government, responsibly we are getting the wheels in motion to make that connection possible. What I can say to the member for Hammond is that Ettrick, Marama, Mypolonga and Nildottie are just a few of those vital digital connection spots that he, as a good local member, has been promoting.
The state government, in conjunction with the commonwealth government, has been working with telcos to secure funding. It gives us the opportunity to put the regions of South Australia back on the map with that connection. For far too long many of those farmers in regional communities have had to drive to the top of the hill and stand on the roof of the tractor—no longer. We are dealing with those blackspots.
What I can also say is that we will have the first sites. They were delivered in February. All tower stations are expected to be operational by the third quarter of this year. That is a great outcome for regional South Australia. We are currently working on round 5 to actually enhance more digital connection to make sure that all regional South Australia has the opportunity to be in the line, in the priority list for that digital connection.
The blackspot towers give us that competitive advantage. If you are a regional community member looking to contact your markets, looking to contact the school or the hospital for safety reasons, we are doing everything that we can to work with the commonwealth and the telcos so that you can actually have that advantage.
Just recently, many regional MPs in this place have put priority lists to me. On both sides of the house, we know that there is the need for that blackspot tower promotion to be moved forward. As a government, responsibly the Marshall Liberal government are doing everything they can to enhance services, to make South Australia, particular the regions of South Australia, a better place to live and a better place to do business, because we know #RegionsMatter.
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