We shouldn’t have to wait till after the next election to ensure shortwave services are restored: Shadow Regional Communications Minister

The Labor opposition has again called for the resumption of ABC shortwave services in the Northern Territory.

In a doorstop interview in Canberra the Shadow Minister for Regional Communications, Stephen Jones, and the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon, combined with the member for the Northern Territory electorate of Solomon, Luke Gosling, to pressure the government on the issue.

Last week Labor committed $2 million to re-establishing the ABC Shortwave Radio service in the bush, but Jones says “there’s no reason people who need the service today should have to wait until after May.”

The transcript of the interview is below:

STEPHEN JONES: Last week Labor announced that we would allocate $2 million to restore the shortwave broadcasting services to Northern Australia. This is a critical service providing vital Information to Residents and visitors to Northern Australia. Now today we’re calling on the government to match that commitment.
We shouldn’t have to wait till after the next election to ensure that these vital services are provided to people in the Territory and people visiting the Territory.
We expect the support from the Minister for Regional Communications, because it wasn’t two years ago when she herself was criticising the ABC for closing down the service. It wasn’t two years ago where the Senator from the Northern Territory Nigel Scullion was criticising the ABC for closing down the service and describing the shortwave radio service as vital and essential.
So today, we’re calling on the government – they tell us they’ve got loads of money. They tell us that there’s a lot of revenue coming in there in a very strong fiscal position – well surely on the back of that very strong fiscal position they can allocate and match Labor’s commitment $2 million to restore this vital service. I’ll invite Warren and I’ll invite Luke to talk about why this is so important to Northern Territories.
WARREN SNOWDON: Thanks, Stephen. Let me just make one observation initially: When this announcement was first made I made it very clear at the time that the decision by the ABC Board was totally unacceptable. They responded by saying of course this was forced upon us because of budget cuts. Now at the time, as Stephen has said, all manner of Government spokesman came out and said how dreadful this decision was but none of them did anything to lift a finger to provide the resources to make sure this service can be ongoing.
It’s an absolute disgrace. And what does say this is that the Government doesn’t think about the bush and really doesn’t care about the bush because if it did care about the bus these services would be ongoing today and not have to get booted up as a result of expenditure which we will make available if we are lucky enough to be elected the forthcoming election.
This can happen today all that needs to happen is for the Government to get off its backside, make a decision and a commitment which will assist people in remote parts of Australia.
Shortwave is essential. They deny it, but it is.
We know that there’s no replacement technology available and until replacement technology is available shortwave is essential.
LUKE GOSLING: Thanks, Stephen and Warren. Labor have committed to providing the funds so that the ABC can get shortwave back up and running. That’s going to help cattlemen out on the land. It’s going to help fishers all around the top end to be able to be connected in. It’s going to help Grey Nomads that are travelling through the north of Australia. What it’s going to do is connect people through the ABC to very important services like emergency announcements that are important when there are cyclones when there’s fires and when there’s floods so it’s a very important thing to do and the Government has the ability to do it today to announce that they will meet our commitment and look after all those people who don’t live in the big cities and they are out there on our roads in our seas and they deserve to be connected through the national broadcaster through shortwave.
JONES: So the government should put aside its hostilities to the ABC. Whatever they think about the ABC, they should be on the side of the Cattleman, the tourists, the residents, the fishers in the Northern Territory and ensure they can have access to this vital service happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: It’s the emergency warning signal on the radio isn’t it? That must be vital up there?
JONES: For many people, they have got no other radio signal they’ve got no access to a mobile phone signal and let’s not forget 90% of the members of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association say they have no mobile signal on their properties.
How many black spots are there throughout the Northern Territory Warren? There literally hundreds and hundreds.
SNOWDON: 480 black spots.
JONES: So there is no alternative backup. It is shortwave or it is nothing. As we go into the wet, as we go into the cyclone season, this service is vital and the Government can activate it. Thank you.


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