26 June 2017

Labor is calling on the Turnbull Government to work with the ABC to reinstate the shortwave service.

In question time today, Minister of Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield answered a series of questions about the ABCs shortwave shutdown.

In his response, Senator Fifield admitted to the Senate that the consultation was inadequate. I think the consultation that the ABC undertook could have been more extensive and also the ABC did give a limited period of notice, Minister Fifield told the Senate.

Rather than stand up for Territorians and those living and working in the bush, Senator Fifield justified the ABCs decision to end shortwave because the NT service was the only shortwave service that remained in Australia.

Disappointingly, this shows that Senator Fifield has no understanding of life in the bush.

In promoting the VAST service, Senator Fifield continued to show his ignorance about the fact that VAST is unavailable to anyone that moves away from the satellite dish, that is fixed to a building. This includes Indigenous rangers, pastoralists, truck drivers and fishing industry.

In response to further questions, Mr Fifield asserted that there was no correlation between the $254 million budget cut to the ABC and the ending of shortwave services.

This is false.

In a letter to myself and Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon, ABC Managing Director Michelle Guthrie said: The prohibitive costs to maintain these services (shortwave) is not proportionate with their utility as broadcast technology.

After admitting the consultation was inadequate the decent thing to do is for the Turnbull Government to work with the ABC to reinstate the shortwave service until a proven consultation process has taken place. This must include a vision for viable communication services to the bush and an appropriate funding to do so.

Tomorrow I will put forward a motion calling on the Government to explore all options available to it, including working with the ABC Board and management, to recommence shortwave services to the Northern Territory and the Pacific region as soon as practicable.