SPEECH: SHORTWAVE

November 27, 2018

November 28, 2018

SENATE CHAMBER 

....

Next month, it will be two years since the shortwave service was removed for people in northern Australia. For the people of the Northern Territory, it has been deeply felt in terms of the absolute silence of communication, for our cattle stations, our ranger groups, our fishermen and fisherwomen working on the seas in the north, and also the Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory.

The shortwave service is an enormously vital service. We do not have the access to telecommunications, to mobile coverage, that the rest of the country has the luxury of receiving so quickly and so adequately. So, for two years, the people of the Northern Territory, of far northern Queensland, of far northern Western Australia, and even further afield, on our seas, in the Pacific, have heard silence or static where once they would have received the news and the weather—critical information in times of flooding, in the wet season, with cyclones coming thick and fast in northern Australia. That's the critical need. It's not a luxury; it's a service essential for survival. We need to have the shortwave service flicked back on.

There has been no improvement to communication since the ABC was forced to cut shortwave. We've had a Senate inquiry. We've had appeals and petitions from across the country urging the federal government to maintain funding for the ABC so that critical services like shortwave would not be cut to those Australians who desperately need to have that information. The VAST service is not adequate for people on cattle stations who go mustering; they can't take that kind of equipment on the backs of their horses. People can't take it on the backs of their boats as they're fishing, in terms of their own produce. We've had the Northern Territory Seafood Council, the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association, the Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory and the ranger groups pleading continuously for nearly two years to have shortwave switched back on.

I'm enormously proud of the work of my colleagues here—in particular, our shadow cabinet and Stephen Jones, the shadow minister for regional communications. He came up to Alice Springs last week to work with Warren Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, and Luke Gosling, the member for Solomon, and me, to announce that Labor will want to see shortwave flicked back on, and that, if we are elected, $2 million will be allocated to shortwave. I'm enormously proud of that. And I certainly hope that that is something we can do.

But I call on the government and on those senators who know the importance of this, on Senator McKenzie and Senator Scullion, who know the passionate need for this service: you can do this now—you can flick that service back on. It is vital to our remote and rural regions of Australia. Come on. You can do it now. Give the people of the north the Christmas present that I know they would greatly appreciate.