TRANSCRIPT: 19 November 2018 Alice Springs
November 19, 2018
SUBJECT: LABOR SUPPORTS THE RETURN OF SHORT-WAVE RADIO IN
STEPHEN JONES MP: Well can I start by saying it’s great to be here with Warren Snowdon, the Member for Lingari and Senator Malarndirri McCarthy to talk about shortwave radio.
It’s been almost two years since the decision was made to cut off the service following Federal Government budget cuts to the ABC. It was a very, very bad decision if you're a remote user here in the Northern Territory. So we're committed to $2 million for the infrastructure. So we want the ABC to start doing the advanced planning. There is no reason why a short-wave radio service cannot be re-established for people living in remote areas here in the north of Australia. And I've got to say this after this announcement this morning, we should see Senator Scullion and Senator Bridget McKenzie my direct opposite the Minister for Regional Communications come out and welcome it because
not two years ago they were calling for the very same thing.
Labor is willing to put $2 million up to ensure that the capital is there to rebuild the infrastructure the government has got the opportunity to match that and do exactly the same thing.
JOURNALIST: How far will the $2 million go in terms of restoring services?
JONES: We've been talking to Broadcast Australia and they're very comfortable that new transmitters can be established can be built and switched on for that $2 million. Now with this done there should be no obstacle to the ABC re-establishing those short-wave services.
JOURNALIST: The ABC’s got to give other reasons for why it got rid of short-wave not just the expense. Have you been given any indication from ABC management that those considerations have changed?
JONES: Look we've looked at the reasons the ABC gave. There are two. One, they didn't think they could afford purchasing the new infrastructure for the new transmitters. Secondly, they were told that their alternative platforms, streaming platforms, broadband platforms that are available here in the Northern Territory. Of course, these two people Senator McCarthy and Warren Snowdon can tell you that that's absolute rubbish. The Cattlemen's Association recently surveyed their members over 70% of them have no mobile signal on their properties. Over 30% of them report that they have unreliable broadband service and it's unreliable whenever there's a heavy weather event exactly when you need a shortwave radio service. So it might look like a good decision down in Sydney or Canberra to switch the service off, but for people here in the Territory, we know it's essential.
JOURNALIST: I heard this question raised before but short-wave services were also cut off into the South Pacific, we've had the APEC Forum, there's a lot of interest in the Pacific about watch Australia, China and the US are doing in this region. Is there any scope for that service to be reinstated also?
JONES: My colleague Senator Penny Wong will have more to say about this, but we're waiting for the current reviews that are being conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Communications Department into this very issue. What I can say is the shortwave radio Services were a very, very efficient way of broadcasting Australian voices and Australian stories to our near neighbours. Switching them off was a very bad decision, a very shortsighted decision. So I wouldn't be surprised if there's more to be said in this space in the near future.
JOURNALIST: And on the ABC’s funding more broadly, what say Labor's election promise on front?
JONES: We have committed to restoring the $83.7 million worth of cuts that Scott Morrison cut out of the ABC and his last budget. We will restore that plus the $2 million for the shortwave radio transmission. So we'll put the ABC in a very strong position to continue to deliver services here in the territory.
JOURNALIST: And I guess this is a question for Malarndirri or Warren. What's been the impact of having a shortwave cut to people in your electorate and you're in your region?
WARREN SNOWDON MP: Well, they’re without services. The people who are most in need of these services have been denied them. The ABC Board was ill inform, ill advised, there'd been no communications with Aboriginal communities, or pastoral interests, or fisherman, or truckies, or any travellers who might be relying upon short-wave services prior to the decision being
made. It was made under very dubious grounds. Ultimately, it was made because the budget has been cut by Morrison when he was the treasurer. And now what we're asking for here is very simple, restore the service so the people who’ve missed out and continue to miss out can get access to that service as it was previously. And I heard someone being interviewed on the ABC this morning who made it very clear that he thought, where he was out in the West MacDonnells somewhere, saying that they were after information around road closures. I didn't hear about roads been closed because they didn't have any access to communications. Had the short-wave service being operative they would have had access to that communication and would’ve understood that the roads have been closed. So there are very practical elements to this. It's not all about the best technology available is satellite because it clearly isn't it's about what it what people need on the ground to pursue their daily lives safely
and securely, very soon.
JOURNALIST: There were a lot of concerns raised about VAST, the ABC supply people, with VAST transmitters, but they’re stationary only if you're in car or truck it doesn't work.
SNOWDON: If you’re travelling, it doesn’t work.
JONES: People don't have a satellite dish on the top of their Kombi
SNOWDON: And we know, those of us who use satellite phones, basically how poor they are often really, and they're very expensive.
SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY: They're not mobile either like out in the cattle stations. When we had the Senate inquiry the evidence that came before the Senate inquiry, especially from the cattle industry was well we can't put the VAST on the back of your horse and go mustering. You can't put it on
your fishing boat and go out fishing and this is where the amateur fishermen to Seafood Council the NT cattlemen, the rangers who work in our communities, the truckies who drive on the roads and the nomads who travel up and down our roads with their caravans had no access whatsoever still have no access.
And so this news about Labor wanting to put forward $2 million if we're elected is fantastic for the people of Northern Australia.
JOURNALIST: Since shortwave shut down you go to some places with good 4G. Is this an old technology that doesn't need to be restored?
JONES: It is true that people can receive a radio signal. Sorry a streaming service on their mobile phone but not everyone in the Territory, as the Cattlemen's Association of said over 70% of their members don't even have a mobile signal on their own station, let alone on the roads in between. So yeah, it's great that we can get a streaming service on our mobile phones or on our computers, but it's not a complete solution. And until it is you shouldn't be shutting down one service before the other one is available to all Territorians.
JOURNALIST: And there’ve been developments in shortwave technology as well. Will this be just turning on what’s off or it would it be replacing it with something better?
JONES: One of the reasons that the ABC shut down the old transmission service is that the all transmitters were on their last legs, very expensive to maintain and really not up to the game anymore. A part of the $2 million will be providing new gear to provide up to the art technology so that it’s cheaper to
maintain, cheaper to run, and provides a better signal throughout the North.
JOURNALIST: And what's been the general tone of your conversation with ABC management about whether they'll go ahead with this?
JONES: Well at the ABC management talk for themselves, but I think they do understand now that there are people in the Northern Australia that are very, very angry about the decision that was made and they are being left without a service and the ABC’s supposed to provide a service to all Australians wherever they live.