Senator Fiona Nash and Riverina MP Michael McCormack take aim at Labor's Stephen Jones

Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash has lashed out at Labor for "lies" about a National Press Club speech.

Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash has lashed out at Labor for "lies" about a National Press Club speech.

Nationals MPs have taken a swing at Labor for running down regional areas and telling “lies”.

Young-based senator Fiona Nash has responded angrily to Shadow Regional Communications Minister Stephen Jones’ “lies” about her comments at the National Press Club this week. The deputy Nationals leader said she had never claimed regional Australians didn’t need the same internet speeds as cities.

Mr Jones’ comments were repeated by some Wagga media outlets, causing concern among people working towards regional development.

“When you start lying, it shows you know you can’t win the argument by telling the truth,” Senator Nash said.

“This latest incident is similar to Mr Jones’ recent tactic of saying regional complaints to NBN had risen 6 per cent in a year, without mentioning there are twice as many regional Australians on the NBN as last year – so the rate of complaints has shrunk significantly.

“He also claimed the Australian National Audit Office found the Coalition’s Mobile Black Spots Program failed to deliver significantly increased coverage (but) it didn’t find this at all.”

Ironically, Senator Nash was speaking about decentralisation at the National Press Club on Wednesday and plans to force all federal departments to justify their continued presence and that of their portfolio agencies in major cities or else face a forced move to rural or regional Australia. Her address also included unveiling a Medicare-funded telehealth scheme, which required good internet connectivity.

It’s not the first time Mr Jones has raised the ire of the Nationals, which is leading the government’s decentralisation push. In a Daily Telegraph opinion piece on February 9, he criticised Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s suggestion that the solution to housing affordability was moving to regional cities.

Mr Jones claimed regional areas had high unemployment and lower household incomes, making cities like Tamworth “severely unaffordable”.

Riverina MP Michael McCormack said Mr Jones had shown he was out of touch with regional Australia.

“Decentralisation is not only the key to regional success it is also the key to unlock inner-city gridlock,” Mr McCormack said.

“I was in Sydney on Friday morning, it took an hour-and-a-half to drive 30 kilometres and I passed a number of little brick cottages with million-dollar price tags.

“You could live like a royal in regional NSW for the same price tag… places like Wagga are friendlier, the air is cleaner, the costs are lower, there’s less stress and more time to be with your family.”

Read Stephen Jones’ release below (Senator Nash’s response follows)

FIONA NASH IS CONTENT WITH REGIONAL MEDIOCRITY

Labor’s spokesperson for regional communications, Stephen Jones, has slammed Senator Fiona Nash’s assertion that regional Australians don’t need access to the same internet speeds as our major cities.

The Productivity Commission has today identified access to the NBN as critical for regional and remote communities:

The National Broadband Network, for example, is Australia’s largest infrastructure project. The uniform pricing strategy adopted for broadband services across regions is aimed at significantly narrowing the digital divide between rural, regional and urban Australia. Broadband is a fundamental enabler of distant trade in goods and services, allowing non-urban communities to find new markets in Australia and overseas.

(Transitioning Regional Economies p.26)

For the federal Minister for Regional Communications to sell regional Australia short like this is astounding.

Regional Australians should not be treated like second class citizens in Australia’s digital economy – but under the Turnbull government, that’s exactly what is happening.

The Coalition’s second rate “copper” NBN is a disaster for regional Australia.

It is a far cry from the fibre optic NBN that Labor had planned for.

Labor’s fibre optic NBN would have delivered an equivalent service to all regional towns with more than 1,000 premises and the cities – to 93 per cent of Australia.

Labor committed over $12 billion in investment to bring better broadband to regional Australia through the NBN, yet so much of this has been wasted by the Turnbull government.

This sentiment is shared by the experts.

At this week’s Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband, Professor Rod Tucker elaborated on his description of the copper NBN as a national tragedy and said by the time the NBN roll out is complete, the technology will already be obsolete.

Further, associate professor Mark Gregory told the committee that the government’s decision to roll out copper FTTN technology could have wiped about 50 per cent of the value of the NBN, and that it was vital for regional Australia to have FTTP technology.

Regional communities deserve communications that are fit for the future, rather than entrenching a network that excludes country Australian’s from the digital economy.

Senator Nash should be demanding the same access for the bush. It’s her job.

NASH REJECTS RUBBISH

Regional Communications Minister and deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash has smacked down Labor’s Stephen Jones for his outright lie, in which he claimed Minister Nash said regional Australians didn’t need the same internet speeds as cities.

Obviously, there’s no quote supporting this in Jones’ media release.

“When you start lying, it shows you know you can’t win the argument by telling the truth,” Minister Nash said.

“This latest incident is similar to Jones’ recent tactic of saying regional complaints to NBN had risen 6 per cent in a year, without mentioning there are twice as many regional Australians on the NBN as last year – so the rate of complaints has shrunk significantly.

“He also claimed the Australian National Audit Office found the Coalition’s Mobile Black Spots Program failed to deliver significantly increased coverage. It didn’t find this at all. Round one delivered new handheld coverage to 68,600 square kilometres. For the record, the Coalition is delivering 765 new or improved mobile towers and Labor never delivered one, nor attempted to.

“Claiming I’ve said things which I haven’t is dishonest and pathetic. It also shows you can’t win the argument with facts.

“Regarding the delivery of NBN to many rural and remote Australians, Labor chose and ordered the two Sky Muster satellites - but only planned to use one of them, with the other floating around in space only to be used if the first stopped working. We’re going to use both to provide twice the data that Labor would to those 4 per cent of Australians who are getting broadband through Sky Muster.”

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