In Alice Springs today, Shadow Minister for Regional Communications, Stephen Jones MP, joined with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and the Hon Warren Snowdon MP to announce that a Shorten Labor Government will provide the ABC with $2 million in funding to help re-establish shortwave radio services across the Northern Territory.
Australians living in remote areas already face significant communications challenges and the loss of access to ABC services from shortwave radio cuts people off from emergency broadcasts as well as being an important connection to the rest of Australia.
The Liberal Government’s budget cuts to the ABC forced some bad decisions on the organisation, including the decision to cut their shortwave radio transmissions in January 2017.
Since then, organisations like the NT Government, NT Cattlemen’s Association, Northern Territory Seafood Council representing commercial and tourist fishing businesses, Amateur Fisherman Association, Indigenous Rangers, long haul transport drivers and the Toyota Land Cruiser Club representing Grey Nomads have raised concerns about the loss of these services.
The Territory is a draw card for grey nomads with around 600,000 visits each year.
For remote First Nations communities, shortwave radio equipment is relatively cheap to purchase and does not require external power to operate. By contrast, other forms of communication such as mobile phones, TV and broadband all rely on mains power.
In January 2017, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asking him to work with the ABC to restore the shortwave.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion criticised the ABC’s decision but was unable to convince his own government to reverse it, again leaving Territorians without a voice in Cabinet.
Labor believes that it was premature to cut ABC shortwave radio services and that if the ABC had not been under intense budget constraints, this decision would never have been made.
Labor has been campaigning against the ABC’s decision to cease shortwave transmissions since it was announced in mid-December 2016. We know how important shortwave is, that’s why we are switching it back on.
By switching the shortwave back on a Shorten Labor Government will ensure, towns, communities and travellers are connected to the rest of the nation.
Labor’s funding commitment of $2 million to restore ABC shortwave services is in addition to Labor’s commitment to reverse the Morrison Government’s $83.7 million unfair cut to the ABC, as well as our guarantee of funding certainty over the next ABC budget cycle.