FEDERAL MINISTER for Regional Services, Fiona Nash, has got a totally wrong dial tone on internet and mobile services for the bush.
She said this week in “The Weekly Times”
The National Party senator and wife of a grain farmer near Young in central NSW was an intelligent and engaging person — when I last met her.
But her comments are a total brain fade, and reflect the consistent lobbying efforts from the highly profitable telcos, and the advice from all those public servants in Canberra with most excellent internet and mobile services.
As any MP (given their dependence on the mobile glued to their ear and the internet to keep in contact with advisors) should know, high quality telecommunications is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity, not just for those hipsters and political junkies in major metropolitan areas.
Anyone listening to radio coverage of Cyclone Debbie’s path of destruction would have heard, ad nauseam, the government and insurance company advice to look-up the internet, go to our web page, text our hotline.
And so many would have recognised this advice — all written by bureaucrats and marketing whizzes in comfortable capital city offices with no understanding about the communication deficits in, not just in the far bush, but even major agricultural areas just outside cities and along major highways of this country.
We have one farm 16kms off the Bruce Highway, but our intermittent mobile signal often comes from a tower 70kms away, so long as the wind isn’t blowing too strong and there’s no rain. The signal barely holds even a couple of meters above the ground in a tractor, but is usually okay if you climb to the top of the fuel stand.
Downloading anything bar a short message is impossible because that weak signal or the 1950s copper cable for the landline drops out repeatedly.
And Telstra says that’s ‘acceptable’ service in regional areas — which was the fallacy promoted by Senator Nash. And they won’t allow us to be registered by the Skymuster (which has enough problems apparently) because we have ‘some coverage’’.
The sort of service which would have hipsters and bureaucrats running to the IT support team (no, we don’t have one of those on the farm) crying like a baby whose umbilical was cut, is NOT acceptable in any populated or agricultural area of Australia.
People who suggest some sort of barely connected service is ‘good enough for the bush’ obviously think farmers grow produce with hoes and horses.
We need internet good enough to download sophisticated soil maps, detailed colour-coded fertiliser maps which run into the $14,000 of computers running our fertiliser ‘box’, mobile good enough to maintain continuous contact to our harvesters to give real time, geographic-specific harvest productivity records.
Some of this data is not just used to improve farm productivity, but also is demanded by customers, and more critically for governments who set telco quality standards, required by them for environmental, land and water management regulations.
Surely a National Party Senator and Minister should understand farming isn’t done by hicks with pumpkins growing out their ears, but by business people who need highest quality telecommunications — wherever they live.