Victoria’s Labor government is refusing to help fund mobile towers in opposition seats as part of a federal program to fix black spots.
It will instead use the $11 million it planned to invest in the latest round of the Mobile Black Spot Program to work directly with telecommunication companies for new towers.
“The decision to leave the federal government’s program is due to the Commonwealth failing to properly consult when choosing sites and a complete lack of transparency about how sites are chosen,” Victoria’s Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis said in a statement on Wednesday.
The 16 Victorian priority locations announced by Canberra in November are in the Liberal seats of Corangamite, La Trobe, Casey, Gippsland and Flinders, and the National seat of Murray.
State and federal governments and major telecommunication companies contribute to the federal program.
More than 140 mobile towers have already been funded in Victoria under the previous two rounds and 79 are finished.
Federal Regional Communities Minister Bridget McKenzie says this represents a “fantastic” outcome for Victoria.
“The Victorian state Labor government is playing pure politics with regional communications and that will leave people living, working and investing in regional Victoria worse off,” she said in a statement to AAP.
It’s unclear how many additional towers will be built with the $11 million pulled from the federal program.
Victoria is yet to work out co-funding arrangements with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, who will also contribute money, a spokesman for Mr Dalidakis said.
Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford said the government was “working with Emergency Management Victoria, local councils and Regional Partnerships to get this right”.
The towers will come on top of 25 others to be built under a separate partnership with Optus, announced in October.
Labor governments in South Australia and Western Australia have also refused to fund mobile tower priority locations for their respective states.
The seven WA sites, and two out of three SA sites, are in Liberal seats.