Joint media release by Senator The Hon Bridget McKenzie and The Hon Luke Hartsuyker, Chair, 2021 Regional Telecommunication Independent Review Committee

The 2021 Regional Telecommunication Independent Review Committee (the Committee) has delivered its final report and recommendations to the Australian Government as part of the 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review.

“Our report, 2021 Regional Telecommunications Review: A step change in demand, provides a report card to the Australian Government on the adequacy of telecommunications in regional, rural and remote Australia,” Chair of the Committee, the Hon Luke Hartsuyker said. “The report’s recommendations seek to help lay the foundations of a more accessible, competitive, and reliable regional telecommunications landscape able to leverage the opportunities of the digital economy.”

“The Committee and I would like to thank everyone who had their say either individually or on behalf of a community. Your views and input were crucial for the Review, and we look forward to the Government’s response on the issues you have raised with us,” he said.

Minister for Regionalisation, Regional Communications and Regional Education, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, welcomed the report, and said that the Liberal and Nationals Government would be carefully considering the report’s findings and recommendations in developing its new regional telecommunications agenda.

“The Committee’s report reinforces much of what we have learnt during COVID-19: our telecommunications networks are essential and are continuing to become more important. There are opportunities for government, communities, and industry to work together so that regional areas have access to connectivity which keeps pace with their needs,” she said.

“I intend to deliver a strong response to the report. This is consistent with our Government’s approach to previous Regional Telecommunications Reviews, which have delivered impactful initiatives like the Regional Connectivity Program, the Mobile Black Spot Program and the Universal Service Guarantee.”

The findings and recommendations of the report were developed through an extensive consultation process with regional, rural and remote communities. The Committee received a record breaking 658 written submissions, along with strong feedback from 24 online consultation sessions attended by almost 500 people.

“The record public engagement with the Review is a reflection of the critical importance of communications for regional, rural and remote communities and businesses. Public feedback has given the Committee evidence surrounding the use of regional telecommunications and will help set out a pathway forward for government and industry,” said Mr Hartsuyker.

“Reliable telecommunications are essential for everyday life in regional, rural and remote Australia and have assumed a role much more on par with electricity. This was evident when the communications system goes down, as in recent bush fires, floods, and cyclones. In the same way that we need to keep the lights going, we also need to keep data flowing.”

“There has been a step change in the demand for telecommunications, and this requires a step change in the policies and programs which support the delivery of telecommunications services in the bush,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“There is a new paradigm in the way we use telecommunications and Australia will be relying even more on digital connectivity as it strives to become a leading digital economy. Regional Australia will play a vital part in meeting this goal.”

Minister McKenzie expressed her thanks to the Committee for their work in undertaking the Review, and the public for its response.

“I’d like to thank the Chair, the Hon Luke Hartsuyker, and Committee members Ms Kristy Sparrow, Ms Sue Middleton, Professor Hugh Bradlow, and Mr Michael Cosgrave. I’d also like to acknowledge those who took part in the consultations or provided a submission to the Committee.”

The Report will remain under embargo while the Government considers its response. The Government expects to release the report and response in early 2022.

Media contacts:

Minister McKenzie’s office: David Edghill, 0477 417 516

RTIRC2021 Secretariat:| +61 2 6271 1777