The 2017-18 Budget is a litany of backflips and stuff-ups when it comes to the communications sector.
The Budget’s communications measures did not rate a single mention in the Treasurer’s speech, another indictment of the visionless package of trade-offs and political deals scraped together by this government under the guise of so-called media “reform”.
Labor’s long-standing campaign to fight the broken 2014 Budget promise of “no cuts to the SBS” - including Malcolm Turnbull’s dud plan to increase advertising on SBS to compensate for those cuts - has been vindicated with $8.8 million restored. Labor has always supported the proper funding of Australia’s public broadcasters, in contrast to the cut first and think later mentality of the Abbott-Turnbull Government.
Similarly, Labor’s steadfast commitment to restoring funding to community broadcasting cut by the Turnbull Government in its last Budget has forced an about-face to return funding to the sector over two years. While this is a welcome reprieve for community broadcasters, this short-sighted Government still refuses to provide certainty with an ongoing funding commitment and the plug is set to be pulled on community television in June 2017.
Malcolm Turnbull’s ongoing broadband stuff-ups with his second-rate copper NBN rates a mention in the Budget papers, including confirmation of his backflip on limiting public funding of the NBN to $29.5 billion.
The Budget papers also confirm funding for sites identified in the 2016 election campaign for the Mobile Black Spots Program, for which the government’s bungling of the first funding round was comprehensively criticised by the Audit Office which found that one in four new towers failed to provide any new or extended coverage.
With the handing down of the 2017-18 Budget, this government has again failed to provide a coherent vision for the future of communications in Australia.