Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry John McVeigh has called on the federal government to divert funding from the AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) fibre network rollout to improve mobile coverage in flood-affected areas.
McVeigh said in a statement that after travelling across areas hit by recent floods, there were problems with poor mobile coverage across the board.
"Extensive travel across the region during the past fortnight inspecting flood-damaged properties proved to me just how bad the mobile coverage is in many areas," McVeigh said.
"Many places in the North Burnett suffer from poor mobile coverage, while places like Coalstoun Lakes have no coverage at all. It's unacceptable."
McVeigh suggested that the government's NBN investment would be better spent on towers.
"With the Gillard government spending more than AU$35 billion rolling out broadband in select towns and regions, surely some of those funds could be diverted into building a few phone towers in the North Burnett," he said.
McVeigh indicated that he had written to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, asking him to address the issue.
It is not the first time it has been suggested that NBN funds be diverted. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has previously said that NBN funding should be redirected to build roads or fund tax cuts.
However, as the NBN investment is almost completely listed as off-budget because the government is expecting a return on its investment, any diversion of funding would likely appear on-budget, and would cause the government to go farther into deficit.
Western Australia paid for its own mobile network upgrades, awarding AU$39.2 million to Telstra last year to build 113 new mobile sites across the state. Telstra has previously called for the federal government to subsidise the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure into regional areas where it is not commercially viable for telcos to roll out networks on their own.