​Turnbull pledges AU$12m for mobile coverage on Central Coast trains

If the Coalition is re-elected on July 2, Malcolm Turnbull has said he will provide Wi-Fi at each Central Coast train station and stable mobile coverage on trains moving through the corridor.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised that if elected next month, he will provide continuous mobile coverage on trains between the Central Coast and Hornsby, as well as Wi-Fi at each train station.

The investment will cost the Coalition AU$12 million, with an area of more than 60 kilometres between Wyong and Hornsby currently providing commuters with little to no mobile data coverage.

"We will invest to upgrade and build telecommunications infrastructure to improve the lives of 30,000 Central Coast residents -- one in four of the adult workforce -- who commute long distances by train each day," Turnbull told reporters on Friday.

"This will improve the lives of thousands of Central Coast residents who leave home before dawn each day and return after dark."

The AU$12 million commitment is expected to leverage an additional AU$4 million investment from the New South Wales government, which offered up AU$5 million for the Mobile Blackspot Program as part of its 2016-17 state Budget, delivered earlier this week.

Over the next three years, AU$24 million will be spent on the program by the state government, which it said includes AU$15 million for Round 2 to match Australian government contributions, in a bid to encourage telecommunication providers to invest in regional areas where there are mobile communication blackspots.

The first round of mobile blackspot funding was opened in December 2014, with Telstra and Vodafone Australia securing AU$185 million in government funding to build or upgrade 499 mobile towers across Australia.

The government then announced the second round of the program in early December, providing a further AU$60 million to those participating; and at the end of last month, the Coalition pledged to spend an additional AU$60 million to fund a third round of the mobile blackspot program to build or upgrade a further 900 mobile towers if re-elected during the July 2 federal election.

Turnbull said there will be an expression of interest process for mobile network providers to bid for the funding, and that he would work with the NSW government to provide assistance in delivering his own election promise.

Earlier this week, the prime minister warned against outsourcing government services, saying a government could find itself without sufficient internal talent as a result.

"I am not an unalloyed fan of outsourcing," Turnbull told reporters in Cairns. "I think there is a risk that if you outsource too much of government services, you run the risk that you end up with very little talent or capability within government."

Facing further questions on outsourcing Medicare payments, Turnbull said he has every intention of updating the healthcare service's payments system.

"The Medicare payments system is enormous, obviously, and I believe that we can -- well, it is not a question of belief, there is no doubt that we can -- bring that into the 21st century and do so within government," he said.

"But my decision is that this payments system will be upgraded and it will be upgraded within government."

Earlier this month, the prime minister found himself accused of talking the startup talk but not walking the startup walk.

So far during the election campaign, Turnbull has promised AU$15.4 million for Australian startups, with the funding to be allocated to expand the existing Incubator Support program, which was given AU$8 million in December as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The concern is that despite startups apparently being the centre of the Liberal's economic plan, sporting facilities in at-risk electorates are getting a better deal from the Coalition's election promises, slated to receive AU$18.5 million if elected. At the higher end of spending pledges, AU$150 million has been set aside by Turnbull to get the ball rolling on Queensland dams.

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