Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has announced she will work to secure federal funds to ensure the NBN build is complete across Indi if returned at the next election.

Dr Haines will make the announcement during a visit to Euroa, Ruffy, and Violet Town on Wednesday where she will meet with local government, small business, and community groups to discuss how the Minister’s failure to deliver the NBN in the region has affected them.

After the Federal Government declared the NBN was complete and that any further “improvements” would need to be funded by local governments who would be required to contribute to a $300 million NBN Regional Co-Investment Fund for any further development across rural, regional and remote Australia.

“The Communications Minister is dreaming if he believes the NBN build is complete across regional Australia,” said Dr Haines.

“We have business owners being forced to walk out onto the street to get EFTPOS reception and parents unable to connect their children to remote learning from home during a pandemic.

“For the Minister to tell us that the NBN build is done and dusted is simply offensive.”

If re-elected at the next election, Dr Haines will work to ensure the Federal Government funds the entire $300 million needed to finish the NBN build in regional Australia.

“The NBN build was never complete in the first place. I’ll make sure the federal government doesn’t get away scot-free and palm off responsibility to our local councils,” said Dr Haines.

“It is unacceptable that local councils in country areas are being asked to stump up the cash, passing the cost on to their ratepayers, when councils and ratepayers in the city have no such expectation.

“I will not accept band-aid solutions or another government putting regional communities in the too hard basket.”

Dr Haines will make the announcement in Euroa because there is still a lack of fibre connection across most of the Strathbogie Shire.

Strathbogie Shire has said it would be near impossible for them to find the cash to participate in the Government’s Regional Co-Investment Fund. In a recent submission to the Regional Telecommunications Review, Strathbogie Shire said:

“There are concerns that local government is now being required to accept responsibility for the provision of digital infrastructure, something which is traditionally outside its responsibilities.

With the lack of fibre to most of the LGA, residents and businesses are required to seek connection through either wireless or satellite technology (both of which add cost and in some cases are simply unaffordable, placing our residents at a disadvantage in both home schooling and remote working).

Smaller shires like Strathbogie are at a disadvantage … They are ‘cash and resource poor’, and it is difficult for them to fund or leverage funding from other sources for ‘co-investment’.”

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) have lent their support for Dr Haines’ push to stop the federal government buck passing to cash-strapped councils and local rate payers.

“High speed internet access isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for modern life. Many of our communities across regional Australia are missing out on fast, affordable and reliable digital connections, or pay a higher cost compared to their metropolitan counterparts” said ALGA President, Cr Linda Scott.

Haines’ announcement is one of several election commitments Dr Haines will make this week in relation to phone and internet coverage in Indi.

“Strong internet infrastructure is crucial to our prosperity and development here in the regions. If you short-change us on the NBN build, then you’re short-changing our community’s future. I simply won’t stand for it,” said Dr Haines.

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