A plan would bring Australia’s sixth undersea communications cable to the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Supplied
Wealthy businessman and Fairfax MP Clive Palmer wants to back the bid to bring Australia’s sixth undersea data communications cable into the Sunshine Coast and stop Australia’s “brain drain”.
Fairfax Media understands it would cost a consortium around $200 million to bring a sixth undersea submarine internet cable to the Sunshine Coast.
Mr Palmer said while he had not personally been briefed on the Sunshine Coast bid, his staff had and his company Minerology supported the Sunshine Coast proposal.
PUP Leader Clive Palmer says Sunshine Coast submarine data cable concept is worth supporting. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
“Our company expressed an interest in supporting it – that is my company, separately, Minerology – but politically, we had raised it initially,” he said.
“We’d said there would need to be a consortium of companies and federal and state governments working together, because we saw it as having a lot of jobs potential.”
Australia’s five existing submarine cables – four into Sydney and the fifth into Perth – carry around 98 per cent of Australia’s international internet traffic.
The existing east coast submarine cables near New South Wales are classed “as crowded”.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is on the Sunshine Coast on Friday to be briefed on the proposal by the LNP’s Fairfax candidate Ted O’Brien.
Mr Palmer on Thursday said he had previously investigated the idea of bringing a sixth undersea data cable into the Gold Coast, but that bid was rejected.
“I will be calling on Malcolm Turnbull to get Federal Government support for the location of a submarine data cable to come into the Sunshine Coast to boost jobs,” he said.
“I am also calling on the Federal Government to provide the support necessary that is needed to get the Sunshine Coast Airport turned into an international airport.”
Mr Palmer said a data communications cable – effectively bringing industrial high-speed optic cable internet – would transform the Sunshine Coast over a decade.
“So it could be the start of a new Silicon Valley for the Sunshine Coast and stop Australian graduates having to go overseas to access the world,” he said.
“All of Australia’s best IT people are going to the US to work for Google and Apple and we want to keep them here.”
Mr Palmer said the process involved construction jobs first, then advantages for software companies, before advantages to companies exporting goods and services.
Ultimately it led health and education advances, he said.
“At first it would help our construction workforce that now goes down towards Brisbane for jobs,” he said.
He said businesses located close to the cable would get security from co-locating in a technology hub.
“It would provide an impetus for a high-technology hub to help the Sunshine Coast University,” he said.
“It would set the Sunshine Coast apart from the Gold Coast – as not just a tourist destination – but also key component for Australia linking with other countries of the world.”
Mr Palmer said there was considerable work done on the issue by the Gold Coast City Council, but funding was rejected by the Gillard Government.
Mr Palmer said the federal government support was needed to secure the protection zone; if and when the protection zone was approved by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
“It doesn’t seem likely that there will be a large port being built there,” he said.
“So there is not really a risk to the cable from that point of view.”
Since 2010 there have been complaints of submarine cable crowding in the two existing submarine cable zones off the New South Wales coast, which brings in four of Australia’s five submarine cables.
The Sunshine Coast Council in July has lodged an application to have a new protection zone put in place to have Australia’s sixth communications cable come ashore on the Sunshine Coast.
The application is now being examined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
In September 2010 ACMA – the independent statutory authority that rules on submarine data cables in Australia – found that the “two protection zones off the coast of New South Wales are crowded.”
That 2010 ACMA report: “Report on the operation of the submarine cable protection regime” found “in the future, the number of submarine cables is likely to increase and the probability of disputes will also increase.”