Long wait for local digital television assistance as $550 set top boxes installed in eastern states homes

March 15

The Gillard Government is giving away set top boxes to pensioners, veterans and carers in the eastern states while locals still have to wait 15 months before they are eligible.

Many have instead bought their own devices to watch digital television rather than wait for the assistance scheme.

The government was recently forced to reveal that its half-a-million top set top boxes for the scheme would cost the taxpayer about $550 each.

Federal Member for Forrest Nola Marino said the cost would only add to people’s frustration and anger over the waiting times.

“Locals know that set top boxes bought from retailers start at $70 each, about eight times cheaper than ones being handed out by the government.

“This is even more ridiculous when you consider that a brand new 32 inch digital-ready television costs about $350.”

Mrs Marino said people were increasingly annoyed as channels spread traditional content through their digital stations. 

“Many calls to my office have been from people who were unable to watch major events like the Hopman Cup,” she said.

“They would miss the tournament again next year if they chose to wait for a set top box.”

The $308 million Household Assistance Scheme was to help people become digital ready by providing the boxes six months before their analogue broadcast is switched off. Bunbury and the South West will be one of last regions to switch off in late 2013.

The Coalition used Senate Estimates hearings last month revealed that $66.7 million of the total coast was being spent on its administration.

“This is another waste of taxpayers’ money by an incompetent Government which has proven itself incapable of good economic management,” Mrs Marino said.

 “This comes after the pink batts fiasco, detention centre cost blowouts and many more.”