Local, Independant and Effective

Adj debate - Mobile phone coverage can be a matter of life and death

Posted March 18, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (21:09):  Tonight I would like to read to the House a letter I received last week from Karen Purss from Cudgewa in North East Victoria. Her message is that mobile phone coverage is not an optional extra in regional Australia. Sadly, it is a matter of life and death.

Karen writes: I thank the Lord for watching over us on our trip from Cudgewa to Wodonga on Thursday 12th March 2015. As we travelled through Berringama, we missed, by mere seconds, being hit by a truck and a vehicle towing a caravan as they careered off the road into trees. They had collided as they drove towards Corryong.

The people in the crash by some miracle survived but how, I don't know as their car and caravan was completely crushed by the truck.

Both the driver and his wife were trapped within the rubble of what had been their vehicle. My husband is a retired, experienced policeman but he was astounded to hear a moan coming from the vehicle. He had not believed anyone inside could still be alive.

The occupants had to be rescued using the 'jaws of life' and flown to hospital by helicopter.

It is totally unacceptable that this occurred on the Murray Valley Highway within ½ km of dwellings and we were not even able to dial 000 using our mobile telephones.

When you are out of mobile telephone range and your mobile says, "SOS only", don't automatically expect any response. We received none as we attempted to contact the emergency services. This is not good enough! There were three injured people with two trapped in the car. It was twisted out of recognisable form and lying on its side.

It was thought that there was danger of fuel leakage and a severe risk of fire. If the car had started to burn then the lives of both of its trapped occupants would have been lost.

In this age, there should be no excuse in having no emergency contact service.

I had to use a land line in order to ring 000 but wasted valuable time in attempting to access a mobile telephone network.

It was an amazing inter-agency effort in attending to the many difficulties posed by this incident. VicPol, Ambulance Victoria and the many volunteers from SES and CFA worked for several hours to stabilise and extract these two people.

Thank God we live in a community containing emergency service volunteers who give everything to help and protect others without hesitation. Once they were notified, the emergency service workers came in numbers.

Community spirit is not unique to the Upper Murray but it is particularly strong up here, however, for personal safety and for asset management purposes, something needs to be done about this region's limited mobile telephone network accessibility.

Many of the problems with telephone communication up here could be solved by the addition of several small transmission towers along the highway but of course, this will cost the telcos money which they will probably not be able to redeem by the normal telephone usage of its subscribers; I suggest however, that their failure to improve communication facilities is not acceptable, no matter the cost.

Do we have to wait until it is the lives of our children under threat in similar instances before they are prepared to make a move? We need to bring pressure to bear on our Federal politicians to resolve this.

Next time it may be your life that is under threat. Is your reception good enough to call for an ambulance? If not, then perhaps you could give some consideration to talking to your politician and telling him/her, that while our physical lives are unacceptably under threat, they might consider that their political life may also come to an abrupt end.

On this occasion, although communications were almost non-existent, we were fortunate that after about 20 minutes an ambulance that was being delivered to Corryong by their regional mechanical service staff arrived on the scene and they were able to radio ahead to prepare the approaching emergency service personnel of the situation.

No lives were lost as a consequence of these communications failing, however, next time we may not be so fortunate.

We need to act.

In talking to Karen today to gain her permission to read this letter in parliament tonight, she told me that, sadly, one of the occupants of the vehicle is now dead. In this case, it was a matter of life and death. We need much better mobile phone access.


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