Hansard Transcript, June 4, Call for more Government funding for mobile phone blackspots
Posted June 04, 2014
CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (09:34): Yesterday during question time I asked the Minister for Communications about the possibility of co-locating NBN wireless and private sector telecommunication services to combat mobile phone black spots and speed up the NBN rollout. I thank the minister for his detailed response but note that he did not outline any future funding or initiatives past the $100 million, 250-tower commitment that was announced in the budget. This is despite the fact that 1550 of the 1,800 black spots reported by everyday Australians to the Department of Communications will remain.
One of the most common issues raised with my office is the inadequacy of mobile phone networks. The eight councils in Indi are working with my office to identify priority black spots. For example, in April I asked a local radio station to put out the word that people could contact our office to report their black spots. Following the announcement over 50 people contacted the office and we passed on their black spots to the Department of Communications. Many people also did this of their own volition.
I want to give the House some insight into what a few of these 50 people said. Lee in El Dorado called the office and said: 'I want to report a black spot in El Dorado. My staff asked: 'Where, specifically, in El Dorado?' 'No, no,' said Lee, 'I mean I want to report the entire town of El Dorado. There is just no coverage here.' El Dorado—well named—is 20 minutes from Wangaratta, which is the second largest town in my electorate.
The 2009 Kinglake fires devastated lives, communities and the natural environment and millions of dollars were invested by the government in Kinglake to assist recovery. The royal commission into the fires found that a better mobile network was essential for future safety, but I was distressed to find that several Kinglake black spot locations were reported to my office. Despite the serious and well-proven safety need for consistent telecommunications coverage in Kinglake, it still does not exist. For those who have not been to Kinglake, it is just over an hour's drive from the Melbourne CBD—hardly remote.
However, Kinglake and Eldorado are fairly small towns. What about the major centres of Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla? What about the train line that links Indi to Sydney and Melbourne? I doubt you will be surprised to hear that all have black spots.
Mobile phones have become a non-negotiable tool for any person engaged in business or employment and as long as black spots in major regional areas exist, the full potential of regional areas will not be met. I call on the government to commit more funding for mobile phone black spots. We need black spots fixed to improve our lives, improve safety and improve the economy of regional areas.