Video: Independents join in action for mobile phones ahead of fire season
Posted September 04, 2017
Cathy has pushed for more funding for mobile phone black spots while seconding the Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie's Bill to ensure 24 hour standby power back up for mobile phone towers.
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (10:11): I'm very pleased to second this bill to acknowledge the work of the member for Mayo and to congratulate her for this really important piece of legislation. It is vitally important for all rural and regional Australia, particularly my electorate of Indi, which is absolutely fire-prone. To all the CFA in Indi, to the SES and to the local government emergency managers: it gives me so much pleasure to work together with the crossbenchers who really care for rural and regional Australia. This is an example of how we bring to this parliament issues that the major parties refuse to take up.
Congratulations, member for Mayo. I'm really pleased to second the motion, not only because North East Victoria is prone to bushfire but because the whole topic of telecommunications falls off the government's agenda. We know how vitally important it is to have access to telecommunications in our towns. In a minute I'm going to talk about round 4 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, but, before I do, I can't stress how important this is. In times of emergency and with the changes that are taking place, exactly as the member for Mayo said—in the old days we had a telephone line that was independently powered and now we're moving on to the NBN which is not, and we have limited backup—we'll really get caught in a bushfire circumstance. This particular legislation has been well researched. I call on the government to pay attention and to bring action in this regard.
I would also like to briefly talk about the Mobile Black Spot Program, which was a really important part of the government's 2013 election commitment, but they've let the ball drop. We've had round 1 and round 2. We've had promises of round 3 and no commitment at all to round 4. I've talked to the Prime Minister about this and I've talked to the members of the government about it, saying, 'Walk the talk and show us where the money is for round 4 so that we can complete the work of fixing these black spots, particularly in areas where we don't have access.' That's the whole idea: fund the telcos to build mobile phone towers where we don't normally have access, particularly in fire-prone areas. So bring on round 4.
I'm putting the government on notice, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications, that in the 2018 budget we expect round 4 to be well funded. We may need round 5, but round 4 should be enough for the 200 remaining black spots that have been identified in my electorate of Indi, just for starters, to get onto the national budget and for something to be done to actually make sure that people in these communities have access to exactly the same services that our city cousins do. I'm very pleased to second the legislation. Congratulations to the member for Mayo for bringing it on. This is an example of really effective action by Independents in this parliament and I'm so pleased to be part of this team of five and the great work that we do in this area.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!