Cathy's statement to the Parliament on communications infrastructure concerns in Murrindindi Shire.
I wish to raise concerns on behalf of the areas of my electorate which are prone to natural disasters, and in particular Murrindindi Shire. Many of the 13,000 people continue to lack access to basic communications infrastructure most of Australia takes for granted. These towns are in view of Melbourne’s skyscrapers.
Murrindindi was severely affected by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, and almost five years later, Murrindindi continues to experience a real shortage of mobile, TV, and radio coverage. Additionally, many people cannot access ADSL connections due to the ageing copper wire network and in many cases they cannot use 3G.
In particular I want to mention the small community of Narbethong. Deputy Speaker, Narbethong has been receiving analog television for many years. They have been told this was an accident caused by the tower’s signal ‘drifting’ to them. While digital TV is switched on there, residents aren’t eligible for a satellite that would allow TV coverage. Narbethong is similar to many small communities who now have no analog TV and either poor or non-existent digital TV.
Other communities experience similar problems at Eildon, Piries Bay and Goughs bay. We have had people from across this region write and tell us that they don’t have TV reception, radio reception or mobile reception. These people live just two hours from the Melbourne CBD, and yet they are cut off from digital communication.
Rural Victorians have been told they have to wait 18 months to access a new NBN satellite because the NBN interim satellite is now full. This means that for 18 months 100s of people will be without internet access to their homes until at least mid-2015 when the new satellite becomes available.
If we are to have regional growth – to build our manufacturing and agricultural industries, we must have access to modern communication technology. Businesses need to know what’s happening in the world around them, to be able to communicate with customers, to place orders and to speak to their loved ones.
There is another real, more urgent concern. That is as summer is upon us the communities in this area won’t be able to communicate with emergency services and family in the event of fires. No-one should have to live with the fear they won’t be able to contact their families in the event of a disaster.
I sincerely want this parliament to realise the importance of reliable telecommunications infrastructure in Australia across all mediums. I want to see us pay attention to small communities who shouldn’t be left behind when planning the way our country communicates.
In my electorate of Indi we are working to identify the areas of top priority for mobile phone black spots.
We need more satellite capacity before 2015. In the meantime I would be delighted to hear from colleagues who know of innovative ways that rural communities have dealt with the deficit of communications infrastructure.