Local, Independant and Effective

Notice of Motion - Government must allocate more funding to make mobile phone black spots disappear

Posted March 02, 2015


Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:32):  I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

    (a) the Government has committed $100 million (GST exclusive) over four years to the delivery of the Mobile Black Spot Programme (MBSP);

    (b) the MBSP is expected to provide around 250 to 300 new or upgraded mobile base stations across Australia;

    (c) more than 6,000 locations around Australia have been nominated by the public, local councils, state government, community representatives and businesses as having ineffective or non-existent mobile phone reception; and

    (d) the future viability and safety of communities in rural Australia and the electoral division of lndi are dependent on effective mobile phone coverage; and

(2) calls on the Government to allocate significant additional funding to the MBSP in 2015-16 to provide additional new and upgraded mobile base stations across Australia.

In opening this debate I call on the government to take up the mantra of the young people in Indi, that 'Where ever you are in Australia, you should be able to use your mobile phone.' I call on the government to start with the end in mind. The end is where mobile phone blackspots are a thing of the past, where we are able to work, travel, study and holiday with our trusty mobile phones in hand, in the city and in the bush. This will take money, partnerships and commitment.

I have been fighting to improve mobile phone coverage in Indi from the day I was first drafted by the young people. The poor or non-existent mobile phone services in my electorate—from valley to valley, township to township—impacts on our economic viability, our social connectedness and our ability as a community to reach our full potential and the overriding need to be safe, particularly when we have emergencies such as fires and floods. Good mobile phone coverage is not an optional extra; it is the main game.

The government's Black Spot program extended mobile phone coverage in regional Australia—$100 million over four years to provide around 250 to 300 new or upgraded mobile base stations across Australia. The Black Spot program is a good program. It was an election commitment that the government is delivering on. The establishment work has been done, priorities have been listed and partnerships built. Today I encourage the government and my colleagues opposite to maximize the work done in this establishment phase and to expand it to pick up the next level of priorities that have already identified.

Clearly more funding is needed if we are to make sure that, where ever you are in Australia, you can use your mobile phone. But the hard reality is that the Department of Communications database has in excess of 6,000 reports of mobile phone black spots—and, in my electorate of Indi alone, 274 reports.

The guidelines for the program point to improving coverage along the major transportation routes, in small communities, in locations prone to existing natural disasters and in areas with high seasonal demand—and Indi ticks all these boxes. We have 274 identified gaps, but we are allocated an estimated three towers to meet this need. It is clearly not enough; Indi and Australia need a much greater investment.

What to do? All levels of government, business and community are ready to act, and the Commonwealth is providing the leadership; it just needs the commitment. In Indi the groundwork has been done. The Indi Telecommunications Advocacy Group have taken the lead in mapping and reporting the mobile phone black spot areas. Strong partnerships have been developed with business, emergency services and community groups, seeking every opportunity to work with mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers. They are very keen to offer their in-kind contribution.

The Prime Minister says that he wants to be remembered as the 'infrastructure Prime Minister.' I am here today to remind the Prime Minister that infrastructure is more than roads, rail and transport. Telecommunications is also infrastructure. Investment in communications infrastructure has the capacity to stimulate and enhance all areas of our economy. It is an investment that has multiplier effects throughout the economy and the community, and it gives as everlasting social and environmental benefits. This is the government's published infrastructure message, so I call on the government to make this the message for communications infrastructure also.

I call on Minister Truss to move now on building stronger regional economies and secure communities, delivering opportunities and prosperity for all regional Australians and ensuring a sustainable environment by allocating funding in the next budget to an extensive mobile phone black spot program. One hundred million dollars is not nearly enough to cover the need. Let us start with the young people's manta, make it our own and set an ambitious target, a date, so that by 2020, wherever you are in Australia, wherever you go, you are able to use your mobile phone.

DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Prentice):  Do we have a seconder for the motion?

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