02 March 2015

City of Greater Geelong must step up on mobile black spots

I call on the City of Greater Geelong to commit to making a contribution towards fixing mobile black spots across the municipality.

Our region has some significant mobile phone black spots and we must all work together to maximise our chances of receiving our fair share of funding.

The Federal Government has committed to invest $100m to improve mobile phone coverage. The government estimates this funding will leverage an additional $100m in investment from bidders and other parties including state and local government.

The reality is that federal money alone will only go so far. The programme is expected to fund between 250 and 300 new mobile phone base stations around Australia.

With so many black spots across the Greater Geelong region including in places like Armstrong Creek and Ocean Grove, it is vital that we give ourselves every chance of securing maximum funding under the important program.

Some 17 local councils in Victoria have offered in-principle support to making a contribution.

Neighbouring Golden Plains Shire is one of the Victorian councils committed to making a contribution, and I strongly encourage the City of Greater Geelong to do the same. Golden Plains has indicated it is willing to make a contribution of land at zero or concessional cost. At the very least, the City of Greater Geelong should consider this type of contribution. As I have previously indicated, I am also hoping Colac Otway Shire will do the same.

It is so important that all levels of government work together to provide better communications infrastructure where it is most needed.

As a strong, local voice for Corangamite, I will continue to fight hard for better broadband and mobile phone communications.

Please find below a transcript and a link to the video of a speech I gave in Parliament on our Mobile Phone Blackspot funding program.

Speech in Parliament

Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise to speak on this motion before the chamber today and I want to start by saying it was the Coalition Government, the Federal Government as recognised by the Member for Indi, that has made this very significant $100m commitment that we are rolling out.

And we are incredibly proud that we have recognised the importance of mobile phone communications across rural and regional Australia.

Like the Member for Indi, I represent a large regional seat. 136 black spots have been identified in the federal electorate of Corangamite and have been registered with the Department of Communications.

We know how important it is for small businesses, for farmers, for families, to feel connected, particularly in areas of high bushfire risk.

There are many parts of my electorate where there are high bushfire risk areas and being connected by your mobile phone is so important, so I do commend the Member for Indi for bringing on this motion today.

But I would like to say, the Coalition Government is the best friend of the people of Indi. The Coalition Government is the best friend of rural and regional Australia, because in contrast to our $100m program, the previous Labor Government, over six years, did not contribute one cent, Madam Deputy Speaker, not one cent to fixing mobile phone black spots.

And in my first speech I proudly stood up on behalf of the people of Dereel and I spoke about how that community in my electorate was ravaged by bushfire early in 2013.

They were hampered because they had no communications, the telephone lines were down, they could not get the emergency alerts.

And I went in and I vowed to fight for them, and I vowed to fight for the people of Birregurra, the people of Gellibrand and every other community in my electorate.

I agree with the Member for Indi, I would like to see more funding in this program, because it is a wonderful program and I’ve already been lobbying the Minister for Communications in relation to more funding.

It is a wonderful program and quite frankly it is a terrible, terrible reflection on Labor that they have not recognised how important mobile phone communications is.

Like the NBN rollout under Labor, an utter disaster, the Labor Party, the previous Federal Government did not recognise that you must prioritise the areas that need communications the most.

Like the NBN, like food labelling, like standing up for small business, we are working very, very hard to stand up for rural and regional communities across Australia, like the fight for fairer fuel prices, another fight that you didn’t hear of under the previous government.

There are big challenges as the Member for Indi has recognised but I do want to say that of the 6000 mobile phone black spots that have been identified, around 4500 are sufficiently close to other nominated locations such that it is likely that one base station will be able to provide mobile phone coverage to a number of black spots, so that’s very, very heartening.

I also commend the minister’s work in relation to identifying the partnerships, the co-contributions and I particularly, in my electorate, want to commend the Golden Plains Shire which has put forward a proposal in relation to a co-contribution.

I’ve called on the Colac Otway Shire to do that as well and the City of Greater Geelong, I would like to see more action from the City of Greater Geelong, making a co-contribution, whether in dollars or in kind.

Even places like Armstrong Creek, a great developing part of the Great Geelong region, so many people living in Armstrong Creek cannot get mobile phone coverage.

So Madam Deputy Speaker, for the people of Birregurra, for the people of Dereel and Gellibrand, all the other parts of my electorate and right across Australia, we are incredibly proud of our commitment.

Yes I too would like to see more funding, and in fact I’m so determined Madam Deputy Speaker that, on a recent visit by the Prime Minister to my electorate, I said ‘we must stop past in Birregurra’.

We stopped past and dropped in to the Birregurra General Store where they serve a wonderful toasted sandwich and a great cup of coffee and I said ‘Prime Minister, I’m bringing you hear to Birregurra because the people of Birregurra need a mobile phone base station. They cannot do business in this wonderful part of the world unless they get the communications’.

I’m very proud of our government’s commitment to this wonderful program, I support the motion and I condemn Labor for its absolute failure to invest in mobile phone communications.

2 March 2015