Mr Deputy Speaker, congratulations on your election as Second Deputy Speaker.
I rise to celebrate the wonderful commitment that we have made as a government to connecting Australians living in regional Australia through our $220 million mobile phone blackspots program. I say to the member for Whitlam: shame on Labor, a party that says it supports our program. The Labor Party, prior to the election, managed to commit to a total of nine base stations around the country, which shows that those members opposite have no commitment whatsoever to connecting regional communities, keeping us safe and ensuring that, whether you are a farmer, a firefighter, a tourist or a student living in a regional community, you have every right to use your mobile phone to get the connection and the communication that you deserve. What hypocrisy we are seeing from members opposite. The fact of the matter is that Telstra, unlike Vodafone and Optus, is the predominant carrier because it has chosen to invest predominantly in regional Australia—and I say it is a pity that Vodafone and Optus have not taken on board the needs of regional Australia as much as Telstra has. I think that the member for Whitlam needs to take this on board.
In my electorate of Corangamite, last year we announced 10 mobile base stations. Before the election, we announced another four mobile base stations. I can tell the member for Whitlam and members opposite that every one of those base stations is providing critical communications to those communities. Let us not forget that last year we funded 10 Telstra base stations, in Barongarook, Apollo Bay, Barwon Downs, Carlisle River, Cape Otway, Dereel, Kawarren, Gellibrand, Steiglitz, near Meredith, and Yeodene, which also services Birregurra, and Carlisle River was switched on in May 2016—and with what pride that occurred. This is a community that had been absolutely ignored by Labor. It now has communications that it never received before. Labor, over six long years, provided zero to mobile blackspots. Now we see this great commitment by the government. It is absolutely shameful what Labor have done.
On 24 May, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash, visited Anglesea, and with great pride, after much advocacy, we committed mobile base stations to Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Bellbrae and Birregurra. As we all know, the Surf Coast is an incredibly vulnerable part of my electorate, and yet it was ignored by the previous government. So I am very proud that, apart from the eight mobile base stations that we have funded in the Colac-Otway region, we now have another in Birregurra, an incredibly important town for farming and for tourism, as well as along the Surf Coast.
I want to raise one concern. One of the mobile base stations to receive funding is in Dereel, a community that has been hit twice by bushfire. I have on many occasions called on Telstra to expedite the rollout of base stations to areas of high bushfire risk.
The people of Dereel deserve that base station as soon as possible. I was up there just last week, opening the new Dereel men’s shed. I was able to again update the community and advise the community that Telstra have put an application in to NBN Co to co-locate the base station on the NBN tower just outside of Dereel. But I say to Telstra: we need a move on. We need to make sure that those base stations go into the areas of high bushfire risk. Across the Corangamite electorate, there are many areas that are very exposed to bushfire risk. We all know about the terrible Christmas Day bushfire in Wye River and Separation Creek last year.
We as a government are incredibly proud of our achievements. We are incredibly proud that we are listening to the people of regional Australia. In the first round we funded 499 blackspots and now, with the third round being announced, we have committed to $220 million. We have seen are hopeless, pathetic commitment to this issue from those opposite. We are very proud, as a government, to be standing up for regional Australia on this critical issue. Thank you.
12 September 2016