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Monday, 10 September 2012
Page: 10046


Mr HAASE (Durack) (21:59): I rise this evening to highlight the negative impact of this federal Labor government and the predicament suffered by the constituents of Durack, together with national and international visitors, with regard to the government's complete lack of sympathy for those unable to access adequate mobile telephone services. In June 2011, there were just over 29 million mobile voice or data services in Australia, up 13 per cent from the previous year. About 99 per cent of Australia's population has mobile phone coverage. However, 75 per cent of Australia's land mass has no reliable mobile coverage.

The West Australian Liberal government recently awarded a $39.2 million contract to Telstra to install 113 new mobile sites in priority areas. This investment will deliver a total of $106 million in value to WA. The program will increase coverage in WA by 22 per cent, from 430,000 square kilometres to 520,000 square kilometres. With Durack covering 1,587,758 square kilometres, this increase in coverage—if it were all applicable solely to Durack—would still only give a third of the electorate mobile coverage.

All of Durack is remote, rural or regional—unlike the metropolitan electorates of Canberra and Sydney, both Labor electorates that have state of the art mobile coverage. Regardless of electorate, I am sure all Australians believe they have a right to use the now common mobile phone. People in my patch have the phones and soon, if we are to believe the Gillard government on this issue, some of them will have access to superfast broadband—yes, they have the phones, it is just that in many areas they do not have the services to use them. One could be excused for calling it a 'Clayton's mobile service'.

A number of people in my patch have to get on the highest point on their property or climb a silo to get reception. This may seem amusing to city folk, but I can tell them it is no way to conduct business or keep in contact with family and friends and it is no way for the people in my patch to report an emergency to the appropriate emergency services.

This Labor government has ignored the Sinclair Review into regional telecommunications. It has ignored the fact that mobile phone coverage is the No. 1 telecommunications issue in regional Australia. It has ignored the fact that the review recommended the government introduce a co-investment program with state and local government to improve mobile coverage. Tired of just slapping regional Australians in the face, this government with its city-centric views has given regional Australians an upper cut. This Labor government has decided not to fund any new program until the NBN fixed wireless network is completed in 2015 at the earliest, if we can believe the government this time.

Back when Australia was a better place to live—free of a mining tax, free of a carbon tax and the 'you think it, we tax it attitude' of this government—yes, back in the good old days when the coalition was in power we spent about $145 million between 2001 and 2007 to improve mobile coverage. We implemented the $15.65 million Extended Mobile Phone Coverage in Regional Australia program, which improved CDMA coverage in 62 locations. We also funded the Towns Over 500 program, which improved mobile coverage for 131 towns in regional Australia with populations of more than 500 people. We funded the $25 million Mobile Phones on Highways program to improve coverage along major Australian highways and we funded the $19 million Mobile Phones on Regional Highways initiative. We also implemented a significant number of small projects worth more than $10 million through the Networking the Nation initiative.

Since 2008, the government has done nothing to improve mobile phone coverage in regional Australia. I am quite sure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have heard of Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef, a must-see destination in my patch for state, national and international tourists. On the west side of North West Cape, in behind the range there is no mobile service. People spend their holidays snorkelling, kayaking and dangling a line from a tinny. It is an idyllic setting for singles, honeymooners and families. A number of lives have been lost in this area, and I wonder just how many may have been saved had there been adequate mobile service to contact authorities.

For the cost of rolling out the NBN network in one week, many lives might have been saved. The Gillard Labor government needs to know duplicating broadband services in metropolitan areas is simply not good enough. (Time expired)