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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1391

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (10:18): In October last year in this place, I talked about the unacceptable state of telecommunications in rural parts of my electorate. I would like to say that mobile phone coverage is better, but I cannot. In 2015 this government announced round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, and Moore and Somerset Dam in my electorate were two of the 499 new and upgraded mobile bases. The Australian National Audit Office and the Productivity Commission have heavily criticised this particular $220 million program. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the new locations for the mobile phone towers are located in National Party and Liberal Party seats. Twenty five per cent of the new mobile phone towers funded in round 1 provided no new or extended coverage. Sadly, this is the case in my electorate.

In Moore, in the upper northern part of my electorate, recently during a mobile office I was consulted by constituents over the lack of mobile phone coverage. In spite of the fact that a new tower was announced in 2015, the Telstra map indicates that work on the Moore tower will not begin until the second quarter of 2017, while the tower at the Somerset Dam will not begin until the fourth quarter. Mobile coverage is not a luxury in Moore or in Somerset Dam. Those parts of my electorate were cut off during the floods in 2011. The floods caused road damage and landlines were washed away, leaving no telecommunications at all. This was exacerbated by the severity of the floods, which impacted on housing in these communities.

At the most recent mobile office I conducted in Moore, the owner of Kai Lounge, the local cafe where I met constituents, Allison Stone, commonly known as Ally, shared her heartbreaking story from that time. She wrote the story down and shared it with me. She said as follows:

During the 2011 floods our little town was cut off from electricity and landline phones, as well as any possible road access in any direction.

I had a baby boy in the Royal Brisbane Woman's Hospital who I was expressing milk for on a regular basis and taking to him (about a 300km round trip).

As I was unable to leave the town for about 11 days and we had no landline phone, having the mobile phone capability would have been invaluable, to let the hospital know I was unable to get there, and check on the progress of my little boy.

As you can imagine this was a very distressing time as my baby was critically ill and sadly did not survive.

Being able to make contact via mobile phone would have eased my stress during that time.

Please know I am not meaning this as a whinge; I am so grateful to live in this country, and thankful for everything we have here.

I just wanted to share my experience with you in the hopes mobile phone coverage can be completed in remote areas sooner rather than later.

The government should do much better than this mismanagement of this particular program, which has affected Ally so much.