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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 47


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (14:53): My question is to the Prime Minister. Over Christmas, thousands of my constituents endured several days without power, phones or internet after storms damaged electricity infrastructure. In the middle of the fire season, in one of the highest bushfire-risk areas in Australia, we had few to no means of communication, as mobile base station batteries lasted just four hours and, in some areas, our landlines also failed. I understand the downgraded NBN rollout will mean landlines will not work in power outages at all. It is outrageous that, in 2017, telecommunications infrastructure would leave us so vulnerable. Prime Minister, please advise how your government will address this and safeguard telecommunications access, particularly in isolated fire-risk areas such as my electorate of Mayo.

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for her question. Of course, the fundamental problem that her constituents faced was the consequence of the reckless energy policies of the Labor government in South Australia. I would say to the honourable member: the blackouts in South Australia were the consequence of the state's increasing dependence on Victorian power. Let me explain. This is the absurdity of the Labor Party on energy policy. In order to pursue their ideal of having more renewable energy, more green energy and more lower emissions energy, they have closed a baseload coal fired power station in South Australia, the Northern Power Station, and they have closed a gas fired power station as well.

Mr Pyne: Pelican Point.

Mr TURNBULL: At Pelican Point—I thank the minister. They have closed both of those and they have a very heavy reliance, therefore, on wind energy. Windmills produce electricity. I make no criticism of wind energy, but it is intermittent, and what this has done is increase the dependence of South Australia on the interconnector with Victoria—and do you know where that energy from Victoria comes from? Burning brown coal, the most emissions intensive form of generating energy in Australia. This is the absurdity and the hypocrisy of the South Australian approach. You say, 'Yes, we're getting rid of fossil fuel fired sources in South Australia'—

Ms Sharkie: I raise a point of order in relation to relevance, Mr Speaker. My question to the Prime Minister was about telecommunications. It was not about renewable energy; it was about the fact that landlines failed and mobile towers failed.

The SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the member for Mayo—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Those on my right will cease interjecting. I am trying to address the point of order from the member for Mayo.

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield is warned. I listened carefully to the member for Mayo's question and, whilst certainly most of the question was about telecommunications, there was a preamble on power in South Australia. So I am listening closely to the Prime Minister, but he is in order.

Mr TURNBULL: I will conclude, and I say to the honourable member that resilience of telecommunications systems is very important. The government has a mobile phone blackspots program. Remember, in six years of Labor government, not one cent was spent on mobile phone blackspots at all. We have addressed the majority of the notified mobile phone blackspots in Australia, with construction either completed, underway or planned, putting hundreds of millions of dollars to work. There have been fewer mobile phone blackspot towers in South Australia than in other states, and that is because we have looked for co-contributions from states. We have had a very good contribution from Victoria, for example, and an especially good one from Western Australia, but very, very little from South Australia. So, again, in the socialist paradise where the honourable member lives, that is the consequence of failure to invest. Resilience in telecommunications systems is vitally important, but, if the honourable member is concerned about the lights going out in Mayo, that is the consequence of Labor's reckless approach to energy. (Time expired)