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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 809

Mr BROAD (Mallee) (10:34): Right across the electorate of Mallee we have had a wonderful harvest. There is grain everywhere. We are now harvesting the table grapes. We are harvesting the nectarines. I encourage people to go out to the supermarkets and buy this great grown Australian fruit.

One thing that was evident across the harvest was people's inability to make a mobile phone call. This is a safety issue; this is a tourism issue; this is about people wanting to access data whilst they are trying to sit there and get their harvest off. I have listened to the arguments from Telstra, the arguments from Vodafone, the arguments from Optus—from different sides of the sphere—and I have to say that I do support regulated national roaming. I think that if we are going to look to the future, wherever you are going to travel you should be able to pick up whatever tower there is. Surely to goodness Telstra, Vodafone and Optus can get their heads together and work out how they can share the network rather than double building it right across Australia.

The argument that Telstra puts forward that they have to make a profit in the city, and therefore they are going to build towers in the bush does not ring true. If I look across the electorate of Mallee, which is a third of the state of Victoria, I see they have not built a tower there in four years that has not been subsidised by the Mobile Phone Black Spot Program. Their argument does not ring true, and I think it is time that we ripped the bandaid off. They received $297 million as part of the universal service obligation. This has largely been superseded with the rollout of NBN—where people are not requiring a fixed line to their house any more—and I think that we should take the hundred million dollars that the federal government contributes to the universal service obligation and put that into the Mobile Phone Black Spot Program. Telstra is receiving $44 million for payphones annually—16,800 payphones that are usually vandalised, and are not used anymore because they are antiquated technology.

We have to plan for the future. We have to rip the bandaid off. We have to make sure we are very strict on this—the ACCC is doing an inquiry. Let us make it so that if you are driving down the road and your phone can pick up a Telstra tower it does; if it can pick up an Optus tower it does; if it can pick up a Vodafone tower it does. This is 2017. Surely to goodness we need to be a bit more forward thinking, rather than continue to give Telstra $297 million under the universal service obligation to deliver pretty poor services and pretty expensive data to our regions.