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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1725


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (21:05): I wish to bring to the House's attention to some telecommunication issues in the electorate of Canning. Specifically I would like to address two areas—mobile phone coverage and port availability. For the benefit of the House, Canning covers a vast area of over 6000 square kilometres, made up of outer-metropolitan suburbs as well as some semi-rural areas. Like the electorates of members on both sides, my electorate boasts a wide range of industries and business types, including mining, mixed agricultural and retail. Canning is also home to over 150,000 people, and the northern part of my electorate is among the fastest growing regions in the country. One of the things residents and businesses of Canning most certainly have in common is a need for access to adequate mobile phone coverage and superfast broadband.

One thing members opposite know nothing about is what it is like to be part of a government that boasts an effective communications minister, who is dedicated to delivering real results in real time. Not surprisingly, under the previous government, very little funding was provided to keep improving Australia's mobile phone coverage in the outer metropolitan region and the remote communities in electorates like Canning. After all, it was the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd who abolished the coalition's $2.4 billion Communications Fund and squandered the money held in reserve to pay for further upgrades of telecommunications in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia. And then there was Labor's shambolic approach to the NBN, which Minister Turnbull most accurately described as an 'arthritic snail' when it was at the mercy of the former communications minister, Senator Conroy. The fact of the matter is that, after three years, Labor's NBN was already two years behind schedule. The cost, as we now know, was going to skyrocket to $79 billion—$29 billion more than Labor promised it would cost.

But was any of this their fault? Of course, it was not. Senator Conroy was quick to pass the buck and attempt to blame to NBN contractors for the delays. Frankly, Labor's unmitigated NBN disaster can be attributed wholly and solely to members opposite who chose to treat the initiative like a political football. As we know, Labor did not even have the forethought to run a basic cost-benefit analysis on the NBN, and thus the project was undertaken without a basic understanding of the availability of broadband.

As a member representing a vast electorate such as Canning, I know that the availability of broadband is incredibly important to the constituents in an electorate like mine—constituents like Sharon Hunt, a single mother living in the electorate with high school-age children. Not only does Ms Hunt rely on quality internet services to aid the education of her children but she also runs a small business from home. Unfortunately, Ms Hunt's area has been plagued with ADSL port availability issues, and Telstra have been unwilling to come to the party—which is unusual, because they are generally good. Thankfully, Ms Hunt can be reassured that we on this side understand the importance of access to superfast broadband and are working hard to ensure that the worst served areas in Australia in electorates such as mine are prioritised. We have already seen this in areas such as Mandurah, and more recently in Barragup and Furnissdale, where work on the NBN is set to begin in the coming weeks.

I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight difficulties being faced by a second constituent, Mr Jon Yovich, who lives in the north of my electorate. Mr Yovich's property is approximately 36 kilometres south of Perth CBD, yet he is unable to get adequate phone coverage. Perhaps if members opposite had not abolished the coalition's $2.4 billion Communications Fund, areas like Mr Yovich's would not have been overlooked for desperately needed base station upgrades. In fact I continually hear of cases similar to Mr Yovich's when I travel throughout the electorate and speak to my constituents. He has to go out on his back lawn to even use his phone. I have constituents in situations where lives can quite literally depend on access to mobile phone coverage.

Thankfully, I am now in a position where I can say to the residents of Canning that the coalition government is now making a huge difference. The Mobile Black Spot Program will see $100 million committed over four years to improve mobile phone coverage in the areas that need it most, such as in Karnup and areas where bushfires are a huge issue and they need mobile phones.

The last coalition government, the Howard government, made the elimination of mobile phone black spots a national priority, and so has this government. I sincerely thank the Minister for Communications, the member for Wentworth, and the member for Bradfield for their commitment to this—for doing something that Labor did not even try to do. This is about to change. I want to see this implemented, because we have the opportunity to make a difference to people's internet and telecommunications issues.