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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9365

Telecommunications


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Minister for the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Turnbull government is delivering much-needed mobile coverage to rural and regional Australia?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (14:58): Thank you, Senator McKenzie, for your question and for your ceaseless advocacy for regional Australia. I am very pleased to advise colleagues that the government is delivering on its commitment to improve mobile coverage in 106 priority locations around the country. The government's commitment to regional Australia will ensure that communities have better access to wider and more reliable mobile phone coverage.

The recently announced tender process for the priority locations round of the Mobile Black Spot Program will deliver improved mobile services via an additional 106 mobile phone towers. This is on top of the 765 mobile towers already being delivered by the government. If we want to see our regions continue to grow, we know that they've got to have the best communications possible. Reliable communications and mobile telephony are things that people take for granted these days. They are important for business, important for customers and important for families and are particularly important at times of emergency and natural disaster. That's why as a government we have invested $220 million into the Mobile Black Spot Program. It's also worth noting that this investment has unlocked a funding pool worth more than $650 million from the private sector and governments—federal, state, territory and local—to improve mobile coverage in the regions. It's important to recognise that this is the most significant one-time increase of mobile network coverage to regional and remote Australia delivered by a single public funding program in the history of mobile communications.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, a supplementary question.



Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:00): Can the minister update the Senate on how this will help residents, specifically in New South Wales?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (15:00): I acknowledge that Senator McKenzie takes an interest in things across the border from Victoria, in New South Wales. New South Wales will receive 211 mobile towers to deliver critical services to regional areas. These will provide new handheld coverage to thousands of homes and businesses; that wouldn't have been the case under our predecessors. I might make a brief reference to the electorate of New England, which is an example of the success of the program. Under rounds 1 and 2 of the program New England has 33 towers being rolled out. Ten of these are already switched on and providing a much-needed boost to mobile coverage, and a further seven towers in New England are expected to go live by March next year. To date, a total of 319 mobile base stations have been switched on across the country—that's a new mobile tower every three days.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie. a final supplementary question?



Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:01): Is the minister aware of any risks to mobile phone coverage for regional Australians?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (15:01): Unfortunately, I am. It is those colleagues who sit opposite us. Despite being in office for six years, our colleagues across the way didn't invest a single dollar. I am very pleased to advise colleagues that under the coalition we have invested $220 million in this program, compared to zero by those opposite. I am very pleased to say that we are supporting the establishment of 871 towers, compared to zero by those opposite.

This is a program that is warmly embraced by regional Australia. We do hear colleagues slinging off at it occasionally, but I would like to reference Dr Mike Kelly, the member for a seat near this place, who stated that the Mobile Black Spot Program is an important investment and it is good for rural and regional Australia. Well said, Mike.

Senator Brandis: I ask that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper.