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Coalition commits to more funding to fix mobile phone black spot -

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ELEANOR HALL: But first, ask any Australian living outside a major city about their biggest frustration and dodgy mobile phone reception is sure to be high on the list.

An absent phone signal costs time and money for rural businesses and can be deadly in a medical emergency.

Today, the Coalition promised to spend another $60 million to tackle the black spots in rural and regional areas, and while residents are welcoming that, there's still plenty of scepticism about political promises.

Anna Vidot has more.

ANNA VIDOT: For Mia Degoumois, dodgy phone coverage isn't just an inconvenience, it can be life threatening.

MIA DEGOUMOIS: Yeah, we've had a helicopter accident and that took a long time to get help and most of that was because of communication problems. A young fella lost his arm not too long ago and he could have got help a lot quicker had he been able to call.

ANNA VIDOT: The SES controller and volunteer ambulance officer owns and runs Packsaddle Roadhouse, about half way between Broken Hill and Tibooburra, in far western New South Wales.

MIA DEGOUMOIS: You get to somewhere and it's just hard getting information back, trying to onto local graziers and stuff and relay messages via UHF.

ANNA VIDOT: Rural and regional communities routinely name mobile phone black spots as one of the biggest issues affecting their lives.

More than 6,000 black spots were identified in national survey in 2014, but others claim that number is more like 10,000 today.

The Coalition has previously allocated $160 million to address about 3,000 black spots by building new towers and base stations and upgrading old ones and working with state and local governments, and the telcos to do that.

Today, in the Liberal-held marginal seat of Corangamite in Victoria, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a re-elected Coalition would spend even more on its mobile black spot program.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: A third round of $60 million, which will bring the total commitment to $220 million. That is going to address another 900 black spots and right here in Corangamite, we're looking at four locations here at Anglesea, at Aireys Inlet, at Bell Bay and at Birregurra.

ANNA VIDOT: Georgie Somerset, the chair of the telecommunications committee for Queensland farm lobby group Agforce says it's a welcome move.

GEORGIE SOMERSET: For the $100 million we got 499 stations identified as being built or upgraded so one would hope that we'd be looking at 300 at least under the $60 million that's being announced today.

This is a really significant issue. It's not just, you know, it's nice to have coverage. This is actually a sort of health and safety issue around transport corridors, but it's also a business and an economic driver.

So there are opportunities and telemetry and big data things that we're struggling to access in agriculture because we don't have the mobile connectiveness.

ANNA VIDOT: Labor has criticised the Government for being slow to roll out its black spot projects, and Labor claims, for prioritising projects in Coalition-held electorates.

But Labor hasn't yet unveiled its own plan for dealing with black spots.

Georgie Somerset is calling on Labor to commit to funds.

GEORGIE SOMERSET: Oh, absolutely we're looking for, you know, the same announcement and I mean if they'd like to provide more, we'd really welcome that. We think that this is a bipartisan program that really requires support from both sides of politics.

ANNA VIDOT: While some have welcomed today’s announcement, others are more sceptical.

IAN HASTINGS: I think the words that went along with that announcement just show an absolutely complete lack of understanding of what's required out in areas other than suburbia.

ANNA VIDOT: Ian Hastings is a grain farmer at Ouyen in western Victoria's Mallee.

IAN HASTINGS: Talking about transport corridors, places for bushfires, which is a once in five or 10 year event, and small communities.

Hang on a minute - the country is made up of rural agricultural businesses and we're struggling to get internet services on our farms and all sorts of things and they can't even understand or recognise the importance of that.

ANNA VIDOT: And Ian Hastings is deeply cynical that the Prime Minister made today's announcement in a Victorian marginal seat, held by the Liberals.

IAN HASTINGS: I'm afraid it just makes me so cynical it's unbelievable. I mean, for God's sake, get out into the other areas, Mr Prime Minister, and have a look at how the rest of Australia operates.

ANNA VIDOT: Back in Broken Hill, Mia Degoumois welcomed the news that the Coalition would keep spending to fix phone coverage.

But she, and her community, aren't holding their breath that they'll benefit any time soon.

MIA DEGOUMOIS: Ah, well, we'd hope that it would come out this far. We’ll sort of believe it when we see it, I guess.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Mia Degoumois, a volunteer ambulance officer in far western New South Wales, ending Anna Vidot's report.