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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12579

Mr COULTON ( Parkes The Nationals Chief Whip ) ( 09 : 3 0 ): Telecommunications in 2011 should be seen as one of the basic tenets of life. It should be seen as something that is available to all Australians. Indeed a mobile phone is the first point of call for most people, and in many places people have done away with their landlines and are operating completely on mobile phones. In my electorate I have several communities that have no mobile phone access at all, which is a great frustration.

I want to talk about the village of Goolma. Goolma is a small farming village located on a very busy road between Mudgee and Wellington, and with increased mining in the area that road is becoming busier. That entire area has no mobile telecommunications service. We are talking of going into a broadband network, but that area will miss out on broadband because in regional Australia broadband will be delivered by wireless technology. If they do not have a phone tower in the first place, they will not get that broadband technology. So this will have an impact not only on the people living there but also on people travelling through. It will also have an impact on safety. I met recently with representatives from the local council, emergency services, Telstra and the local mine to try to get a plan together to get phone coverage there. Telstra tells me that it will cost about half a million dollars to put in a tower, the road and the power to the tower.

In 2007, the Howard government had the Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund, in which funds were put aside specifically for cases such as Goolma. The first thing that the Rudd government did was raid that fund, and it no longer exists. As it is now, the residents of Goolma are expected to fund their own telecommunications tower. I ask members in this place who live in metropolitan areas whether their constituents would be expected to fund their own mobile phone tower. Would their residents be expected to go without any internet connection? Would their constituents who might have a car accident as they were driving around expect to be able to ring 000? The reality is that telecommunications is not a luxury; it is considered a basic necessity of life. I will do whatever it takes to make sure that the people in my electorate, particularly the people in villages such as Goolma, get what the rest of Australia takes for granted.