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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1050

Rural and Regional Services

Mr O'DOWD (FlynnDeputy Nationals Whip) (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government. Will the minister update the House on how the government is delivering on its commitment to create jobs, boost the economy and productivity, improve digital connectivity and support drought-affected farmers and communities in regional Australia?

Mr COULTON (ParkesMinister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Trade and Investment Minister) (14:47): I would like to thank the member for Flynn for his question. I know how important regional connectivity is to him and his electorate. This government is committed to supporting Australians through adversity. The member would well know the challenges being faced by many communities across Australia. We are focused on delivering better connectivity for the people in our communities to grow their businesses, employ more people, stay connected with their family and friends, and respond to emergency situations.

I can confirm that the base station in Maroondan, in the southern end of the member for Flynn's electorate, was recently switched on to provide improved coverage for the communities in the area, such as Gin Gin. This tower is further evidence of the member for Flynn's record of delivering for his constituents, with 22 base stations now reducing blackspots in his electorate. It's also evidence of this government's continued and wide-ranging support of drought-affected communities, like Gin Gin, through infrastructure investment throughout those communities.

As well as direct financial support, these communities need a way to communicate, share stories and be connected to the services that they need. It is thanks to the government's $380 million Mobile Black Spot Program that more regions like Maroondan are being provided with better mobile coverage. The member for Page and his constituents would also know the benefits that the Mobile Black Spot Program is providing, with a tower at Yorklea, just near Casino, switched on only this week. The record investment has funded 1,047 towers across all corners of the country, with more than 740 already on air and delivering their coverage. With a base station in his electorate turned on just yesterday, the member for Wide Bay, as a former police officer, would be pleased to know that having these towers on air has enabled more than 25,000 triple 0 calls to be made. More towers make more of these life-saving calls possible.

And we're not done yet. Round 5 of the program is currently open so we can continue to forge ahead with our commitment to improve rural connectivity. We're committed to providing those who choose to live and run businesses in the regions with the same coverage as their city counterparts. That's why the Liberal-National government is building new phone towers across the country, while those on the other side have built none. There has been some talk on the other side about dates and time frames. I'd like to give the members opposite a date and a time frame. How about we try February 2008? I know what the view's like from that side of the chamber, because I was sitting there. It was the week I made my first speech in parliament. It was also the week that the legislation was introduced to remove the $2.4 billion black spot— (Time expired)