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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1090


Mr BROADBENT (Monash) (10:15): Like all parliamentarians, I would like to identify myself in this parliament with the address just given by the previous speaker. There's nobody in this House that is not touched in some way by the scourge of cancer in one way or the other. I acknowledge that there are so many people out there really doing it hard, and I just want you to know this House is with you.

The residents of historic goldmining town of Walhalla are now able to access mobile phone reception for the first time through the 600th mobile phone tower under the Commonwealth government's Mobile Black Spot Program. The mobile coverage will improve communication and emergency services situations, enhance visibility of Walhalla online—I'll go into that in a minute—help grow tourism and local businesses, and make life easier for the town's residents. Team Telstra were great—Loretta Willaton, Nikos Katinakis and Garry Austin—but the great leaders of this were Councillor Michael Leaney and Russell Wright, who have been absolute stalwarts in their determination to get this.

To understand this, tourists these days expect to pay for their coffee online. They expect to pay for their accommodation online. They expect to book their next place online. Tourists go to Walhalla and get nothing. They are in shock. They say: 'What do you mean, we can't pay for our things? We can't access our phones?' We don't even think about accessing communications. You go to a place like Darwin, for instance, and the world responds only on communications that we need. The tourists are forever on their phones, doing what they have to do. Walhalla was completely in another world.

It won't surprise you, Deputy Speaker, but Telstra had some promotional items there to promote themselves. Some of them were those squeeze balls. So I threw all the squeeze balls into the air, and they all landed in front of all the 200 people gathered for this momentous celebration, and we kicked the balls around. It was exactly the same as communication: bouncing off one another, making things better for people and giving opportunities for tourists to come into the place for the first time and still have access back to their families, back to their children and back to what was happening, which people expect these days.

Congratulations, Michael Leaney. You have been a pain in the neck for me for so long. Councillor Michael Leaney has been desperate for this tower for so long. It was a very expensive tower. I thank the government for their intervention in this. It will make a difference when the next bushfire hits Walhalla. It'll make a difference to the next rockfall. It'll make a difference to people who are going up to travel on Tim Fischer's great train ride to Walhalla.