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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1766

Ms HENDERSON ( Corangamite ) ( 12:37 ): I second the motion. I rise to speak on this motion before the chamber today. I want to start by saying that it was the coalition government, the federal government, as recognised by the member for Indi, that has made this very significant $100 million commitment that we are rolling out. We are incredibly proud that we have recognised the importance of mobile phone communications across rural and regional Australia. Like the member for Indi, I represent a large regional seat. One hundred and thirty-six black spots have been identified in the federal electorate of Corangamite and have been registered with the Department of Communications. We know how important it is for small businesses, for farmers and for families to feel connected, particularly in areas of high bushfire risk. There are many parts of my electorate where there are high bushfire risk areas, and being connected by your mobile phone is so important.

I do commend the member for Indi for bringing on this motion today, but I would like to say that the coalition government is the best friend of the people of Indi. The coalition government is the best friend of rural and regional Australia because, in contrast to our $100 million program, the previous Labor government, over six years, did not contribute one cent—not one cent—to fixing mobile phone black spots. In my first speech, I proudly stood up on behalf of the people of Dereel and I spoke about how that community in my electorate was ravaged by a bushfire early in 2013. They were hampered because they had no communications. The telephone lines were down, and they could not get the emergency alerts. I went in and I vowed to fight for them, and I vowed to fight for the people of Birregurra, the people of Gellibrand and every other community in my electorate.

I agree with the member for Indi. I would like to see more funding in this program because it is a wonderful program. I have already been lobbying the Minister for Communications in relation to more funding. Quite frankly, it is a terrible reflection on Labor that they have not recognised how important mobile phone communications is. It is like the NBN rollout under Labor—an utter disaster. The previous Labor federal government did not recognise that it must prioritise areas that need communications the most. Like the NBN, like food labelling, like standing up for small business, we are working very hard to stand up for rural and regional communities across Australia. It is like the fight for fairer fuel prices—another fight that you did not hear about under the previous government. These are big challenges, as the member for Indi has recognised, but I want to say that, of the 6,000 mobile phone black spots that have been identified, around 4,500 are sufficiently close to other nominated locations such that it is likely that one base station will be able to provide mobile phone coverage to a number of black spots. This is very, very heartening.

I also commend the minister's work in relation to identifying the partnerships, the co-contributions. In my electorate, I particularly want to commend the Golden Plains Shire, which has put forward a proposal in relation to a co-contribution. I have called on the Colac Otway Shire to do that as well. I would like to see more action from the City of Greater Geelong towards making a co-contribution, whether in dollars or in kind. Even places like Armstrong Creek are part of the great development that is occurring in the Greater Geelong region. Many people living in Armstrong Creek cannot get mobile phone coverage. For the people of Birregurra, Dereel, Gellibrand and all the other parts of my electorate and right across Australia, we are incredibly proud of our commitment.

Yes, I too would like to see more funding. In fact, I am so determined about it that on a recent visit by the Prime Minister to my electorate I said that we must stop at Birregurra. We dropped into the Birregurra general store where they serve a wonderful toasted sandwich and a great cup of coffee. I said: 'Prime Minister, I am bringing you here to Birregurra because the people of Birregurra need a mobile phone base station. They cannot do business in this wonderful part of the world unless they get the communications.' I am very proud of our government's commitment to this wonderful program. I support the motion, and I condemn Labor for its absolute failure to invest in mobile phone communications.