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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 31182


Mr NEVILLE (9:55 AM) —I want to talk about mobile telephony. It is of critical importance to people in my electorate of Hinkler. Although 96 per cent of people are covered in their homes by GSM digital and 97 per cent by CDMA, we have to look at those who do not have it and make sure that people on their farms, out on their trawlers and other fishing boats and on highways have reliable service to their families, to their communities and to their business contacts. The previous government left us with an enormous black hole—not just the $10 billion budget deficit, but the mobile telephony black hole—when they contracted to turn off the analog network on 31 December 1999. Since then we have made sure that Telstra rolled out the CDMA network to replace the analog network, and quite frankly the area covered in the initial 15 months was quite exceptional. We must now particularise, for family reasons, for business reasons and, more particularly, for safety reasons, those areas which do not have coverage.

In 1997 the government introduced the five-year $250 million Networking the Nation program to improve telecommunication infrastructure and services in regional Australia. Among the over 600 projects funded by the program, $32 million was allocated to 88 mobile phone projects throughout the country. Under this project my electorate had considerable success with $199,000 for Agnes Waters through the Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund. We have finally ironed out the problems with CDMA coverage in Childers, allowing people there to get much better reception. The $25 million Mobile Phones on Highways program will ensure continuous mobile coverage on 9,425 kilometres of Australia's major highways. Vodaphone has been selected as the successful tenderer and has begun to work on the roll-out. The network should be completed by mid 2002.

In addition to this, a further $37.7 million from the $163 million TSI package announced in May 2001 will be used to improve mobile coverage for towns with a population of 500 and above. Initially no towns in my electorate were represented on this list but I am now happy to confirm that Moore Park and Woodgate will be included. These coastal communities, with populations of well over 500 and which are growing rapidly, had previously been excluded because they had been assessed under the 1996 census. I am pleased to announce that they have been reassessed because of their rapid growth and now will have access. This inclusion has been a victory for commonsense.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A the time for members' statements has concluded.