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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13964

Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (11:07): With the switch to full digital television services in 2012, many of my communities have been struggling to get decent television reception. The co-channel interference from out-of-area signals affects viewers who receive their broadcast from the Mount Sugarloaf site. This interference is dependent on weather conditions and is more prevalent during the spring and summer months. The interference can range from annoying minor signal video or audio break-up to complete signal loss. These have been three long, hot summers for people with limited or no television reception during our Ashes tests, the tennis or the golf.

In March 2013 I wrote to Malcolm Turnbull, the then shadow minister and former minister for communications, regarding this matter. It was to forewarn him of the mammoth task ahead facing an elected Abbott government, because the then Labor minister for communications, Stephen Conroy, refused to acknowledge or act on the issue. Soon after the 2013 election I contacted all Hunter television network bosses to meet, as a matter of urgency, to work towards better service delivery throughout my electorate.

In late 2013 I met with regional Broadcast Australia representatives to discuss digital television in my electorate. A plan was proposed by the regional broadcasters to install new retransmission facilities at Wallaroo Forest to service the Medowie, Salt Ash and Tilligerry area and Nerong, which was later changed to Bulahdelah to cover more households, and to upgrade the Gan Gan tower on the Tomaree Peninsula. This was called phase 1. Phase 2 included moving the current Stroud Tower to Pepper Mountain to better service the Stroud district and upgrading transmitters at Dungog. I have also asked them to investigate the co-location of new commercial broadcast retransmission units at Vacy to service the Paterson, Vacy and Gresford district. After four years of lobbying by me, in August this year I announced more than $450,000—which is more than half of the total funding package of $827,690—to improve television transmission services over the three sites.

In phase 1, close to 25,000 people will benefit from the improved transmission at Port Stephens, Bulahdelah and Wallaroo, servicing Medowie, Salt Ash and the lower Tilligerry Peninsula. As NBN Television is the lead regional broadcaster in my electorate, they are preforming the installation of the upgrades and the new infrastructure. Almost three years to the date since analogue was switched off in my electorate, the first stage of Phase 1 upgrade has begun.

Last Friday, the Gan Gan Tower was switched off from 9am to 3pm for the first of the upgrades. The switch-off during the day was required for safety reasons as the technicians had to physically climb the tower to preform the upgrade. I note the technicians from NBN Television preformed this upgrade in 40 degree heat. On behalf of my constituents I want to express my appreciations to those technicians.

There will be another upgrade of this tower during the week of 7 December. I am advised by NBN Television that this will only require an overnight outage of signal. Tomorrow the new tower at Wallaroo will be installed. As I said, this is designed to service the Medowie, Salt Ash and Tilligerry areas. Signal testing will begin next week. Its prudent to remind residents not to manually retune their television sets just yet, but rather wait until the testing has been continued on both Gan Gan and Wallaroo towers, which is likely to be around mid-December. NBN will be holding local antenna installers meetings to inform the installers on how these two new towers are to be maximised to get the best reception for our residents.

The last stage of Phase 1 is the new tower at Bulahdelah. Since the analogue switch-off residence in Bulahdelah have been the worst affect area, with virtually no television reception since the digital conversion. I am advised the Bulahdelah tower should be ready for testing in late January. However, there is much more work to be done and negations are to be completed with the broadcasters for completion of Phase 2 for the Stroud area, Dungog and Vacy. They were all part of the broadcaster's original plans and I will hold the broadcasters to their commitments to the upgrades in these areas because my constituents deserve no less.