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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3438

Mr RICK WILSON (O'Connor) (10:14): I rise today to table a petition on behalf of Katharine Marsh, a young woman from a farm near Kojonup in my electorate over O'Connor. I know Katharine is watching this morning so hello to Kojonup. Katherine has presented the parliament with a petition of 18,919 signatures regarding triple 0 call access in mobile blackspot areas. She has been campaigning to raise public awareness and lobbying the government to increase mobile blackspot funding such that all Australians can connect to an emergency service in their time of need wherever they may be.

Katherine's campaign arose through her own personal tragedy when her partner, Mick McInnes, died following a quad bike accident last year, leaving her widowed and pregnant. Sadly, the accident occurred in a mobile blackspot area with no triple 0 access. Mick was able to walk away from the accident but Katherine and her family were unable to raise the alarm by mobile in their time of need. The deployment of emergency services was delayed by over 20 minutes. Whether this time frame would have changed the outcome for Mick, no-one will ever know, but I give enormous credit to Katherine and her family for taking up this cause with such passion in their time of loss.

I know they recruited an army of willing volunteers Australia-wide and personally collected signatures from all over O'Connor. They engaged local government authorities from coast to coast and secured support from peak bodies like the Isolated Children's Parents' Association, the WA Farmers Federation and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association.

As I table this petition today, I am pleased to report that the government is responding to the needs of regional Australia with more mobile phone towers. In June 2015, the government committed $100 million for the construction of new and upgraded towers across Australia. A total of 133 out of the 177 nominated mobile phone blackspots in my electorate will be eliminated at a cost of $53.4 million. The $60 million round 2 will be announced imminently, and during this year's election campaign the prime minister committed another $60 million for a third round. In addition, I will be urging the government to look at innovative solutions where private operators can tap into the backhaul of existing infrastructure to provide micronetworks that will deliver mobile phone and data service to areas that fall outside of the current commercial network coverage.

As a farmer living in a mobile blackspot area myself, I would welcome a reliable mobile phone service for safety and farming operations.

I conclude with optimism that, together, government and business using evolving technologies will provide mobile phone connectivity for all Australians. In tabling this petition I commend Katharine Marsh for her dedication to making sure that every Australian has 000 phone access regardless of their location.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives this petition of mobile phone owning citizens of Australia draws the attention of the House the issue of mobile phone black spots and their implications on access to emergency services. There are over 6000 nominated mobile phone black spots throughout Australia, including near capital cities, along major highways and transport routes and in whole towns and villages. Where there is a black spot there is no mobile network coverage and one cannot dial ‘000’ to access emergency services. Alternative numbers such as ‘112’ cannot access emergency services in a black spot area and mobile phones do not utilise satellite network coverage. Ultimately if you are faced with a life-threatening emergency and are in a mobile black spot area you will not be able to obtain emergency assistance. Delays in seeking emergency assistance could be the difference between life and death. The technology exists to eradicate mobile phone black spots. - it is simply a matter of further funding. In 2016, we feel that citizens of Australia should be secure in the knowledge that they will be able to access emergency services no matter where they are located. We feel that a phone call that could save a life is of far greater importance than high speed internet connection.

We therefore ask the House to consider further funding for the improvement of mobile phone black spots and commit to a deadline by which all identified mobile black spots will receive mobile coverage.

from 15,441 citizens.

Petition received.