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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3748

Telecommunications


Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Regional Communications—

An opposition senator interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Martin, please pause. I've asked for silence during questions so that I may hear them effectively.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Can people take a breath, please, when I call for order. Senator Martin.

Senator MARTIN: My question is to the Minister for Regional Communications, Senator McKenzie. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government is delivering better mobile coverage to many parts of rural and regional Australia?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Before I call Senator McKenzie, I just asked senators to remain silent during the question. There were numerous senators interjecting, so I'm not going to name them all. Please allow other senators the courtesy of hearing the question. We've had numerous complaints from the far end of the chamber consistently over question time. Senator McKenzie.






Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:17): Thank you, Senator Martin, for your question and for your long commitment and advocacy for regional Tasmania. It's great to have you as part of the National Party team.

The coalition's Mobile Black Spot Program is delivering better access to wider, more reliable mobile phone coverage in regional, rural and remote Australia. We've invested $220 million in this program, in contrast—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator McKENZIE: There's a lot of noise! This is in contrast to those opposite, who are yet to deliver one mobile base station in rural and regional Australia or commit one single dollar to improving rural and regional telecommunications infrastructure across regional Australia, including in your home state, Senator Martin, of Tasmania. In fact Vodafone has just switched on its base station in Hamilton in the seat of Lyons. It's one of 26 base stations for that electorate. This has only been possible because of the coalition's committing to deliver that program.

I'm very pleased to advise senators that the coalition government is delivering on its commitment to improve mobile phone coverage with an additional $25 million in a fourth round of the program. In fact I was down in Braddon with you, Senator Martin, and the fabulous Liberal candidate, Brett Whiteley, making that announcement in Melrose. The fourth round will see coverage expanded further, with a focus on driving improved outcomes for regional businesses, residents, tourism, health, education and emergency services.

If we want to see our regions grow and compete, we know they've got to have the telecommunications infrastructure to support and enable them to do so. They're important. We're the only ones committed to doing that. They're important for customers, local families, emergency service provision and local businesses. We do not resile from our commitment to ensure that those in the regions have the telecommunications infrastructure that they need and deserve, just like those in the city.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Martin, a supplementary question.




Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (14:19): Can the minister update the Senate as to how the Mobile Black Spot Program has benefited rural and regional Australians, specifically in my home state of Tasmania?

Senator O'Sullivan: I bet she can.



Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:19): Thank you, Senator O'Sullivan. Yes, I can. In Tasmania, the coalition has been able to leverage our investment to see over $31½ million addressing mobile blackspots right across regional Tasmania. Forty-four new base stations will be built in your home state, Senator Martin, which will see over 2,650 homes getting new mobile phone coverage—as opposed to those opposite, who, I say again, achieved zero. Only the coalition is delivering for Tasmanians.

I often hear from those opposite: 'You're only investing in coalition seats. Why aren't you putting up base stations in Labor seats?' Let's actually look at the facts. A local example in your home state is Prickly Mo's owner, Tim Lynch, a viticulturist who has been using this additional mobile phone coverage to grow his local business and connect with suppliers in a way that is ensuring he can employ more locals, which is why we're actually doing it. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Martin, a final supplementary question.



Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (14:20): Is the minister aware of any risks to mobile phone coverage for regional Australians?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaMinister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport, Minister for Regional Communications and Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (14:20): Yes, I actually am. The greatest risk is the election of a Bill Shorten Labor Party government. The contrast could not be starker. We have a strong record of delivering the critical, regional telecommunications infrastructure that rural and regional Australians need and deserve not just to be safe but to actually grow their businesses and connect. The single biggest risk is the Labor Party, because it actually has no policy. What is there when you ask the Labor Party: 'How are you going to grow that connectivity for rural and regional Australians and the $63 billion agricultural industry? How are you going to ensure that more regional Australians are employed by growing those businesses?' Silence. If we had the Labor Party investing in rural and regional telecommunications, that is exactly what country Australians would be experiencing: total silence. I want to see more than 1,000 base stations delivered as a result of our investment.