TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. MITCH FIFIELD,
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND
LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR INDI, MS SOPHIE MIRABELLA
INDIGO VALLEY CFA, VICTORIA
Subjects: Mobile Black Spot Programme
It’s great to have the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, here in the Indigo Valley. He’ll be visiting the Alpine Shire and the City of Wangaratta as well, to get a firsthand experience about the challenges we have with mobile phone coverage and I’ve been speaking with the Minister over many months, prioritising areas, and here in the Indigo Valley, where we’ve had disastrous fires, is one of those priority areas. It’s great to have the Mayor and representatives from the CFA as well, and it is wonderful news that the Prime Minister announced a couple of days ago, to extend another round, Round 3, for mobile phone black spots. And just two days later, we have the Minister here, getting an earful from us about how important it is to continue to invest in areas like Indi. So, I’ll ask Mitch.
Thanks. It’s great to be here my good friend and colleague, Sophie Mirabella, and also with the Mayor. One of the really important underpinnings of the transition to a stronger new economy is good telecommunications, making sure that our communities can stay in touch with each other and that business can be in touch with their customers. But also importantly, that people at times of emergency and natural disasters, are able to connect the way that they need to.
One of the really regrettable things under the six years of the previous Labor Government is that they didn’t spend a single dollar on mobile black spots. So when we came into government, we had to make up for some lost time, and Sophie Mirabella was a very passionate advocate of the need for a Mobile Black Spot Programme. That while the mobile network covers something in the order of 90 per cent of Australian population; it only covers about 33 per cent of the land mass. So there are black spots and we do need a programme to address those, and the first round of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, nationwide, there were 499 new base stations, which covered half of the 6000 community nominated black spots nationwide. In Indi, as a result of Sophie’s advocacy for this programme, the electorate was successful in having 30 new mobile base stations; the first two of which will shortly be completed.
We knew we had more to do, so we announced that a second round of the programme, with $60 million, and earlier this week the Prime Minister announced an additional $60 million for a third round of the programme. This is just so important in regional areas.
Will that be enough? Will more need to still be done after the third round? And will it be done ahead of the next bushfire season?
Well, we have allocated in total $220 million. Now the way the first programme worked is that the initial $100 million was leveraged into $385 million, so for each dollar of Commonwealth money, we’re able to elicit a further three dollars. So we’re getting a really good effect with this programme. So we’ve announced Rounds One, Rounds Two and Rounds Three and look, we’ll play it by ear from there, but these three rounds will make a huge impact in addressing the community nominated mobile phone black spots.
And I guess you’ve heard firsthand here today from one of the members, just about the impact that it has had locally, any thoughts on that?
It’s just so important, in times of emergency, in times of bushfire, that people have reliable communications. It’s something we all take for granted; it’s something that we should be able to take for granted. And the Mobile Black Spot Programme, of which Sophie has just been such a keen advocate, will go a long way to making sure that we have better coverage in times of emergency.
And I understand you’re heading off to Myrtleford this afternoon, what’s happening up there and what will you be doing?
We just having similar meetings with local government, local businesses, representatives from the CFA and that will be discussing mobile phone black spot problems in the Alpine Shire and then we’ll be going up into the Wangaratta Shire.
And the same thing happening in Wangaratta?
Yeah, down in the King Valley. There are obviously issues there, it’s a big tourist destination, and for our local businesses to grow, for our communities to feel safe, it’s really important that we ramp up connectivity. And one of the ways of doing that is to take the Minster there, so he can speak with business people firsthand, and really appreciate those challenges. So I’m really grateful that Mitch has come to see us, and we’ll be travelling through many mobile phone black spots. So it’ll be good day for the North East to have a direct voice to the Government.
And dropped out of service at all since you’ve been here today?
On the way here, yeah. For last 10km or so, things we pretty patchy.
Anything else? Wonderful.
Thanks very much.