24 June 2016
NSW MINISTER, ANDREW CONSTANCE,
MEMBER FOR DOBELL, KAREN McNAMARA AND
MEMBER FOR ROBERTSON, LUCY WICKS
Subjects: Continuous mobile coverage for Central Coast commuters, free wi-fi at stations, Mobile Black Spots, Telstra Outages, nbn.
Well, it’s great to be here with Karen McNamara, Lucy Wicks and Andrew Constance with some great news for commuters on the Central Coast. One of the important underpinnings for the transition to a strong new economy, is good telecommunications and good connectivity.
For those of us who live in the capital cities, we can take good connectivity, good mobile coverage, for granted. But when you’re one of the 30,000 commuters from the Central Coast who spend a lot of time on the train, it can be frustrating when you have mobile phone dropouts.
So I’m very pleased to be able to announce today that a re-elected Turnbull Government will commit $12 million to ensure that there is continuous mobile coverage from Wyong through to Hornsby. And also, that there’s free Wi-Fi on the stations in between. This is important for families to stay in touch with each other. It’s also important for those who are commuting, who are in business, to stay in touch with the office, and to stay in touch with their customers. So this is very good news for the commuters on the Central Coast. And I’ll ask Andrew Constance to say a few words.
Well first of all, can I say how great it is to have Mitch in NSW. It’s always a joy to have him here. And I know, certainly in terms of Lucy and Karen, that it’s great to support you. The State Government is pleased to be working so closely with the Commonwealth Government on this initiative. This is a major announcement for the 30,000 commuters. It does mean that the train ride becomes a more technological experience and it’s great that the Commonwealth is making this commitment. It’s a $16 million program which is going to be able to extend mobile coverage from here to Hornsby. There’s going to be free Wi-Fi access on the train platforms, and then of course mobile phone reception on the trains. This is great news for Central Coast commuters, there’s nothing worse than being in a blackspot. I know this is part of the frustration, and it’s tremendous that the Commonwealth, through Minister Fifield, are going to be able to deliver a great outcome for Central Coast commuters.
We were here at 5am this morning talking with commuters: very well received. The issue we’ve had here on the Central Coast is, of course, the amount of people who are commuting by train. But as that connectivity with back here on the coast with their families. But specifically once you leave Woy Woy and travel through to Cowan you have no reception whatsoever. So it’s great news that a re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will deliver proper infrastructure and also telecommunications to people here on the Central Coast.
We have tens of thousands of people living on the Central Coast who leave early in the morning and return home late at night to their families because that’s where the job opportunities are in Sydney and they’re in Newcastle. We’re fighting really hard to make sure we have more local jobs and growth here on the Central Coast. But part of that is also making sure that our Central Coast commuters can use the time while they’re on the train for productivity, for working, so that they can spend more time at home with their family, with their friends in the best region, in the best country in the world.
And today really is a testament to the advocacy of Karen McNamara and Lucy Wicks who raised this with me, raised this with the Prime Minister, who were determined that the commuters of the Central Coast could have a better experience.
And it’s also a great partnership between the Federal and the New South Wales Governments, with the NSW Government committing $4 million, and also making their land available. So it’s terrific news.
What kind of timeframe for this rollout?
We’ll seek expressions of interest in the first half of 2017, and look to have construction work start in the second half of 2017, so not too long to wait.
Were you surprised that in this day and age that such a busy and important thoroughfare doesn’t have mobile phone coverage?
The mobile phone network around Australia has developed organically. As the telcos see a need and can get a commercial return they roll out their services. Which means that we have about 98% of the population covered by the mobile network, but only about 30% of the landmass. Which is one of the reason why we have a $220m Mobile Blackspot Programme, which is improving mobile coverage in both Dobell and Robertson. And it’s why we have today’s announcement of $12 million, to make sure there is continuous mobile coverage for commuters.
Where there isn’t a return for telcos, we as a government, are happy to step in and put some money on the table to make it feasible for the telcos to provide the coverage that people need.
Just quickly, as the Federal Minister for Communications, I just want to briefly touch on the outages to 200 suburbs in Sydney by Telstra. Are you aware of these outages?
Look, there were significant outages in the wake of the recent storms. In the immediate aftermath of those storms, there was something in the order of about 200 localities that were having difficulties with connection. There has, as a result, been some delays repairing and reconnecting the people. So Telstra is aware of that and working hard.
So Telstra has said that they will try and work on this as quickly as possible. Do you think that’s a good enough excuse?
Look, they were very significant storms, and bad storms and telecommunications aren’t a good mix. So that figure of 200 localities I think was right at the period immediately after the storms. Telstra have made good progress, but they’ve got a way to go and they’re working very hard.
Some families have been without Telstra internet and phone connection since the start of the month. Are these delays expected to go for much longer?
It’s a matter for Telstra, but I do know that they’re working very hard. I’ve talked to Telstra as recently as this morning. They’re seized of the need to hook their customers up as quickly as possible.
You say you’ve spoken to Telstra this morning and what did they say in regards to this issue. What areas are they focussing on most? Because I know Auburn has been out since the start of the month.
They’re focussing on all the areas where there are repair issues, they’re working hard.
Obviously the NBN is a major part of your portfolio, and it’s rolling out here on the Central Coast. Virtually daily we do get comments regarding problems with that. Whether it be the NBN itself, or whether it be the providers and confusion from customers who feel that they’re not getting what they signed up for. Are you satisfied with the rollout of the NBN on the Central Coast?
The story of the rollout of the NBN on the Central Coast has been a terrific one.
When we came into office in the September of 2013, there had been in the electorate of Dobell, no one connected to the NBN Not a single customer.
In the electorate of Robertson, there were only about 200 people who were connected to the NBN.
Today, in the electorate of Dobell, 65,000 people can access the NBN. In the electorate of Robertson, today 58,000 people can access the NBN.
So the Central Coast is one of the best served areas in Australia when it comes to the NBN. Newcastle and the Central Coast together, 171,000 people can access the NBN.
There were initially a few issues with the switch over to the NBN in this area. Those have essentially been addressed and there’s a really good experience for people with the super-fast broadband that the NBN provides.
You can’t be proud of the fact that Australia is slipping down the rankings in terms of where we sit with regards to internet and internet speed.
Well if Australia has slipped down the rankings, it’s because our predecessors left us the NBN as a failed project. Malcolm Turnbull brought order to bare where there was chaos.
When we came to office, there was only 51,000 people in the whole of Australia who were connected to the NBN. And that was after six years of Labor Government and $6.5 billion spent. We now connect about 61,000 people a month to the NBN. That’s 10,000 more in a single month than Labor achieved in six years in office.
We now have a situation where we have 2.6 million Australians who can access the NBN. That’s a quarter of the population. This time next year, 50% of Australians will be able to access the NBN and all of Australia will be connected by 2020. That is dramatically faster than would have been the case under our predecessors.
The last time NBN costed and looked at what Labor’s approach would mean, it would’ve meant NBN taking six to eight years longer to rollout and $30 billion more cost. The most significant metric when it comes to speeds on the internet is actually the speed with which you rollout the NBN. And we’re rolling it out a darn sight faster than our predecessors.