I’m very pleased to speak about the government’s improvement of mobile reception across Australia. The coalition government has a long track record in delivering for rural and regional Australians. Alternatively, the Labor Party does not. Mobile coverage is only one example of that. When Labor was in office for six years, they did not invest one cent in improving mobile coverage, and that’s a fact. When Labor was in office for six years they didn’t build one new mobile tower; that’s another fact. And when in office for six years, they didn’t upgrade one mobile tower: another fact.
Since the Liberal led government was elected to office five years ago, 867 new base stations have been built on our watch, a great fact.
We’ve invested $220 million in improved mobile coverage and created the Mobile Black Spot Program that has improved mobile reception throughout Australia. It’s a great initiative. It’s not only for rural, regional and remote areas that the government delivers, but across the board; that’s what we do while we’re in government. When I came into this House, I came to help improve the lives of people in regional, rural and remote Australia. These programs are a key part of that delivery and I’m very proud of them.
It’s fitting that I opened the 300th mobile tower delivered by Telstra with their CEO, Andy Penn, at Wellington Mill in January this year. In the South West, I’ve secured 19 new mobile base stations. It’s really good for locals. There are 19 different and new locations where mobile coverage has improved on this government’s watch. The impact they’ve made to the lives of thousands of people in the South West has been outstanding, and the improvements for local emergency services are also outstanding. There is one doctor who is an anaesthetist in the Ferguson Valley who used to have to park his car up on the top of the hill when he was on duty at the local hospital so that he could get reception to get the phone call. Now, he can actually stay in his home and receive that phone call. We’re delivering services that are more equal to those of people living in the metropolitan area.
Nationally, we’ll cover over 90,500 square kilometres of new and upgraded handheld coverage. Additionally, we’ll cover over 204,400 square kilometres of new external antenna coverage, as well as over 8,000 kilometres of new coverage to major transport routes. This is just so important in rural, regional and remote Australia. These key communications upgrades go to the heart of this government delivering for all Australians, not just for those who live in metropolitan areas.
In April we announced the commencement of the Government Regional Telecommunications Review, allowing those living in rural, remote and regional areas to have their say on telecommunications issues in their area. It is more proof that the government listens to and delivers for people in regional, rural and remote Australia. We want to see a connected regional Australia that is prosperous and vibrant.
Recently, the government announced that we were reopening the Mobile Black Spot Program’s database of reported black spot locations for new nominations. The database will be shared with applicants, assisting them to identify locations where we need to improve mobile coverage on an ongoing basis. This round aims to improve outcomes for regional businesses as well as emergency services, health, education and tourism services. This is a great program and an initiative of the Liberal-led government, as I mentioned earlier. It has been extraordinarily well received. This fourth round is really music to the ears of people who live and work—even those in emergency services—in rural and regional areas.
This is in direct contrast to those opposite, who didn’t spend a cent on improving mobile reception when they were in office. I commend the long and solid communications track record of this government to the House. But, again, I would go to those in the emergency services, who have regularly come along to the opening of new towers. They are just so grateful to be able to have the connectivity always in rural and regional areas—if it’s fire or flood, or whatever the emergency is. Local volunteers, St John Ambulance people and the local fire and emergency services organisations do an amazing job. We can’t do without those volunteers, but connectivity for them is a critical part of the important services they deliver for people in our areas.