The fourth round of submissions for the Mobile Blackspot Program closed a few weeks ago, and I hope people who have blackspots in their area nominated that location for funding consideration.
There are still areas of real concern throughout the electorate, and there are certainly some sites that I will be pushing for, but we are making progress.
Since the Liberal Government was elected in 2013, a priority has been to get comprehensive mobile phone coverage throughout the regions. It’s important for so many reasons — fast and reliable connection is vital for businesses and our agricultural, mining and tourism industries. People in the regions need to be able to maintain social contact in this digital age. And it’s important to be able to communicate swiftly and reliably in times of emergency.
I can sympathise with people who have inadequate or non-existent mobile coverage. At my farmhouse just 8km from Katanning, getting mobile coverage means going out into the paddock, or climbing a tree along the driveway! But I’m better off than many who still have no coverage at all.
We’re getting there, though. In O’Connor, 73 towers have been completed, and another 13 are under construction. They are slated for completion by June 30 next year. So by the middle of next year, 86 towers will have been built under the federal Black Spot Program throughout O’Connor since 2013. I’m working hard to ensure we are favourably treated when the decisions are made following this last round.
Given the previous Labor Government didn’t invest one cent in mobile phone towers, that’s a pretty good outcome. When the 86th tower goes on line, we will have good coverage across the electorate.
I’ve spoken with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about our needs, and he has visited O’Connor on several occasions and witnessed first-hand how important reliable communications is. As usual, though, we are competing for funds with other regional electorates in other States.
It’s not all about physical mobile phone towers. As technology improves, so do our communication options. I’m hopeful we can fill in a few more holes in this fourth round of funding.
For myself, there are certainly some locations where coverage is needed to improve people’s safety. There are also areas that are strategically important for our economic advancement, education, health care and other community services. I’ve worked hard since my election in 2013 to ensure people in the bush have access to reliable communication services. This is my commitment to the people of O’Connor and this is what I will continue to deliver.