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Source: Australian Minister for Regional Communications

MARK COULTON:
Okay. Today, we are announcing Tower number 750 in the mobile phone black spot rollout. That’s in the town of Nullawil in the Mallee area. It will cover 100 square kilometres around that village, plus a large section of the Calder Highway. This is 750th tower of a 1047 that have been funded across Australia. That’s up to round four- round five, as concluded. We are waiting on an assessment from the Department and the telcos as to the number of towers that will come from around five, and then around six is funded as well. So, a milestone. These mobile phone towers have covered large parts of Australia; they’ve assisted people in their daily lives. They’ve been useful in over 35,000 Triple 0 emergency calls. And it’s a great program instigated by the Coalition Government – the filling of black spots to make sure that people living in regional Australia have the same opportunities and the same connectivity, not only for their daily lives but to run businesses; farmers to be connected remotely to their pumps so that [indistinct] prepare, mechanics can fix tractors, and all of those things that are necessary, so a great milestone in the electorate of Mallee today.

JOURNALIST:
You might be aware though recently there was a search and rescue for a couple of Victorian ‘s in the high country. Police fortunately found a couple of major [inaudible]… mobile coverage in that area. How much will this Mobile Black Spot Program help other areas and places like the [indistinct] to particularly assist emergency services? I know you mentioned [inaudible]…

MARK COULTON:
Yeah. Yeah. So, look, we’re looking obviously right over the country. The difficult locations are obviously [indistinct] country and also the outback where we’ve got large distances between a vast population. And so, certainly, areas where there is activity, tourist activity such as hiking, snow skiing, those areas are due to become a priority. Some of the areas in the remote coastline around Australia are getting black spots where people might go and undertake surfing, snorkelling, those sort of things. So, those areas are a priority and hopefully, a few more of those will get filled in the next rounds as they’re announced.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:
I’ll just add to a few comments that Mark has made. Mark Coulton is the Minister for Regional Services and so many other things, but I like to regard him as the minister for getting things done for rural and regional Australia because that’s exactly what he’s doing. I remember when the 500 mobile black spot tower was announced, and it doesn’t seem that long ago. This is all about connectivity. This is all about convenience. It’s all about safety, and it’s all about making sure, as Mark Coulton has just said, giving rural and regional people the same conveniences, the same connectivity, that city people often take for granted.

And we’re getting it done. Labor had six years, six years, in office, and did not spend a single red cent on mobile phone connectivity. Well, we’ve been in there for just as long and as you’ve just heard from Minister Coulton, 1047 towers that were installed [indistinct]. So we’re getting on with the job of making sure that our farmers have that connectivity. We’re making sure that tourists have that connectivity. We’re making sure that we’ve got the convenience – whether you’re a business person, whether you’re somebody who just wants to get in contact with the grandkids or the family via a mobile phone when you are out in the bush, in rural and regional Australia, and that is so important. And rural and regional Australians know that the Nationals have their back when it comes to mobile phone connectivity.

JOURNALIST:
We ‘ve got bushfire season coming up, could you maybe comment on the priority on getting mobile towers in [inaudible]?

MARK COULTON:
I might comment on that. Last week in Canberra, we had a roundtable discussion with all the telcos, Minister Fletcher, Minister Littleproud who’s in charge of disaster relief, to get a clear understanding of the procedures that are in place by the telcos in bushfire emergency. Quite often, one of the things that goes out is the electricity connection turbo tower. These towers do have battery support for some time, but the telcos also have procedures in place to bring in generators. There’s remote towers. There are Connectivity On Wheels – COWs as they’re affectionately known. Even some of the early stages with a drone, a tethered drone, being used as a remote mobile phone tower.

And so, there was a discussion right across with Emergency Management Australia as well, and there’s clear guidelines put in place as we look at a volatile bushfire season to make sure that that connectivity- not only to alert people of an impending fire in their direction, but also for allowing the management of the fire and also for firefighters, volunteer firefighters, to be contacted when they are actually required. So, that is in place. And quite often, as you alerted to, these fires can be in areas that are not very heavily populated and so it’s important to get that connectivity in there as quickly as possible. And so, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone were all at that meeting and we’re all singing from the same song sheet.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:
All good? Thank you so much.

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