Mobile Black Spots Rounds 1 and 2
May 31, 2017
I rise to speak on the private member's motion, moved by the member for Capricornia, on the Mobile Blackspot Program.
What a valuable initiative this has been from the federal government.
This $220 million program—as you will understand, Mr Deputy Speaker Coulton, as a fellow regional member—is a massive boost to regional businesses and regional life in general.
Mobile phone coverage is something that those living in the cities often take for granted, but we in the regions need to travel great distances while juggling work and family commitments.
That is no easy task. I have often found myself, whilst travelling around my electorate, out of phone coverage, often for hours but occasionally for days.
This was the focus for round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Program in my electorate: to directly facilitate business, lifestyle and investment in regional Australia by boosting coverage around towns and cities in my electorate.
Then round 2, announced late last year, was rolled out, and in Durack we saw a shift in thinking. We saw a move towards a policy of creating jobs and investment through the innovative placement of mobile phone towers. Tourism will be the big winner because of that slight shift in focus.
Tourism, as we all know, is a growth sector in many parts of regional Australia.
I have been a vocal supporter of a more robust tourism industry in the north-west and I am a strong believer in the potential of tourism in the north-west, in particular in my electorate of Durack.
But we can do so much more to capture potential markets and create local jobs.
With the rollout of the Mobile Black Spot Program round 2 we saw a focus on tourist areas in the Kimberley and the Pilbara, like Karijini National Park and Millstream, and a variety of other initiatives to try and encourage the tourism industry in this part of the world.
Funding was also committed for further towers in the Mid West and the Wheatbelt, which I was very pleased to hear about as well.
But I would like to focus on those places throughout the Top End and the north-west, in a bid to increase tourist numbers.
The modern tourist expects mobile phone coverage.
They expect to be able to go on an adventure holiday to see something unique and beautiful, like Karajini, yet come back to modern facilities at night and surf the web or call family, or just to feel safe.
The modern tourist, while chasing some adventure and excitement, does not want to sacrifice comfort, which is something we in Australia need to understand if we are to attract the modern-day tourist.
That is why placing mobile phone towers in these national parks is so important, because they facilitate the tourism industry in one of the most remote and spectacular national parks in this country.
The rangers who patrol these areas, the tourism operators running businesses out there and the tourists themselves all stand to benefit from these decisions, and I welcome that wholeheartedly, especially from a safety perspective.
A Productivity Commission report released in 2015 detailed the type of tourist we are seeing travelling throughout Australia, and we now know what sort of tourist is attracted to a holiday in the north-west, in my electorate of Durack.
We know that Chinese tourists enjoy coming to the historic Chinatown in Broome, for example.
They enjoy staying in a nice or hotel or resort, being collected every day and being taken on their day trip and being collected from their hotel back to the airport.
They will go back to the resort where they stay so they can dine as a family in the restaurant.
We also know that we have some more adventurous tourists coming now from places like Japan and South Korea, who are after a very different experience, and they are very welcome.
They are happy to hire their own car, drive themselves to their accommodation and are more likely to go camping—in most cases it is more like glamping, of course—in a national park.
These markets of South Korean and Japanese tourists visiting the ruggedly beautiful national parks of the Pilbara and the Kimberley need to be supported, and that is what round 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program brings into play.
In contrast—we heard some complaining before that nothing has happened—I can assure the member who was talking about it that nothing happened while you were in charge, so you might want to talk to your colleagues who are sitting there.
Not one dollar went towards fixing this very important issue across Australia when Labor was in government.
What a disgrace, yet they are here now complaining that we are not doing it quickly enough. They do not support regional and rural Australia.
They showed that during those long years that they were here.
We on this side support regional Australia.
We are backing regional Australia and I am very proud of that.