Thursday, 18 February 2021
Fenner Electorate: Mobile Coverage, National Broadband Network
One of the most beautiful parts of my beautiful electorate of Fenner is the Wreck Bay community, located in the Jervis Bay Territory. Surrounded by Booderee National Park, it is a truly stunning part of the world. But residents have long complained to me about the problems of accessing high-quality mobile telephone coverage. This became a particular issue in the 2019-20 bushfires, when bushfires came close to the community. Fire is an ever-present danger in the Wreck Bay community, and yet Telstra don't see a commercial case for upgrading mobile phone coverage. So I've written to Ministers Paul Fletcher and Mark Coulton, calling on them to make funding available through the next round of the Mobile Black Spot Program—round 5A—to upgrade mobile phone coverage in the Jervis Bay Territory. This is a key safety issue and for the community that one of equity for a community which currently lacks good quality mobile coverage.
In the ACT, I have joined with my colleagues Senator Gallagher and the members for Canberra and Bean to call on the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts to ensure that the ACT gets its fair share of the $3.5 billion in funding announced to finish the National Broadband Network. Of course, none of this funding would have been necessary if the coalition hadn't spent seven years building a second-rate network. As my colleague the shadow minister for communications has noted, it turns out that fibre is what Australian businesses needed all along.
As that fibre rollout comes, it is vital that the ACT gets its fair share. Of all the capital cities, the ACT has the highest proportion of fibre to the node—meaning fibre to a box down the street, which might be some 700 metres away, with the signal finally trundling its way to you on copper lines. The share of fibre to the node in the ACT is 66 per cent, compared to the national proportion of 36 per cent. The ACT deserves its fair share. There are too many parts of the ACT where NBN coverage is slow, impeding the ability of kids to do their homework, impeding the ability of workers to telework—as so many Canberrans working in the government and business have been doing this year—and impeding the ability of people to run home businesses.
The National Broadband Network is an equity measure and a productivity measure. We need to ensure that fibre to the home becomes ubiquitous, as befits a 21st century society. The Liberals didn't do it right the first time. As they patch up their job, they must ensure that Canberra gets its fair share.