House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024


Reid Electorate: Telecommunications

7:45 pm

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Good mobile reception and internet connectivity are something many people take for granted. It's not something you think about. But, when you don't have good reception, it can have a profoundly frustrating impact on day-to-day life, and that's certainly been the case for people living in Five Dock and Canada Bay.

A local constituent got in contact with me to express his deep frustration with the poor mobile reception. He told me how it affected not just his daily life but his work too. He's a freelancer who often works from home. New clients couldn't contact him for potential work, and existing clients got frustrated that their calls weren't being answered. It was so frustrating that this person has considered leaving the area altogether to get better reception.

Stories like these led me to run a community survey to find out just how widespread the problem was, and the response was huge. I was overwhelmed. I received almost 400 postal and online survey responses detailing the poor mobile coverage and how it impacted people. In answer to the question, 'How often do you experience mobile black spots?' one constituent said, 'Often, when I'm inside the house, the caller on the mobile cannot hear me clearly, so I need to go outside to continue the conversation or ask them to call me back on the landline.' Another said: 'It is hard to get signal at our home regularly. We recently had difficulties calling emergency services via triple zero.' Poor mobile coverage is having an impact on their quality of life, their businesses and their ability to work from home. That's why I have written to and met with the major telecommunication providers: Telstra, Optus and TPG. I've asked each provider to come up with a plan to improve mobile coverage for Five Dock and Canada Bay, and I will report back to the community about the next steps.

Bad mobile reception isn't just an issue that is localised to Five Dock and Canada Bay; it's an issue in Wentworth Point too. These are suburbs in metropolitan Sydney, less than 20 kilometres from the CBD, with thousands and thousands of residents. We've managed to significantly improve the mobile coverage in Wentworth Point thanks to working with the telecommunication providers, and I want to do the same for Five Dock. But it points to a broader problem with mobile coverage, and that's the lack of planning.

That's why I'm so grateful for the communications minister's efforts to bring in broader communications reforms through the telecommunications in new developments policy. The policy was updated and took effect on 17 February this year. It sets a clear path for how we're going to prevent these frustrating black spots from happening in the future. It's about ensuring that, as a community grows, everyone moving into new developments has access to modern telecommunications, including both mobile and broadband services. Just as you expect to have water and electricity when you move into a new area, developers will now have to view mobile connectivity with the same level of importance as these essential services. This will apply to new residential properties with more than 50 lots. Developers will be encouraged to engage with mobile network providers early in the process so new homes will be well built and well connected too.

The principles that drive this key policy are to engage early, plan thoroughly and build not just for now but for the connectivity needed for tomorrow. We've seen how badly affected communities are when the planning is not done right and mobile coverage is not considered. So, while I'm determined to patch up the gaps in mobile coverage across my electorate, I'm very pleased that the Albanese Labor government is doing the hard policy work to ensure that this sort of remediation work doesn't need to happen as often in the future. If we plan it right, at the very beginning, mobile coverage and internet broadband usage will be something that everyone in this country can take for granted.