13 November 2023

During a telecommunications forum I held in my electorate of Corangamite in Victoria, one woman described a heartbreaking incident when her husband collapsed at home. She tried to call an ambulance, but there was no signal on her mobile phone. The woman then ran outside and finally got through. The ambos wanted her to monitor her husband, but she couldn't go back inside because there was no mobile coverage where her husband was lying on the ground. This incident serves as a stark reminder of how integral a mobile phone is and has become in our lives.

That is why, alongside my local community, I have advocated strongly for more mobile towers and better connectivity in my fast-growing region. It's why the Albanese government has committed $600,000 towards a new mobile station at St Leonards on the Bellarine. With Telstra now on board to build that station, we are one step closer towards bridging the mobile coverage gap in our region. Funded through the Improving Mobile Coverage Round of the Mobile Black Spot Program, this new tower for St Leonards is a crucial step towards ensuring our community has access to reliable and robust mobile connectivity. I acknowledge there's a lot of work to be done in securing a site for the new mobile tower, and Telstra will now need to go through various processes, including securing appropriate approvals and establishing an agreement with a local landholder. But, residents, please be assured: you will have a say in this process, as I know just how passionate you are about better connectivity.

The tower in St Leonards builds on several new mobile towers in our region, including towers in Portarlington, Torquay, Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads, Armstrong Creek, Clifton Springs, Mount Duneed, Charlemont and Marcus Hill, to name a few. There's no doubt the reception has been very poor and sometimes non-existent in areas across my region. I have experienced this myself, travelling to and from townships across my electorate. But these new towers are improving connectivity and are a testament to the advocacy of local people. It means residents and visitors will be able to access more reliable phone coverage, helping them stay connected with family and friends and run successful businesses.

Living on the Surf Coast, I know just how challenging the holiday period can be when it comes to mobile coverage. With the surge in holiday-makers, who come in their droves every summer, our existing telecommunications infrastructure comes under significant pressure. But, with the backing of our Albanese government, the telcos are now placing a renewed focus on our region. The CEO of Indara, Cameron Evans, recently told me: 'Access to fast and reliable mobile coverage isn't a nice-to-have; it's a must. That's why Indara is proud to be supporting improved mobile coverage and better connectivity in the communities of Corangamite—including Torquay, Armstrong Creek and across the Bellarine.'

On top of this, our government has committed to strengthening the NBN because we know that good internet connectivity, like phone coverage, is so important to businesses, to schools, to families and to health services. To further expand the benefits of the NBN, our Albanese government has invested $2.4 billion to enable an additional 1.5 million premises to transition from fibre to the node to fibre to the premises by 2025.

In closing, I'd like to thank the St Leonards community, who have suffered from poor connectivity for a long time. Due to their passionate advocacy, we are now one step closer to better coverage for our region and for the St Leonards community.