Mr PASIN (Barker) (18:55): I’d like to thank the member for Mayo for bringing this motion to the parliament. I’m sure members in this place know that I don’t often miss an opportunity to raise the salience of this issue, in particular when it comes to mobile phone service reception. A functional mobile phone service was once a luxury, but it is now a necessary business tool. In the case of regional communities, particularly for the farming sector, it’s a key part of their safety toolkit. The official statistics tell us that 99.5 per cent of the population and 33 per cent of Australia’s landmass is covered. These aren’t the statistics I focus on. I’m focused on the 399 community-identified black spots in my electorate of Barker alone. A recent survey conducted by the Wattle Range Council on this issue showed that residents of that local government region rated their phone service two out of five, and 70 per cent of respondents said they would regularly operate at two bars or less. That’s just not good enough for an area of roughly 4,000 square kilometres with a population of 12,000 people. That might be rural and it might be regional, but it’s absolutely not remote. It’s just not good enough. Every three years, there’s an independent Regional Telecommunications Review, under law, to examine and report on the adequacy of telecommunications in rural, regional and remote Australia. The 2021 review is due to be reported on next month. The review has consulted widely. It has held 24 online consultation sessions. There have been over 500 participants, and the review has received a record number of submissions, at 656. But I suspect the review will discover much of what the RRRCC and this motion are saying. I suspect this because it’s what I hear, day to day, from my constituents. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m in the community when I don’t hear people speak about this issue or complain about it directly to me. They’re paying for a mobile service that they’re unable to use much of the time. I can confidently say it’s the No. 1 issue that’s raised with me, with daylight second. For example, I want to read an excerpt from a letter written to Telstra by one such constituent. The constituent writes: The Peebinga area has grain and sheep producers and two Major irrigators with a large work force. They say of Peebinga businesses: At Peebinga we are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being competitive in the grain, wool and lamb markets, not being able to contact agents or traders on time can be extremely costly, this is a real issue for us, not being able to use mobile phone or data services puts us at a disadvantage when we can’t make or receive phone calls, text messages or emails when we are at work on the property, waiting for someone to call you back on our landline is so non-productive. When we have a break down or an emergency situation we have to make a dash for one of our land lines so we can make the appropriate calls to get the issue attended too. This is unproductive for modern farming enterprises and is certainly unproductive for our farm which supports several families. Luckily for the good people of Peebinga, the region received a commitment for a mobile phone tower from round 5 of the Mobile Black Spot Program. I believe this Optus tower is due to be switched on by the end of the year. While the government’s Mobile Black Spot Program has addressed the issue for Peebinga, there are many, many stories around my electorateโ€”indeed, around this countryโ€”just like the one I’ve read out to you. The government is also committed to improving telecommunications services through its connectivity programs in regional Australia, and I commend the government for its action on this issue. Our government has taken action through the Mobile Black Spot Program. There’s more work to be done, but it is taking that action, which is in stark contrast to the zero towers erected during the period between 2007 and 2013. The member for Berowra has taken up the charge, and I’m pleased for him to be on our side in this fight. I’m fully supportive of what he’s doing via his private member’s bill. He obviously alluded to that earlier in his contribution. In particular, it does four things. I just want to reiterate them: it creates a universal mobile service obligation; it forces telecommunications companies to improve customer service; it forces telcos to be more responsible in the provision of maintenance and services to disaster-prone areas; and it bolsters competition. It’s about time the telcos got serious. It’s not just at marketing time that they should worry about regional and rural constituents.