September 30, 2010
The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is questioning the value of an emergency warning system based on mobile phones without any commitment from the Federal Government to fix blackspot areas in Gippsland.
Mr Chester has told Federal Parliament that the new warning system would be virtually useless unless the Gillard Government allocated funding for blackspots in bushfire-prone areas.
“At the time of the announcement, both the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier gave the impression that the proposed new system would deliver 100 percent coverage to Australians,” Mr Chester told Parliament.
“In fact the Premier is quoted as saying, ‘This system would enable our agencies to send warning messages to mobile phones no matter where they are in the state’.
“That is simply not the case. We don’t want residents or visitors to regional or remote parts of Victoria, or the rest of Australia, believing that they will receive a warning of impending disaster.
“I must stress that I’m not opposed to improving the systems of warning based on a mobile phone’s location and the current system of warnings based on the billing address was only ever intended as a stop-gap measure.
“But it doesn’t make much sense to spend millions of dollars without a concurrent program to fix the mobile phone blackspots which exist right throughout regional Australia.”
Mr Chester has challenged the Prime Minister to introduce an extensive mobile phone black spots program to overcome the lack of service in several parts of Gippsland.
“I agree with the Premier and Prime Minister that this technology has the potential to save lives in the future. But it will be virtually useless in many parts of Gippsland, where the mobile phone reception is patchy or non-existent. The most patchy areas tend to be the most bushfire prone parts of the electorate.
“The Nationals in Coalition put forward a policy during the election campaign to reduce mobile phone blackspots because we recognise the importance of improving coverage in regional and remote areas.”
Mr Chester said mobile phone coverage had been progressively improved under the former Coalition Government but areas of the high country, far East Gippsland, the Strzeleckis and central Gippsland still lacked adequate reception.