darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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November 29, 2011

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has urged the Federal Government to improve mobile phone coverage in communities subject to serious bushfire threat in the region.

Mr Chester has told Parliament that he has safety concerns for several small communities across Gippsland which do not have access to reliable mobile phone coverage.

He also warned residents and visitors to not rely on the government’s $26 million Emergency Alert text messaging system because many fire-prone areas lack mobile phone coverage.

“The Emergency Alert text system that has been rolled out will not reach many people in the Gippsland area,” Mr Chester said.

“I am not condemning that system in any way whatsoever; I am simply making the point that you should not depend on it completely. Do not expect to receive timely advice in an emergency situation, because some of the most bushfire prone areas are those that have the worst mobile phone coverage.

“As the system is developed further, it will be critical that mobile phone black spots are eliminated.

“It would be illogical to keep spending money on expanding and improving the Emergency Alert system without also investing in infrastructure to fix mobile phone blackspots in regional areas.”

Mr Chester said the government should reintroduce a mobile phone black spot program to assist telecommunication providers to expand their reach into smaller regional centres throughout Australia.

“The safety implications of not having a reliable communication service are obvious,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“The government currently has no plans to improve mobile phone coverage, which is in contrast to the policy of the Liberal-National Party Coalition of providing $30 million to target mobile phone black spots.”

Mr Chester urged Gippslanders to prepare early for this year’s bushfire season.

“Nothing takes the place of extensive preparation and development of your own bushfire survival plan to protect your family and property,” he said.

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