September 28, 2009

The decision to award Telstra a $15m contract to provide a telephone-based emergency warning system has highlighted the need for improved mobile phone coverage across the region, according to The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Mr Chester said many of the fire most prone parts of Gippsland did not have reliable mobile phone coverage and would not benefit from the new system even if it was introduced in November this year as planned.

“We have many parts of Gippsland where mobile phone coverage is unreliable or non existent and the Federal Government is not doing enough to overcome these black spots,” Mr Chester said.

“I have sought additional funding from the Federal Minister to roll out more mobile phone towers to address these blackspots and this latest announcement adds further weight to the case.

“If we are going to proceed down the path of a telephone-based emergency warning system, it is critical that all residents and holiday makers are able to be contacted in an emergency situation.

“Although I welcomed the decision to develop an early warning system, the Federal Government must make sure that rural and regional communities are not disadvantaged.”

Under the first stage of the plan announced this week, Telstra has been commissioned to develop a system which will provide warnings to landlines and mobile phones based on their billing address.

In the second stage it is hoped that a system based on the mobile phone location will be implemented.

“For the system to have maximum value to locals and visitors to our region, the emergency services need to be able to send messages to people based on their location,” Mr Chester said.

“It is a simple fact of our region’s geography that the most fire prone areas tend to be those with the poorest mobile phone coverage.

“It is important for the safety of locals and visitors that resources are provided to eliminate blackspots as part of this initiative.”

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