ABC Canberra - Telecommunications, Mobile Blackspots and vaccines

ABC Canberra - Telecommunications, Mobile Blackspots and vaccines Main Image

02 August 2021


RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC Canberra –with Adam Shirley

Monday, 2 August 2021

SUBJECT: Telecommunications, Mobile Blackspots and vaccines

ADAM SHIRLEY, PRESENTER: I sort of jest but if you're in the middle of an emergency call, if you're surrounded by fire, or if you've got a pressing appointment that you're trying to reschedule. This is serious business and communities living as little as 30 kilometres outside of the ACT, a struggling with no mobile coverage. You'll understand if you lived through the tragedy of the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires that decent mobile coverage can be a lifesaver. A Review Committee at Parliament House has released its latest Issues Paper and member for Eden-Monaro and former Bega Mayor Kristy McBain has asked anyone in this region and around Eden-Monaro to give feedback on the telecommunications standard in their region good or bad. Kristy McBain, Thanks for your time, just what is the latest information you have as a local member on how reasonable mobile phone coverage is in Eden-Monaro.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good afternoon, Adam. And thanks for bringing this up on your program as well. It's really important for people right across the Eden-Monaro electorate but also people who are in Canberra that holiday in parts of this electorate all the time to let this committee know what the issues are with mobile phone connectivity right across the place. I mean, we've got main highways where you can't get service. As you mentioned, you know, we've got communities that are less than 30kms outside the ACT borders who cannot get service. And the last review was done prior to the Black Summer Bushfires. So I'm sure everyone is now attuned to some of the major telecommunications issues and want to make those issues known more widely.

SHIRLEY: How much do you hope the anecdotal experience could embed through that summer bushfires will translate into some evidence, some information about where the problems are, that can be fixed?

MCBAIN: We have certain experience from numerous localities from community groups, you know, from volunteer organisations, who really struggled to maintain communications, in the middle of a disaster, let alone any other day of the year. And we also know now with COVID, the amount of people that have been working from home in the regions have basically been unable to really get any mobile phone service or adequate data to enable them to do their job. So all of these stories have to come forward so that we can actually pressure the government to make sure that areas like ours, which you know, really aren't that remote from the capital of Australia need to be prioritised in the rollout given, you know, in Eden-Monaro alone, there's been over 28 declared natural disasters in the last couple of years.

SHIRLEY: How important is it to have experienced those who've had services installed and have benefitted from them, the good stories where people have had their call answered?

MCBAIN: Yeah, it's really important, as you said, to hear not only the bad and frustrating stories, but also to understand what solutions might work in different communities because not every community needs a big tower. The topography of some of Eden-Monaro means that a big tower is not going to work for everyone. Sometimes it's small cells that work in communities, which will give service to a two or a five kilometre radius, which is much more important than a bigger tower, which, says it's going to provide, a much larger radius of service but because of the topography, there are always pockets that miss out. So any examples of things that are working across the electorate are also welcome.

SHIRLEY: How do people contribute to this? If they're listening from Queanbeyan further afield some of their coverage gets to Batemans Bay, or further south to Bega where you were Mayor. What is the easiest way to contribute to this federal parliament inquiry committee?

MCBAIN: You can get in touch with me via my website. And all of the details are on there. We've also got a survey on telecommunications blackspots because I also want to put in my own submission and collate some of the data that we get from people to say, these are where the major concerns are. So my website has all of the details.

SHIRLEY: Kristy McBain is Federal Member for Eden-Monaro. Adam Shirley with you on Drive. It is three and a half minutes to five. If you know of a black spot problem, mobile phone coverage we’re talking here in your vicinity. If you've been struggling to get coverage. On the other hand, if the call has been answered, if there's been a tower put in and you're benefiting from that you can get on to this Independent Review Committee - get to Kristy McBain’s website and put in your experience good or bad. It is such an important issue. The ability to get mobile phone coverage in this greater region.

On another issue that is crucial to us right now. Kristy McBain, and we've seen the New South Wales Government in the last few days speak about how some regional areas of New South Wales are having their Pfizer COVID vaccines redirected to Sydney, because that's where some hotspots need some vaccinations. Have you seen or heard of any in the Eden-Monaro region being redirected to the Sydney metro area?

MCBAIN: Look, we have our office has been contacted by numerous people in the electorate who have received notification that their Pfizer booking has been cancelled and redirected to Sydney and they would be contacted in the coming weeks to let them know when a new appointment would be available.

SHIRLEY: How understandable do you think that is given the priority that's been stated to try and vaccinate? Well, you 12 students in Sydney and the other hotspot areas there.

MCBAIN: Look, it must be an incredibly difficult decision for the New South Wales Government to make. To take vaccines away from other parts, which have not had vaccines made available to them as quickly as other areas. And again, I think it points to the Federal Government's handling of the vaccination rollout. They haven't planned to get this vaccination rollout, right. They haven't ordered enough vaccines. And I fear that regional and rural communities will be left exposed once Sydney opens up.

SHIRLEY: Given that's where we are now, though. Do you understand why the decision has to be made for some Pfizer recipients who were booked in your region to now not have that appointment?

MCBAIN: I totally understand it. But I would say that we still have people who are in the phase 1A and 1B rollout that haven't received the vaccine. People that cannot or have been advised not to take AstraZeneca. So I think that's the troubling part is we all want this lockdown to end as soon as possible because we're all impacted by it. But it's just another failure of this government to not have prioritised the populations by ordering enough vaccines in the first place.

SHIRLEY: News is upon us. Kristy McBain we’ll have to leave it there. We do appreciate your time today.

MCBAIN: Thank you very much

SHIRLEY: Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain,  former Bega Mayor on ABC Radio Canberra.