Communications and connectivity are vital to the prosperity and growth of country communities. Mobile black spots are a handbrake on decentralisation and regional business activity, and they are dangerous in an emergency. The township of Wattle Flat near Bathurst has little to no access to telecommunications, which has had an enormous impact on its residents. There are many examples provided to me by the community, including lack of adequate coverage for emergency services during last year's fire season and residents being unable to work from home or run businesses. The community is pushing hard for a new mobile phone tower, which I am supporting.
We now have an opportunity to get funding for this location through round 4 of the federal government's Mobile Black Spot Program. However, the issue is that Telstra and the other telcos need to play their part and show some interest in sites such as Wattle Flat. Without the telcos playing a role and submitting a funding application, there is no chance of securing a tower.
The whole aim of the Mobile Black Spot Program is for the government to partner with telcos in order to clean up these black spots. So, I have written to all three CEOs of the telcos—that is, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus—and I've urged them to put an application in for Wattle Flat. I'm renewing that call today and ask the telcos to come to the party and make an application so that Wattle Flat can finally secure better communications.