Northern Grampians Shire's mobile telephone concerns heard

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher visited Stawell on Friday to discuss mobile phone black spot issues with residents and business operators in the Grampians.

Mr Fletcher flew into Stawell with the Federal Member for Mallee, Andrew Broad.

"Visiting the electorate with the Member for Mallee enabled me to gain local feedback on how mobile phone coverage might be improved in the Wimmera Mallee, and the areas of greatest concern," Mr Fletcher said.

Halls Gap Tourism chairman Geoff Watts said the aim of the meeting, which included Grampians Tourism chief executive officer Will Flamsteed and other tourist and business operators, was to push the case for a better understanding by the federal government of the situations they find themselves in.

"This is really about getting better communications coverage for our area, because at the moment it is dangerous for residents and foreign tourists," he said.

"We have people coming to stay at our accommodation who just expect that when they go up the mountain that they will have access to mobile telecommunications."

Mr Flamsteed told the gathering tourism in the Grampians region contributed $950 million to the Victorian economy and employed 8,000 people.

"We are trying to advance our technology something which is valuable to regional sustainability but at the moment we are limited in doing that because of our communications," he said.

Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said the meeting was a good follow-up to one held in Canberra in March and that improved communications along with the duplication of the Western Highway are two of council's main priorities.

Mr Broad said the visit was the next step in highlighting the major problem with mobile black spots in the Wimmera Mallee.

"A lot of hard work went into lodging our submission for the Mallee electorate to the Mobile Coverage Programme and now we have secured the visit of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications to our electorate so he could meet with local communities and hear first-hand the difficulties they have experienced with mobile black spots, particularly in emergency situations such as the fires earlier this year," he said.

"Many residents experienced life-threatening situations during the fire period and this only reinforced how important it is to have reliable communication services in areas like the Wimmera Mallee," he said.

"I will continue to advocate for better communication services in the Wimmera Mallee and welcome Mr Fletcher's visit to the area as affirmation of the government's commitment to improve mobile coverage in regional areas." Mr Broad said.

The Mobile Coverage Programme has two components: $80 million will be provided under the Mobile Network Expansion Project to improve mobile phone coverage along major transport routes, in small communities and in locations prone to experiencing natural disasters.

An additional $20 million will be provided under the Mobile Black Spots Project to address unique mobile coverage problems.

For more information about the Mobile Coverage Programme, please visit www.communications.gov.au.

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