Towns miss on mobile funding

ON ALERT: Ballarat MP Catherine King is angry at a lack of mobile phone black spot funding in fire prone areas, such as Scotsburn.

ON ALERT: Ballarat MP Catherine King is angry at a lack of mobile phone black spot funding in fire prone areas, such as Scotsburn.

Moorabool Shire mayor David Edwards has slammed a lack of Mobile Black Spot Program round two funding for Ballan.

Cr Edwards said mobile phones were now a neccesity and a notorious Ballan blackspot, particularly on the Ballarat to Melbourne train line, was unacceptable.

“To miss out on any funding to improve the capability of regional Victoria is disappointing,” Cr Edwards said.

Ballarat MP Catherine King said three local sites put forward for funding consideration were all unsuccessful, including Ballan, Smeaton and Mt Helen.

“Round two of the program has allocated no funding for Ballarat, despite large blackspots across the electorate and ignoring areas such as Scotsburn, which suffered bushfires just last year,” Ms King said. “What’s worse is some locations marked for upgrades under round one have no sign of work beginning, despite fire season arriving with summer.

“This just adds insult to injury – the Australian National Audit Office found that there were big questions to be answered about how sites were selected and whether technical considerations were being taken into account when placing new stations. In layman’s terms, we don’t know if the base stations are where they need to be to cover people who may be affected by bushfires.”

Cr Edwards said Moorabool Shire needed improved mobile phone coverage, particularly as the railway line was a popular commuting service.

“As a traveller myself, I know how much work you can get done in 110 minutes. And the broader picture is that, being a peri-urban region, we’re utilised as a playground for Melbourne but a lot of people still get lost and need mobile access. I don’t understand, in this day and age, why we don’t have mobile coverage.” 

Ms King said only 28 out of 499 base stations announced in the program’s round one funding were operational 12 months down the track.

“With bushfire season fast approaching, it beggars belief that rural electorates like Ballarat , which experienced devastating fires, have again been short changed, while Coalition electorates in city centres like Brisbane have had base stations installed.”

Smeaton CFA captain David Toose said they often had to rely on using brigade radios rather than mobile phones during fires.

“It’s a struggle for us as a fire brigade,” Mr Toose said. “There’s a little bit of phone service but around the fire sheds it’s pretty dodgy.”