• Tony Bosworth

Templeman calls for Mt Tomah mobile tower - Minister says Hawkesbury's already been given seven

The latest round of Mobile Black Spot funding has opened, and while MP Susan Templeman calls for Mount Tomah mobile tower to be a priority, Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the Hawkesbury has already received massive investment in mobile coverage.

Some $34.5 million in funding has been announced in the latest round of the Mobile Blackspot Program to “extend and improve” mobile phone coverage to “natural disaster-prone areas” and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman has demanded the government use this latest round to reinstate a mobile phone tower planned for Mount Tomah, and to target mobile black spots across the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains.

“I’ve called for funding to fix our black spots for years, and the Morrison Government announced a mobile tower for Mount Tomah in 2015. But then they secretly agreed with the NSW Government to relocate it to Gollan - near Dubbo - four years later,” Ms Templeman says.

But the Minister said he wouldn’t be lectured to by Ms Templeman, when it comes to mobile coverage across the Hawkesbury.

“There have been 12 mobile base stations funded under our Mobile Black Spot Program across the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury,” Minister Fletcher told the Post.

“Seven of these towers are already providing coverage to communities at Colo Heights, Kurrajong, Webbs Creek, Grose Vale, Upper Colo, Megalong Valley and Macdonald Valley School,” said the Minister.

Residents of the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury know how bad communications are in our area,” said Ms Templeman, “so the fact Liberal governments at both the state and federal levels have taken away a mobile tower in our area for what appears to be political purposes is astonishing.

“Mount Tomah lost a number of homes in last summer’s bushfire crisis, and other buildings were damaged. Communities like this desperately need communications capability.”

Waiting to be heard: Mount Tomah residents (pic taken in January) with MP Susan Templeman

The Mobile Black Spot program is meant to ‘extend and improve mobile phone coverage and competition in regional and remote areas of Australia’.

Ms Templeman said potential applicants – either Mobile Network Operators (MNO) or Mobile Network Infrastructure Providers (MNIP) – have to register their interest by the middle of this month.

“If the telco providers can’t reach an agreement with infrastructure providers, then the Commonwealth and NSW Governments need to step in and resolve this”, said Ms Templeman.

“I am calling on the Prime Minister and Communications Minister to use this funding round to reconsider the frankly outrageous decision to scrap the Mount Tomah mobile tower, restore it, and take a good hard look at the poor communication available to the rest of our region.

“The communities of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury deserve more.”

But Minister Fletcher said: “The Coalition is spending $380 million on mobile black spots, funding over 1200 base stations, with 884 completed, and attracting total investment of over $836 million.

“By contrast, when Labor was in power, they put zero dollars into mobile black spot areas, had no mobile black spot program, and consequently no base stations were rolled out in black spot areas as a result of government funding.

“It is the height of hypocrisy to claim the Morrison Government is not doing enough when the Opposition policy was to do nothing at all.

“I won’t be lectured by Ms Templeman on keeping the families and businesses of the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury connected. As I was forced to point out recently on social media, she doesn’t even know where the key communications infrastructure in her own electorate is situated.”

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