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September 29, 2010

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (1.54 pm) — I rise to raise my concerns in relation to the details of an announcement made on 14 September this year that the Australian government will fund the upgrade of the emergency warning system called ‘Emergency Alert’. At the time of the announcement, both the Prime Minister and the Victorian Premier gave the impression that the proposed new system of sending emergency warnings via mobile phones based on the geographic location of the phone would deliver 100 per cent coverage to Australians. In fact, the Premier is quoted as saying, ‘This system would enable our agencies to send warning messages to mobile phones no matter where they are in the state.’ That is simply not the case. We do not want residents or visitors in regional or remote parts of Victoria or the rest of Australia believing that they will receive a warning of impending disaster.

I must stress that I am not opposed to improving the systems of warning based on a mobile phone’s location and the current system of warnings based on the billing address was only ever intended as a stop-gap measure. But it does not make much sense to spend millions of dollars without a concurrent program to fix the mobile phone black spots which exist right throughout regional Australia. I agree with the Premier and the Prime Minister that this technology has the potential to save lives in the future. But it will be virtually useless in many parts of Gippsland, where the mobile phone reception is patchy or non-existent. The most patchy areas tend to be the most bushfire prone parts of the electorate.

I challenge the Prime Minister to introduce an extensive mobile phone black spots program to overcome the lack of service in several parts of Gippsland and other parts of regional Australia which will not receive emergency warning under the proposed emergency alert system.

(Time expired)