Mobile phone reception must improve to ensure the safety of regional Australians, federal MP Tony Pasin has told parliament.
Mobile phones were the number-one piece of safety kit in the regions, he said in a speech on September 18, and people such as his father – who worked remotely, aged in his 70s – depended upon them.
"We worry incessantly about the fact that he works with heavy machinery, he takes risks he probably shouldn't and that, if something goes bad, he won't be able to lean into his pocket and make that phone call," Mr Pasin said.
"Whilst he's got his phone with him, it's rendered useless because of the lack of coverage in many of the areas where he farms.
"My father is one man.
"There are literally hundreds of thousands of Australians living in rural, regional, remote Australia, millions, in fact ... we want them all to come home safely at the end of the day."
There was an unspoken agreement between urban and regional Australia, he said.
City-dwellers benefited from what was produced in the country, and in return, country people expected connectivity: by road, by phone and now by mobile phone.
Rather than offering rounds of funding, as it did currently, Mr Pasin said the government program which funded new phone towers to fill coverage gaps should become continuous.
"There are so many black spots around the country that need addressing," he said.
"I'm not advocating to ensure every square inch of desert and mountain range is covered – that's unrealistic.
"I'm talking about areas that are populated and in high-risk bushfire areas, on our roads and on our highways.
"I am advocating for improved coverage for those who live and work in towns and regions, produce our food and fibre, run our regionally based businesses and our farms and educate our children in regional communities."
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said the state government would contribute $10 million to filling in mobile black spots.
He said he would work with councils, Regional Development Australia and telecommunications providers to prioritise sites.
A fourth round of the program opened on September 13.
The program has previously led to the construction of new mobile phone towers at Wynarka and Mindarie.
Another 80 black spots have been identified in the Murray Bridge, Mid Murray, Coorong and Karoonda East Murray districts.
- Nominate a black spot: Contact your local council, state MP Adrian Pederick or federal MP Tony Pasin before October 11.