I was very pleased to be joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester and former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson in Narrabri last week where we reaffirmed the Coalition’s commitment to the Inland Rail project.
I first spoke about the importance of the Inland Rail in my maiden parliamentary speech in 2008. For many years, there has been discussion about the construction of this line and for the first time we are seeing real investment by the Commonwealth Government to get this nation building project completed.
The Coalition Government has committed an additional $594 million on top of its previous $300 million commitment to ensure that the project is soon shovel-ready and more importantly, delivered over the next decade.
The development of the Inland Rail is absolutely vital to addressing the increasing freight task being experienced in eastern Australia. The project will remove around 200,000 trucks off our road network by providing a cost-effective alternative to road transport that is 98 per cent reliable whilst reducing the travelling time of intercapital freight between Brisbane and Melbourne to less than 24 hours.
I am absolutely committed to this project.
Whilst on the road over the past few weeks, I have visited a lot of towns in West and Far West New South Wales. When covering this large portion of rural and regional New South Wales, I still hear from many people who struggle to access quality mobile service.
The Coalition Government’s Mobile Black Spots programme is going some way to addressing this issue with an additional $60 million now committed to the programme on top of the $160 million already invested, bringing the Coalition’s total investment to $220 million.
While greater investment in mobile phone tower infrastructure is a very welcome and positive step towards quality mobile phone service for rural and regional Australia, it will not be fully effective until the issue of national roaming is addressed by Australia’s leading telcos.
With a few exceptions national roaming is non-existent in Australia. While overseas visitors to Australia can utilise international roaming and quality mobile service across most of Australia, local mobile phone users cannot.
While we appreciate that Telstra has a huge footprint around Australia I do not think it unreasonable to expect them to work with the likes of Vodafone and Optus to ensure that all Australians can access quality mobile coverage all the time.