PM questioned over telecommunications blackout
Posted February 7, 2017
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has kicked off the Parliamentary year asking the Prime Minister how his Government will protect high bushfire risk communities from telecommunication blackouts when the power goes out for days at a time.
In Question Time earlier today, the NXT MP asked the nation’s leader, Malcolm Turnbull, how the Government would keep essential communication systems such as mobile phone networks operating when electricity outages lasted longer than the current four-hour battery storage at mobile base stations.
“Over the Christmas period thousands of my constituents endured days without power and telecommunication services after storms damaged electricity infrastructure. For some, this lasted five days,” Ms Sharkie said.
“In middle of the fire danger season, in one of the highest bushfire-risk areas in Australia; we had no means of communication, as mobile phone base stations batteries lasted just a few hours and then, in some areas including Mylor and Scott Creek, landlines then failed.
“I understand under the downgraded NBN rollout of Fibre to the Node; landlines will not work in a power outage at all.
“It is outrageous that in 2017 telecommunications infrastructure leaves us so vulnerable.
“Prime Minister would you please advise how your Government will address this matter and safeguard telecommunications access, particularly in high risk fire danger areas such as my electorate of Mayo?”
Ms Sharkie rejected Mr Turnbull’s response that the vulnerability of Mayo’s telecommunications should be blamed on the “reckless energy policies” of the South Australian Labor Government and its “increasing dependence” on base-load power from Victoria.
She called a point of order about the relevance of the Prime Minister’s response.
“My question was about safeguarding telecommunication in high risk bushfire areas,” she said after Question Time.
“Blackouts happen. We need to have better back-up systems and processes in place.
“We’re supposed to be a technologically advanced country but now, as soon as the power goes out, if you’ve got fibre to the node NBN not only does your internet not work but your home phone doesn’t work either.
“Mobile phones towers stop working after four-hours because that’s how long the existing battery back-up operate.
“My community quite rightly wants to know what legislative safeguards they have to make sure essential services, such as telecommunications, will remain operational during emergencies.”