All Australians deserve mobile phone coverage, MP Tony Pasin says

"I think the executives of our nation’s telcos need to think long and hard about their commitment to rural Australians."

Australians deserve better mobile phone service, and the law should make telecommunications companies provide it, federal MP Tony Pasin says.

Mr Pasin has joined a group of 16 government backbenchers who are demanding a better deal.

Among their demands are:

  • Guaranteed mobile coverage for all Australians, at home and work

  • A maximum waiting time of five minutes on help lines

  • A month’s free service for anyone left without coverage for more than six hours per month

  • Financial penalties for executives whose companies deliver poor service

Mr Pasin said poor mobile phone coverage was the number-one issue for voters in his electorate of Barker, which includes the Murraylands.

“There are 399 mobile black spots in Barker alone,” he said.

“Despite the availability of significant government subsidies to address this need, very little is being done by our telecommunication companies.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t speak to a constituent who complains to me about having to pay for a mobile phone service they are unable to use for much of the time.”

The MPs, led by Sydney-based Liberal Julian Leeser, plan to bring on a debate about the issue by introducing a private members' bill in Parliament.

Only 30 such bills have ever gone on to become law, but many more have spurred governments into action.

Mr Pasin hoped this one would, too.

“I, for one, think the executives of our nation’s telcos need to think long and hard about their commitment to rural, regional and remote Australians,” he said.

“They are very quick to adopt rural imagery in their promotional material, but very slow to match that with improved infrastructure and better services.”

MPs’ plan is ‘impractical’, industry says

In a statement, the Communications Alliance and Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association – which represent companies including Telstra and Optus – described the MPs’ proposal as “an impractical non-solution”.

“The draft bill includes measures that are impossible and/or infeasible to implement or would impose crippling costs on consumers and the industry,” they said.

They pointed out that complaints to an industry ombudsman had fallen for the past three years, and blamed state and local governments and “criticism ... from customers and other stakeholders” for slowing the roll-out of new infrastructure.

Improving mobile phone coverage has long been one of the issues closest to Mr Pasin’s heart.

He got especially fired up about it in July, when the Murraylands and Mallee missed out on having any new mobile phone towers built despite the availability of federal funding.