Polls heat up for Macedon Ranges mobile black spots

The bushfire-prone Macedon Ranges will be near the top of a mobile phone black spots priority list under a federal Labor government.

MPs Lisa Chesters (Bendigo) and Rob Mitchell (McEwen) joined opposition regional communications spokesman Stephen Jones in Gisborne last Wednesday to promise that areas susceptible to natural disasters would receive greater priority as a result of changes to the administration of a federal scheme.

Pledging $120 million nationally, Mr Jones said it was outrageous that the area had been overlooked in the first round of the current government’s program.

“This region has been prone to terrible bushfires, loss of life … yet the Turnbull government has not allocated mobile black spot funding,” he said.

Ms Chesters said the way the government has structured its program, with one successful application per electorate, it would “take 100 years to fix the problems”.

Residents cut off from the outside world during last October’s devastating bushfire near Lancefield demanded major improvements to coverage in the area.

People in Benloch and surrounding towns were among those who supported Mr Mitchell’s campaign for up to 30 projects to be funded under the second round of the black spot program.

Residents in other areas, such as Woodend and Gisborne South, have also complained, with some forced to change jobs or move their business due to poor phone and internet coverage.

Mr Mitchell said people had had enough.

“The McEwen electorate has been 60 per cent burnt out by fires in the last seven years,’’ Mr Mitchell said. “They’re going to upgrade one old tower, and the new one they’ve promised hasn’t even been started. It’s been an abject failure.”

The seat of Bendigo’s Liberal candidate Megan Purcell has met with Macedon residents to discuss coverage, saying a re-elected Liberal government would invest an extra $60 million.

“To date, the Turnbull government … is the first government to ever invest a single dollar in addressing this issue.”

Ms Purcell also pledged $250,000 to help Kyneton Football and Netball Club upgrade change rooms at Kyneton Showgrounds.

“Currently, the women’s change rooms are in the sheep shed, and the juniors have to share one giant shower space,” she said.

Ms Purcell joined Senator Mitch Fifield in Woodend to talk up the government’s plans to rollout the National Broadband Network to another 8700 houses in the area.

The Libs’ McEwen candidate Chris Jermyn promised more than $2 million in road safety projects, although none were in Sunbury or the Macedon Ranges.