Wednesday, 22 June 2022


Evelyn electorate telecommunications

Evelyn electorate telecommunications

Ms VALLENCE (Evelyn) (19:17): (6444) My matter is for the Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy on behalf of families and small businesses across the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. The action I seek is that the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges telecommunications issues be addressed on an urgent basis and that these communities be prioritised for Connecting Victoria funding. There are widespread mobile black spots, lagging broadband speeds and poor network resilience across the Yarra Ranges communities. Service is unreliable. I have firsthand experience where I live in the Yarra Valley, but it is also even the case for some of the more urban areas like Lilydale, Mount Evelyn and Montrose.

A recent independent report found that of 24 000 sites surveyed across the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges around 25 per cent experience telecommunication difficulties in receiving essential information they need during times of emergency or disaster. Yet Connecting Victoria in their 1 February 2022 report showed that other municipalities have received funding for broadband and connectivity projects despite having lower rates of connectivity issues than the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley. Why is our community continuously left behind by this government in the way that it allocates funds?

The dismal state of digital connectivity across the Yarra Ranges has been brought into sharp focus during the past two years of the Andrews government’s lockdowns, where people were required to work and learn from home but struggled to as a result of poor connectivity, and also after the severe storm events that caused havoc across our region last year, where telecommunications services were cut to thousands of residents, making it impossible to access emergency information.

The Andrews government has left the community behind, and the local member for Monbulk, James Merlino, has failed to advocate on their behalf. There has been no urgency or determination to fix this, and one year on from last year’s storms residents have not seen any improvement in vital infrastructure. It would make sense to integrate strengthening the telecommunications network in our communities alongside any improvements to the energy network resilience via the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s energy resilience projects.

I would like to take the opportunity to highlight Yarra Ranges resident Peter Brennan, who has been doing tremendous work to collect and collate data from households and businesses about connectivity issues and campaigning for stronger telecommunications infrastructure since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Despite this, and despite the Andrews government using Mr Brennan’s name in their glossy media announcement about Connecting Victoria, they have failed to list one Yarra Ranges location in the 50-plus priority sites for the program. This is just more evidence that the Andrews government ignores our community, and it is an absolute disgrace that the member for Monbulk, James Merlino, has been silent on this issue.

Local emergency services too say that communication services have not been improved for years, despite this being a significant issue. A reliable network for all communities across the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges should be a priority, and I call on the government to stop leaving our community behind.