Pauline Hanson’s mercy mission for the Cape
SENATOR Pauline Hanson wants payphones in remote parts of Cape York made free to travellers, to boost communication across the region.
The One Nation leader, who made a 3000km road trip from Ipswich to Bamaga last year, says she has identified a need to accelerate the installation of new mobile phone base stations on the Peninsula Developmental Road, and improve coverage.
The senator has written to Communications Minister Mark Fletcher suggesting Archer River and Musgrave roadhouses and Bramwell Station as priorities, due to increasing visitor numbers in these areas, and a constant breakdown of public phones.
"Mobile coverage is essential in remote locations that encounter hazardous flooding and accidents involving wildlife and other vehicles," she said.
"I've spoken to the operators at Archer River, Musgrave and Bramwell Station, and each of them has told me that coin jams can leave a public phone box out of action for weeks on end until a technician comes up from Cairns to clear the problem."
She has also suggested converting mobile blackspot payphones to free phones that would keep tourists and travellers in contact with family and friends, while removing the need for technicians to drive up to 800km for coin mechanism repairs.
Musgrave and Archer River roadhouses are to receive mobile coverage, under federal funding for Optus earlier this year - but it is not clear whether non-Optus customers would benefit from the new sites.
Musgrave Roadhouse operator Mary McDowall was unsure of converting the roadhouse's payphone to a free phone, saying she and her husband John received payment for emptying the phones.
"Half the time, these phones out the front aren't working," she said. "Sometimes people come from as far as Brisbane to fix them."
She said having mobile coverage in the area would not only help boost tourism, but also be a lifesaver for the community in case of emergencies.
"We've been trying for years and years to get it," she said.
"The only mobile reception is at Laura.
"To have it would be an absolute lifesaver."