Wartook communications fight: Greg Barber vows to take battle to State Parliament

AFTER visiting fire-affected areas of the Grampians, Victorian Greens parliamentary leader Greg Barber has vowed to take the fight for improved communications in Wartook to State Parliament.

Mr Barber visited on Monday.

His bid came after the Mail-Times reported terrified residents were left without communication as fire tore through the region last month.

The Federal Government announced late last year it would commit $100 million to correcting mobile phone blackspots across the country.

Grant submissions are open until February 28.

“If we don’t put forward some key priority order, then who knows what Canberra will make of it all. The money could go to other states,” Mr Barber said.

“I’d like to see the local members and the Victorian government put forward their submissions and say what the priorities are, because if they get thousands of submissions from all over Australia, the Federal Government will end up making up its own mind.

“We’ve got a commitment of funds generally and we’ve got a pretty clear timeline so I’ll be raising it as the first order of business in Parliament this sitting week.”

Mr Barber said residents visited in the area all expressed a common concern about mobile coverage and stressed to him how important it was during natural disasters.

He said the Greens were serious about winning the fifth upper house seat in Western Victoria – occupied by the Nationals’ David O’Brien – and highlighted rail freight as a key issue in the contest.

“Whether you’re a grain farmer from Natimuk or an inner-city Yarraville trendy you don’t want trucks hammering your roads to pieces, you want more freight on rails and the government’s plan will see rail’s share of the job continue to decline,” Mr Barber said.

Greens policies Mr Barber highlighted for the Wimmera included improvements to public transport and a bill to ensure landlords had to maintain basic standards of their dwellings.

State Parliament resumed yesterday and the election will be on November 29.

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