'Disgraceful': Communication breaks down in Somerset town
A PUBLIC stoush has erupted between two federal politicians over mobile phone coverage in a remote Somerset town.
The Gatton Star last week reported the dangerous lack of mobile phone coverage affecting the town of Linville.
In the story, Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann claimed he had written to minister for communications Paul Fletcher on July 26, and had received no response, labelling the lack of communication "disgraceful".
Mr Fletcher has since responded and denied claims he had not replied to Mr Neumann.
In letters seen by the Gatton Star, Mr Fletcher's chief of staff responded to Mr Neumann on behalf of the minister on August 29, - more than a month after the initial letter was sent.
Mr Neumann issued a media release on September 2, labelling the minister "disgraceful" for not responding to his letters, despite the minister's office having responded four days earlier.
Mr Fletcher has now hit back at the Labor MP and criticised him in a letter to Mr Neumann for "name calling" on the matter rather than seeking a genuine solution.
"I certainly agree with you that improved mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia is very important," Mr Fletcher said.
"That is why our Liberal National Government, since coming to government in 2013, has invested over $380 million in the Mobile Black Spot Program."
As part of the Black Spot Program, funding for six Telstra macro cell base stations in the electorate of Blair has been secured.
The Commonwealth is contributing $1.9 million in funding to these base stations and the Queensland Government is contributing $0.9 million.
Three base stations are complete at Esk-Hampton Road, Moore and Somerset Dam, and the remaining base stations at South Ripley, Kholo and Mount Crosby are scheduled to be complete by June 2020.
The minister claimed in his letter, had Mr Neumann approached him directly, he would have been happy to work collaboratively for improved outcomes in the region.
"Had you telephoned me or my office about this matter - or walked across the Parliamentary chamber to speak with me - I would have been able to advise you that the Morrison Government has now opened Round 5 of the Mobile Black Spot Program and is calling for applications from mobile network operators and mobile network infrastructure providers," he said.
"Whether such an approach is more likely to secure outcomes for your constituents than engaging in public name calling is something I will leave for others to judge."