Don Ashby of Mallacoota in Victoria’s beautiful far east – has raised a most important issue for remote Australian communities.

Don writes:

” Mallacoota, like many remote and isolated communities, has a very unstable power supply and the supply is very vulnerable to bushfire attack as the line traverses over a hundred Km of dense bush. In response to the considerable concern current in our community of Mallacoota over our inability to receive radio reception during emergency situations where grid power fails I have been in contact with a number of organisational stakeholders.

It transpires that this situation is endemic right through rural Australia. Very few remote and isolated communities have back-up power for emergency broadcasts. Discussions with Broadcast Australia have revealed that the Howard Government decided six years ago, during a national restructuring of disaster coordination, that the role of disaster emergency radio coordination would be taken away from local community radio stations (that had in part been set up to do this) and put in the hands of the ABC. However this decision was not followed up with the resourcing of these communities to receive the broadcast should the power fail ie back up generators that come on line when grid power fails or equipping the SES or Police to power up the transmitter with a supplied generator..

Locally a request for information and permission to retrofit a generator plugs to the community ABC relay to be connected to by police or SES generators has been refused by Broadcast Australia (This used to be the government regulating body for broadcasting in Australia but was sold off as a private corporation by the previous government). Broadcasting Australia states it currently has no funds to provide generator backup to Australian communities and must apply for funds from the federal government.

Inquiries made by Craig Ingram’s office have revealed plans to boost the power of the ABC Longford transmitter so it covers Eastern Victoria to the border which is all very well providing a fire doesn’t incapacitate that transmitter and also threaten other communities at the same time – not an inconceivable situation.

This correspondent was not comforted when Broadcast Australia announced to one my correspondents that the emergency services had the matter in hand and would truck in a generator to Mallacoota should power fail. Anyone who knows the country in Far East Gippsland will immediately realise just how practical is that suggestion and once again wonder at our bureaucrats who seem to think that Victoria stops at Geelong and Warragul respectively west or east!

There is only one road in to Mallacoota and we are 25 km from the highway and one hour away from another fire truck (through thick bush). So if the fire comes from the SE, the N or the NW (seasonally our prevailing winds) then the residence of Mallacoota are caught with their backs to the sea and no means of escape or of communication to coordinate rescue, evacuation information or disaster relief.

This writer, the offices of both Craig Ingram and Philip Davis, are all looking into the matter but offer little hope for a speedy or easy resolution of the issue – official channels being designed more for considered inaction rather than rapid effectiveness – unless a disaster has already happened.

Please support –

* Create protocols and funding so that local electricians can retrofit switchboards to enable local emergency services to deploy generators power to local ABC relay transmitters.
* Put ABC broadcasting sites back into the hands of the ABC.
* Substantially boost funding to ABC Radio especially local country radio and Radio National.

I urge readers to write to the following, let them know about the situation and ask that something be done speedily about remedying it.


Broadcast Australia, Operations Director – Warrick Potter

PO BOX 1212 Crowsnest
NSW 1585

ABC Broadcasting Corporation

Mark Spurway, Head Transmission Network Services
GPO Box 9994
Sydney NSW 2001

Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy

Minister for Communications
Parliamentary office
Suite MG70
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: 02 6277 7480
Fax: 02 6273 4154

Ministerial office
Level 4, 4 Treasury Place
Melbourne Vic 3002
Tel: 03 9650 1188
Fax: 03 9650 3251

Darren Chester
PO Box 486
SALE VIC 3850
VIC MLA

Philip Davis MLC
PO Box 9210
Sale VIC 3853
Phone : 03 5143 1038
Fax : 03 5143 1057
Email : philip.davis@parliament.vic.gov.au


Donald Ashby is President of Mallacoota Halls and Recreational Reserves Management Committee. You can email Don dashby1@aapt.net.au

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