Media event date: 
12 May 2020
Date published: 
13 May 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PETER GLEESON:

Well phone towers are to be upgraded and satellite trucks rolled out across the country after many were damaged or wiped out in recent fires. It's part of the Federal Government's telecommunications Bushfire Resilience Package to prepare the country in times of a natural disaster. And of course, International Nurses’ Day has been marked today as many pay tribute to the frontline workers.

Joining me now, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, Mark Coulton.

Mark, thank you for joining us tonight. Really appreciate your time. Take us through that particular bushfire recovery measure, because that sounds like a really, really innovative and terrific way to get some of these communities back on their feet.

MARK COULTON:

Yeah. Thanks Peter, good evening. Yes, the announcement today was sort of in four parts. So, one was making the towers more resilient, because we saw during the recent summer was the achilles’ heel if you like of the response to the bushfires was communications. And quite often a mobile tower was taken out of action because the electricity connection to it was burnt out, it took some time to get it back on line.

So, part of the funding today is to put longer battery life into those towers, in some cases diesel generators so that they are more independent and free standing should their connection to the electricity network be cut. Also that the mobile internet and phones, so the satellite truck that can just park, connect into the NBN satellite and the area around that then becomes a hotspot so that people can come in and send emails, make phone calls via Wi-Fi, you know, let their loved ones know they're all right, maybe make initial contact with insurance companies and the like.

They work very, very well. Also mobile phone, they're called COW’s and MEOW’s, so Cells on Wheels, and Mobile Exchanges on Wheels, where they can come in and provide that mobile service.

Another part of that is funding for 2,000 satellite connections to the NBN satellite, to emergency command centres, to evacuation centres, and so when the terrestrial network goes out, then we've still got that connection to the satellite that will not only keep the people in the area connected, but also the officials that are managing that.

Then the final bit is money to go into information and education to give to people about communication during a time of crisis like that.

PETER GLEESON:

Now, Minister, I know you're really passionate about the mental health implications of COVID-19. We're seeing some of those implications already playing out, particularly with small business and small business closures.

What do you say to our viewers tonight, those who are probably feeling a little bit down, a bit worried, little bit concerned about the future?

MARK COULTON:

Yeah. Look, the main thing is, make sure you've got someone to talk to.

What I'm hearing is, some of the greater levels of stress are people who live alone, and they're working alone, and a lot of their outlets where they catch up with family and friends have been taken away from them because of the restrictions.

So, if you're feeling really blue, and you think it's a little bit more than just being a bit annoyed about the situation, probably the first instance is talk to your GP, if you've got a GP that you have a long term relationship with, give them a call.

We've got additional telehealth now, so that you can do that from your own home.

But if you don't have a regular GP, there's quite a few facilities - the Black Dog Institute, we've got those other organisations that you can ring, easy to find if you Google them, and talk to someone.

Lifeline, Headspace, all those organisations, they’re really good at chatting with you. And if they think that, hang on a minute, you might have a little bit more than being a bit annoyed, you actually may have depression, then they can steer you in the directions to get some help.

It is important. Don't bottle it up. It is very, very difficult times, particularly if you're under financial stress and then quite often families, as much as they love each other, are not used to being in contact with each other 24/7 for long periods of time, and sometimes our little issues become big ones.

So, there are services there and the message is reach out and get the assistance that is available.

PETER GLEESON:

And I'll give you that Lifeline number now, it's 13-11-14 or visit lifeline.org.au/gethelp.

Before we go, quickly, Mark, International Nurses’ Day today. I mean, they just do such a wonderful job, don't they?

MARK COULTON:

Yeah. They certainly do.

Quite often our nurses in the regions are working in very different conditions and quite often they're the primary providers of care and service.

You know, through the Flying Doctor Service, remote area bush nurses, area- nurses in, you know, little town that I live in that work at the local MPS (multipurpose service) that are really there at the moment through the corona crisis.

But every other time they're helping us into this life, and they're helping us out of this life, and all the difficulties we're having between.

And you know, 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale. But that's International Nurses Day and it's a great time to thank our nurses, they really are a salt of the earth workforce that keep us healthy and I'm pleased to pay tribute to them today and everyone else should be too.

PETER GLEESON:

Mark Coulton. Thanks for joining us tonight on Sky News Across Australia.

MARK COULTON:

It’s always a pleasure. Thanks Peter.