Black spots

In a region where life-threatening bushfires are a very real possibility, good communication is essential.
It is frightening then to know that just within the footprint of January’s Sampson Flat Bushfire alone there are nine confirmed mobile phone black spots.
And there are at least 13 more in high bushfire risk areas across the region.
What is more surprising is that this risk is not considered among the criteria for assessing applications to fix coverage problems in the Federal Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program.
In fact, the criteria appears to weigh against the Hills’ black spots.
Under the assessment process, extra weight is given to projects with co-funding by State Governments.
The SA Government was the only one not to contribute a cent to the program, hence the State received only 11 base stations out of about 470 nationally.
The criteria also favor projects that deliver a larger area of mobile phone coverage – something that is impossible in many of the Hills spots because of the hilly terrain.
Yet there is no doubt that when a bushfire looms, a working mobile phone could be a lifeline. It could alert both visitors and local residents of the threat via CFS messages sent to phones in the area, giving them valuable time to leave or enact their bushfire action plans.
Let’s hope the criteria is changed so that the black spots are given the attention they deserve in the next funding round.

Boys to men

Fifty years ago today the life path of hundreds of young Australian men was chosen for them.
They were the first 20-year-olds to be conscripted via a birthday ballot into the army as part of Prime Minister Robert Menzie’s National Service Scheme.
In the end nearly 64,000 men became “Nashos” between 1965 and 1972, more than 15,000 of them ended up serving in the Vietnam War and about 200 lost their lives, just under half the total deaths of Australian servicemen.
In a year when we commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, we should also stop to remember the birthday ballots and a war that also helped define our national character – even if we didn’t like what we saw.