Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – 2GB Drive with Chris O’Keefe – Mobile Black Spot Program

Subject: Mobile Black Spot Program



Chris O’Keefe: So, we’ve been speaking a lot all year about suburbs and towns that have got shocking mobile phone coverage. 131873, give me a yell. If you’re in one of these mobile phone black spots, let me know what it’s like or send me a text, 0460873873. Because the Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, she talked a big, big game to sort this out when she was in Opposition. Big talker. And then she’s lobbed into Government as a Communications Minister and decided to hand-pick locations to fund for better mobile phone coverage. She hand-picked it herself. And it just happened to go that 74% of them were in Labor electorates. So, the Minister bypassed the department and picked all these locations herself. That’s led to the National Audit Office investigating whether or not that was pork-barreling. And then today we learned that 12 of the 54 sites that she hand-picked, can’t go ahead. And I reckon, you know who should be really, really embarrassed about all of this, Kristy McBain. Now Kristy McBain is the Labor member for Eden-Monaro and she has broken promise after promise here. A whole bunch of broken promises to the good people of Eden-Monaro. So this was Kristy McBain and Michelle Rowland the month before the May 2022 federal election.

[Kristy McBain: We know the biggest things you’re asking for are changes to black spots and more internet connectivity. So today we are announcing $1 million on the Kings Highway, $1,000,000 on the Snowy Mountains Highway, $1 million dollars on the Monaro Highway and $3.5 million on the Princes Highway from Ulladulla to Eden to deal with those black spot issues.]

Chris O’Keefe: Sounds good, doesn’t it? Kristy McBain, Labor Member for Eden-Monaro when you’re sitting there and just spruiking it to the voters, trying to convince them to give you their vote. Until they’ve dumped a whole lot of them. They get into Government and they’ve dumped a whole lot of them. So the upgrade to mobile phone coverage on the Monaro Highway is not happening at all. So there wasn’t even an application for money to improve mobile coverage. So that’s a broken promise. Well done, Kristy McBain and Michelle Rowland, the Minister for Communications. There was also a promise of millions of dollars to improve coverage at Carwoola, which is a little east of Queanbeyan. That’s also been scrapped because it was quote, ‘high cost and there was low level of confidence in the viability of the proposed site and it did not represent value for money’, that is from the department itself. Wee Jasper, she promised that one too. A little bit northwest of Canberra and they’re being dudded because the proposed solution was extremely high cost. We thought this would all be mobile phone coverage upgrades instead, nothing of the sort. Majors Creek, that’s been brushed, Princes Highway to Ulladulla, at Batemans Bay. Again, that’s not happening. So basically everything that Kristy McBain the Labor Member for Eden-Monaro promised with Michelle Rowland, the Communications Minister, everything they promised to convince folks to vote for her.

[Michelle Rowland: So that’s a real boost for the Eden-Monaro community because we know that the best broadband isn’t just a nice to have, it is a must have.

[Kristy McBain: Thanks so much, Michelle. You have helped me deliver on what people have been asking for right across Eden-Monaro. The Labor Party takes seriously listening and we hope that you’ll have better internet and better mobile phone service across Eden-Monaro.]

Chris O’Keefe: So we’re very important? Delivering it, we haven’t delivered any of it, Kristy McBain. Honestly. So Mount Tomah in the Blue Mountains, that’s been scrapped too. Mangrove Mountain on the Central Coast, gone. Bowen Mountain near Richmond. All promises for better mobile phone coverage and none of them will be met. What a farce. David Coleman, the Shadow Communications Minister, is on the line. David, Kristy McBain, surely she should apologise to the people of Eden-Monaro for this.

David Coleman: Oh, this is an absolute shocker. She absolutely should apologise, Chris. This is a scandal with a capital ‘S’. The Auditor-General’s already investigating this very dodgy program, and now he’s got even more to investigate.

Chris O’Keefe: Were you surprised that you pull up the list of projects that come from the Federal Department and all of the promises during an election campaign, there’s just a big red pen through them?

David Coleman: I wasn’t, to be honest, Chris. Because if you have a program that’s dodgy from the start, if you don’t follow the rules, if you don’t do your homework, if you make it all about politics, it’s going to end in tears. And that’s what’s happened. I mean, because what’s supposed to happen here is you have a merit-based process. You get people to put in applications, you choose the best ones. They did the absolute opposite. They got a map out. They said, where do we want these politically? They stuck some pins on a map, and they said, we’ll put them there. But it turns out that now, in about a quarter of these places, they can’t even do that. So it is just shocking. And the Auditor-General’s going to be very, very interested in today’s announcement because it just underscores how dodgy this whole thing is.

Chris O’Keefe: Well, Kristy McBain, the Member for Eden-Monaro did give me a statement because I asked. And she said, the Government is improving mobile coverage round delivers funding to address coverage issues in communities across Australia. We ran a quote, ‘transparent process’, David Coleman, ‘to ensure we received value for money outcomes for taxpayer investment. Now the Government is considering options to test further solutions at Majors Creek.’ Kristy McBain says she will, ‘work with the Community at Carwoola to identify a possible site for a future upgrade. And it’s disappointing that this program hasn’t delivered successful co-investment at Wee Jasper’. So she’s just listed three or four suburbs there that she promised she would fix the black spot of, that hasn’t happened.

David Coleman: Yeah, it’s just laugh out loud. It is just disgraceful, Chris. And she’s the Minister for, I think Regional Development as well. So she’s not doing very good, very well at developing the regions. And look Gordon Reid on the Central Coast, he promised Mangrove Mountain would be developed. That’s not happening. Susan Templeman in Macquarie, Bowen Mountain there at the foot of the Blue Mountains. She’s been talking about that site for years and that’s not happening either. So this is a scandal, Chris. It was a scandal before today because it was so politicised. It’s an even bigger scandal now because they can’t even deliver on the political promises that they made.

Chris O’Keefe: David Coleman, I do this thing on this program called the Scott Morrison Test. If Scott Morrison was the Prime Minister of Australia and he was promising voters in marginal electorates like Eden-Monaro that they would upgrade the mobile phone reception as part of a black spot program, and then you get voted in and you put a red pen through those promises. What do you reckon the Labor Party would have said about Scott Morrison?

David Coleman: Oh, they would have said it was a disgrace, and it was outrageous, and it was terrible. And Anthony Albanese said in December, 21, he said that money should not be allocated to marginal seats on the basis of politics. It’s exactly what they’ve done here. It is absolute hypocrisy and to be honest it just shows a contempt for people. It shows a lack of respect for the average person because they think they can just make these grand statements before elections, change everything after the election, and no one’s going to notice. Well, the problem is people are noticing and will continue to notice. And when this Auditor-General report comes out, Minister Michelle Rowland, is going to be in a whole world of trouble because this is a disgraceful program.

Chris O’Keefe: Keep pushing it. Appreciate your time, David. Thanks so much.

David Coleman: Thanks, Chris.

Chris O’Keefe: That’s the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman.