Subject: Senate Inquiry into Mobile Black Spots Program
Chris O’Keefe: This is all around allegations of pork barreling by the Federal Labor Government. And it looks kind of like an open and shut case, to be honest with you. 54 locations around Australia are getting Federal Government funding to boost mobile reception and of the 54 locations who are getting Federal funding, 40 of them in Labor seats. 40, 74%. Well, what do they say? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck? Well, it’s pork barreling, oink, oink. You get the picture. Well now, the Federal Opposition, they want an inquiry to investigate. Shadow Minister David Coleman is on the line live today, g’day David.
David Coleman: Hey Chris, how are you going?
Chris O’Keefe: Good, thank you. What do you hope to investigate?
David Coleman: A lot of questions to ask here. I think, what did the Minister do? What did she tell her department? It looks like she has handpicked every one of these 54 locations. It looks like she’s basically sort of, handed over a bit of paper that says this is where the 54 black spots are going to be. For a party that was very keen to talk about grants programs in the past, this is just clearly not on. It’s dodgy and it’s an open and shut case of pork barrelling.
Chris O’Keefe: The Prime Minister was very vocal when he was in opposition about colour coded spreadsheets and all this nefarious stuff that you guys got up to when you were in Government.
David Coleman: Well, obviously I don’t agree with the way the Prime Minister described those programs. But here, you’ve got the Minister, seemingly not even trying to defend it to be honest like she seems to be basically acknowledging that, yeah, went around with a whole bunch of Labor Party members and picked a bunch of locations. This is a Government that is supposed to be looking after all of regional Australia, not just the bits of regional Australia that vote for Labor.
Chris O’Keefe: So how was the Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, how has she justified this so far?
David Coleman: Well, she hasn’t really Chris. All she’s really said is, ‘well yes, Labor candidates and I made a bunch of commitments’. But she hasn’t said ‘and that’s appropriate’ or ‘that this is a fair distribution of funding’ because she knows she can’t say that. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot that she can say because it’s just such an open and shut dodgy situation that she finds herself in. That’s why I want the Senate to go through this very carefully, because there’s going to be emails, there’s going to be text messages, there’s going to be minutes of meetings with the department. I’d be very surprised if the bureaucrats hadn’t expressed some reservations about this. I’d be very surprised if she hadn’t been given information about other places in Australia that needed mobile black spots. I mean, we talked the other day about how 25 out of 26 locations in New South Wales are in Labor electorates. In Victoria, it’s 100%. There’s not one place in Victoria that’s not in a Labor electorate.
Chris O’Keefe: There’s more rounds of this Improving Mobile Coverage Fund. So, do expect that there’ll be more fairly distributed after you’ve sort of belt the cattle bell?
David Coleman: It’s pretty hard to be confident based on what we’ve seen so far. And the people who need these black spots, I mean, they don’t need them in two years time. They need them now. A number of these communities are affected by bushfires, places like Crookwell in Angus Taylor’s electorate, a place called Healesville down in the upper Yarra region in Victoria, where they’ve actually put together a document saying we really need Mobile Blackspot Funding for this reason, because we’re worried about bushfires, because we need the coverage for emergency services. This Minister has ignored those communities and in a completely brazen political way. And it’s not on and this inquiry and hopefully we’ll get the support in the Senate to make it happen.
Chris O’Keefe: Who do you need, the Greens?
David Coleman: We need the Greens, ideally.The Greens plus the Coalition is more than enough.
Chris O’Keefe: What vibe you’re picking up from the Greens are you going to be able to get it up?
David Coleman: Well, we’ll see. I mean, this is likely to come to a vote in the next day or two. And we’re having discussions with the Greens and we’ll find out soon enough and I’m very hopeful that there’s support because obviously if they’re concerned about fair use of public funds about programs like these not being politically biased, then it’s pretty black and white. It’s not a hard decision to be honest.
Chris O’Keefe: Well, keep us in loop about whether or not the Greens support the inquiry, if you can get it up…. I appreciate your time.
David Coleman: Thanks, Chris
Chris O’Keefe: David Coleman, the Shadow Communications Minister, trying to set up an inquiry into how 40 of 54 locations for Mobile Black Spot funding seem to have mysteriously end up in Labor seats, dictated to by the Labor Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland.
The Hon. David Coleman MP
Shadow Minister for Communications
Federal Member for Banks