Federal Member For Banks
Shadow Minister for Communications

Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – 2GB Drive with Chris O’Keefe

Subject: Labor abolishes Mobile Black Spot Program

E&OE…

 

Chris O’Keefe Do you still struggle with reception in different parts of Sydney? Because you will find this deep in the Budget papers under small print and it says this, ‘the conclusion of the Mobile Black Spot Program.’ So essentially, the Government has confirmed funding for the Mobile Black Spot Program and it will cease in 2026, 2027. It’ll be all over. They’ve also allocated $0 for the Better Connectivity Plan for regional and rural Australia. Well the Albanese Government must just assume that everyone’s got great reception in all corners of this great land. Well you tell me. 131873. What is actually going on in the suburbs in terms of good, patchy or no mobile phone reception. David Coleman, Shadow Communications Minister, is on the line. David, G’day.

David Coleman: G’day Chris.

Chris O’Keefe: Conclusion of the program. I would have thought that it needed more money. Not none.

David Coleman: Well absolutely. I mean this is red hot, Chris, and this is as you said, very deep in the Budget papers. But all three of these key mobile programs, the Black Spot Program, the Better Connectivity Program, the Peri-Urban Mobile Program, they all get $0 in 3 years. And the papers actually say ‘the conclusion of the Mobile Black Spot Program.’ And we know that there’s heaps of need for mobile connectivity. We know that there are still lots of black spots out there. And this is a Government basically trying a tricky accounting trick to make the books look better by quietly taking away all the funding for these programs. And they’ve got to be called out on it. And Michelle Rowland needs to explain what on earth is going on here.

Chris O’Keefe: Is it being redirected somewhere else? The money? Is it being reallocated into a different program or something?

David Coleman: No, because these are the three, there’s three different programs that do really similar things in all the Mobile Black Spot type programs. And all three of them are zero. And basically, what the Government has done is they’re increasing funding in the election year. So it goes up and then it goes down, down, down until it’s zero. So this is the typical cynical political play. And of course, this is the same program, the Mobile Black Spot Program that the Auditor-General is investigating the Government about. Because in Round 6, 27 out of 27 funding grants in New South Wales went to Labor seats. And the Auditor-General’s been working on this for months. And actually next Wednesday the 22nd, he’s releasing his report into Round 6. And that’s going to make for very interesting reading, I think Chris. I mean this is, this is crass politics. Nobody thinks that there isn’t a need for mobile black spot funding. No serious person thinks that.

Chris O’Keefe: I was going to ask this, do you think they’re trying to just do away with the program because they’re worried they’ll continue to get in trouble from the Auditor-General on it?

David Coleman: Could be, Chris. Yeah, it could be. I mean, it seems like an interesting coincidence that you’ve got Round 6 where the Auditor-General spent months investigating it, and rightly so, given how shocking the funding allocation was to Labor seats. And then a few months later the program gets abolished. But we need this program because we need support for those mobile black spots. And some of them are in the bush, but some of them are also on our city fringe Chris, around the Central Coast and those sorts of areas. And to just sort of sneak this into the Budget very quietly is a tricky thing to do. And if the Government can explain why they’ve done it they should come out and explain it. Not just try to sneak it in.

Chris O’Keefe: Are they leaving it up to the telcos to spend the money to fix the holes?

David Coleman: Well they might say that, but what history shows is when you’ve got a small group of people in a particular black spot, but it’s often, might only affect a small number of people, the telcos don’t put the money in. And that’s why the program exists, basically to subsidise the telcos so they do it. And so, if you take away that support, you just won’t get the investment at all. So it doesn’t make sense.

Chris O’Keefe: David Coleman, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

David Coleman: Thanks, Chris.

Chris O’Keefe: Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman.