Subject: Mobile Black Spots Program
Tom Elliot: So, it is alleged today by the opposition, the Federal Opposition, the Liberal and National Party, that the Federal Government is fixing mobile black spots, but they’re only fixing them in Labor seats and excused is the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman. Good afternoon.
David Coleman: Good afternoon, Tom.
Tom Elliot: So, if I’ve got this right, now I read your press release. There are mobile black spots being fixed, but they’re only being fixed in Labor held Federal seats. Is that right?
David Coleman: In Victoria that’s exactly right. So, across the country 74% of the black spots being fixed in this round are in Labor seats, even though Labor’s only got a third for the regional seats in the electorate in the country. And in Victoria, there’s a number of locations, Woodend and St Leonards, Gisborne South. And guess what? They’re all in Labor electorates. And this is a list that hasn’t gone through the usual process with the communications department. It’s at list that’s been hand selected by the Minister Michelle Rowland. And it’s not on.
Tom Elliot: Can one assume that there are plenty of black spots in Coalition seats?
David Coleman: Yeah, well, the Coalition represents the vast majority of regional Australia and more than 60% of the seats. A good example, Aaron Violi, who represents Casey which is around the Upper Yarra Ranges and around Healesville, they’ve had huge issues with bushfires, they’ve got a lot of mobile black spots in the area. Obviously, it’s very important that people can access mobile connectivity in that situation. They put in a submission to the Government seeking funding for Black Spots in that Upper Yarra Area and were completely ignored. So, there are lots of locations and indeed there’s an independent seat called Indi that has a lot of issues with both bushfires and mobile coverage that’s also been ignored. So, they’re all Labor seats and they were personally chosen by the Minister.
Tom Elliot: Now if you were in power, would it be different under your reign?
David Coleman: Yeah, absolutely. So, this program has actually been going since 2015. In that time, our Government funded more than 1100 locations under a system where anyone could apply. So basically, communities, usually in rural areas with mobile phone connectivity issues, they get together and they say we need help, we need funding to support a new base station for our community. That’s been assessed on a merit-based program by the communications department and that’s how the site’s were selected generally in that program for more than 1100 sites.
Tom Elliot: So, if we’ve had independent advice in the past, what’s happening now? Are you alleging that the Minister, which is I think is Michelle Rowland, is directly picking the sites herself?
David Coleman: Yes, exactly. So, she has picked 100% of these 54 sites and she’s not even denying it, Tom. She’s basically saying, well, a whole bunch of Labor members and Labor candidates and so on recommended these locations, and that’s why she’s doing it. And it’s pretty brazen, and there’s no justification, because obviously, there’s no way you can argue that 74% of the need for mobile black spots is in Labor seats, or indeed in Victoria when 100% of the need is in Labor seats.
Tom Elliot: Just so I’m clear and obviously her own colleagues, all of whom are Labor will be saying fix this, fix this, fix this, they’re all in Labor seats. But just so we’re clear, on her desk somewhere there will be plenty of submissions from Liberal or more likely National Party in place, saying come and fix this in our areas.
David Coleman: Yeah, absolutely because we represent most of the electorates with the biggest mobile coverage issues, because they’re big areas. They often have vast open spaces and highways and so on that don’t have great mobile coverage. So logically, you would expect that the majority of the sites are in Coalition electorates, but the exact opposite is happening. In fact, only 20% of all of the locations on this list are in Coalition electorates. Like I said, the Ministers not even trying to pretend that this was a merit-based selection process. It’s very brazen and she’s not supposed to be the Minister for Communications for Labor electorates. She’s supposed to be the Minister for Communications for Australia. But that’s not what’s happened here.
Tom Elliot: Okay, well, look, thank you David. David Coleman the Shadow Communications Minister. David Coleman is the Federal Member for Banks.
The Hon. David Coleman MP
Shadow Minister for Communications
Federal Member for Banks