Subject: Mobile Black Spots Program
Chris O’Keefe : Now the Shadow Minister for Communications, has uncovered that the grant process the 25 out of the 26 available grants in New South Wales under the Improving Mobile Coverage round of Mobile Blackspots program went to Labor electorates. For more I’m joined by the Shadow Minister David Coleman. David, thanks for joining us.
David Coleman: Good to be with you Chris.
Chris O’Keefe: Pork barreling? What are you trying to say here?
David Coleman: Oh, this is dodgy Chris. This is absolutely dodgy. So, what this is supposed to be is helping people in regional areas get mobile coverage when they don’t have it. Now, Coalition holds most of the regional electorates in Australia. But what has happened here is 25 out of 26 of the places that are going to get these towers are in Labor electorates. There is absolutely no way you can justify that, and the only way that something like that can happen is if it’s been designed to benefit the Labor Party and that’s exactly what’s happened.
Chris O’Keefe: Just having a look at some of the places where they’ve funded the black spots. You’ve got Wyoming on the Central Coast, a whole bunch of Eden-Manaro, Carwoola, Wee Jasper Kings Highway, Snowy Mountains Highway, Jambaroo, Gilmore, Lilly Pilly. Kangaroo Valley. What else have we got here? Bowen Mountain, Blaxlands Ridge, Mount Tomah up in the Blue Mountains, Mangrove Mountain, Lake Munmorah, Budgewoi. These are places that I’m assuming there’d be a little bit of development happening, a lot of them would have got hammered during the bush fires. Is it fair to put a red pen through those areas?
David Coleman: Well, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t get support. What I’m saying is it’s totally unfair that only they get support. So 25 out of 26, you know, if it was 25 out of 50 or 25 out of 60 then you know, fair enough, but it’s not. It’s 25 out of 26. So, you know, I was talking to Angus Taylor he’s electorates got a town called Crookwell. They’ve got chronic mobile phone issues there and they’re excluded. So basically, if you if you happen to live in a Liberal electorate, and you’ve got mobile phone issues, your community is not given the chance to get funding. And if you live in one of these Labor electorates, I mean, there’s nine locations just in Eden-Manaro alone. Around Eden-Manaro there’s three Coalition electorates. Hume, Riverina and Farrer, and those electorates, all got zero. So like, there’s no way of justifying this and the other thing is none of these locations were based on a recommendation from the Department to Michelle Rowland. These are all locations where she has directed, specifically directed, the Department to provide funding to these places.
Chris O’Keefe: Is that within her remit?
David Coleman: Well, yeah as the Communications minister, yeah, she’s ultimately responsible for the running of her Department. But normally what would happen here is you get a whole bunch of recommendations, you’d look through it, and they’d be a bunch of places around the State. What’s happened here is, she said, well these are the locations we want and 25 out of 26 are in Labor electorates. So what Michelle Rowland really needs to do is come out and really give a full accounting of what’s going on behind the scenes here. What’s been the process what has she instructed her department? How can she possibly justify that 25 out of 26 locations should be in Labor electorates?
Chris O’Keefe: And how many rounds are there because this is one round of funding. How many rounds are there? Do you know?
David Coleman: Yeah well there’s more to come. But the problem is, we don’t have precise timing on those. We also don’t know what rules are going to be put in place and given what’s happened with this round it’s very hard to be confident about any future rounds because, you know, if you live in regional New South Wales, you’re much more likely to be in a Coalition electorate than a Labor electorate. But you know, you’ve been completely gutted.
Chris O’Keefe: It’s not just regional New South Wales, though David Coleman, its suburbs of Sydney. You’re talking about the Northwest. In Michelle Rollins own electorate of Greenway, in and around Blacktown, there’s major issues. I’m sure in Banks in your electorate, around Oatley, Mortdale, there’s issues there too.
David Coleman: Your right. Oatley is a spot in my electorate with the biggest reception issues for sure. And look, some of these locations are on City fringe like you know, Blue Mountain, Central Coast, and so on. But there’s specific guidelines to this particular program so, you know, regional and rural New South Wales and they just completely biased in a way that is based not on the needs of New South Wales, but on the needs of the Labor Party. That’s just not on and you know, it doesn’t pass the pub test, the barbecue test, the cafe test any test you want to call it 25 out of 26 is outrageous.
Chris O’Keefe: Coloured spreadsheet, you think?
David Coleman: Well, look, I think what Michelle was done here doesn’t work for the people of New South Wales. And I think, you know, she really needs to come out and you know, maybe hold a press conference and answer the question on this because, you know, presumably she’s got a justification for it. She’s the one that’s done it, well let hear it.
Chris O’Keefe: And just finally before I let you go when Scott Morrison and the Federal Liberal Party were in power, David Coleman, there wasn’t a grant program that wasn’t overly directed to Liberal and National held electorates, to be fair, to the poor to the point where you lost Bridget McKenzie as a Minister.
David Coleman: Look, I don’t agree with that characterization Chris. Obviously, there was you know, all of those issues were very thoroughly litigated and discussed at the time, but these guys have been in power now for more than 270 days. So they’re not the kind of new kids on the block anymore. They are the Government of Australia and what they have done in this round of the Mobile Black Spots program is clearly not in Australia’s best interest.
Chris O’Keefe: She clearly needs to explain herself. So, I will ask Michelle Rowland’s office what’s gone on here, the Federal Minister for Communications, but it doesn’t make any sense, does it? 25 out of 26 going to Labor electorates. Good on you, David. Appreciate your time.
David Coleman: Thanks, Chris.
The Hon. David Coleman MP
Shadow Minister for Communications
Federal Member for Banks