STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, TERRITORIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Good morning. Well, there’s got to be more to being a National Party MP than coming down to Canberra in a big hat with a fake stockwhip.
The Deputy Prime Minister had one job to do today and that was to call a meeting of his Party room. He’s failed to do that. We know the reason they couldn’t get together and that is because they can’t agree with each other on who gets what ministry. And not only can the Nationals not agree with each other, they can’t agree with the Government and they’re still fighting over what the new Coalition Agreement is going to look like.
We’ve just heard that not even members of the LNP know what’s in the Coalition Agreement and, frankly, it should be them that’s jumping up and down and saying we should be looking at this agreement. It should not just be Labor which is championing the public interest in saying ‘this document must be made public’.
While the National Party is fighting amongst themselves and fighting with the government, there’s a whole bunch of really serious stuff that’s affecting Regional Australia that simply is not happening.
Last night at Senate Estimates we heard that there is over 200,000 Australians that receive a broadband service from wireless internet service providers which are at risk. These are non-NBN wireless broadband providers who are currently transmitting in the 3.6 Ghz spectrum and which is about to be auctioned off for the 5G telecommunications service. Labor fully supports the prospects of 5G mobile services. We are very excited about it, but the people who are receiving a service from these wireless internet service providers should not be the victims of it.
I wrote to the Government over a month ago saying this problem needs to be sorted out. We are happy to sit down with you and come up with a solution which fixes up the livelihoods and the future of these 200,000 Australians in Rural and Regional Australia. The Government simply has not responded to that. It appears that not only does the Minister for Regional Communications not have an in-tray, but the Minister for Regional Communications doesn’t have an out-tray. They are incapable of making a decision on anything.
Let’s have a look at where some of these wireless internet service providers are. They are in National Party seats and in Rural and Regional Australia. You had the Minister for Agriculture dragging the media through his electorate not 12 months ago, trumpeting the benefits of a new wireless internet service provider in his electorate providing a service to farmers and rural people that the NBN could not or would not provide. You’d think the Member for Maranoa had a key interest in ensuring that these customers were looked after. That is not occurring.
And it’s not just in broadband, where three out of four Australians would love to get the broadband that Malcolm Turnbull is getting, but they aren’t. But it’s in the area of education as well. They’ve put a cap on funding for regional universities which is going to freeze disadvantage that is locked in in terms of the number of regional Australians that are attending regional universities. A freeze in university funding will have a higher impact on regional universities than anywhere else in the country.
The National Party are too preoccupied with themselves and aren’t standing up for the universities in their electorate. Now if there’s one thing that the National Party have been traditionally good at – it is pork barrelling. Let’s look at the Regional Growth Fund - $272 million of funds - still locked up and not available to projects in Regional Australia because they can’t even issue the guidelines.
So it’s time for Michael McCormack to pull that whip out, dust it off, start cracking it and make some decisions in the interests of the people - the people those in the big hats are supposed to represent.