PM 'doesn't buy' pork-barrelling comments

·2-min read

Elections are about making commitments to communities but that doesn't amount to pork-barrelling, the prime minister says.

The Liberal-National coalition's latest election commitment is a $15 million boost for a centre of excellence for the Dolphins, the NRL's newest team.

The centre will be in Redcliffe within the Queensland electorate of Petrie, a key seat the government hopes to retain in May.

The coalition expects the centre to benefit elite and junior rugby league players and community sporting organisations across the region with training and recovery facilities, administration areas and collaborative spaces.

Scott Morrison earlier on Thursday spruiked a $22.8 million urban connectivity package that targeted poor mobile phone coverage in outer suburbs across Australia.

He announced a further $78.5 million for more projects to address mobile phone and connectivity issues if elected.

Touring a defence manufacturing business in Brisbane, Mr Morrison said Australians expected their leaders to deal with issues that matter in their communities.

He said he "just doesn't buy" the suggestion that election announcements are pork-barrelling, designed to win votes in marginal seats for the coalition.

"More than half of the seats that benefited from the (connectivity) program were Labor seats, not coalition seats. The majority were actually Labor seats," he told reporters in Brisbane.

Of the 66 projects in the program across 28 electorates, 13 are held by the Liberal-National coalition, 14 by Labor and one by an independent.

The prime minister would not answer questions on whether the Labor electorates that benefited from the program were marginal seats he hoped to win back for the Liberals in May.

On Thursday morning, leaked talking points from the Liberal camp showed MPs were briefed on how to answer potentially tricky questions suggesting the connectivity announcement was an election bribe.

The package includes specific funding for three projects to address mobile black spots in Longman, a Brisbane electorate held by Liberal MP Terry Young.

But the talking points detail how to respond to questions about whether the commitment is a "bribe" or "another example of pork-barrelling".

The answer provided in the talking points is "no" and that the grants program was "announced in the 2021/22 budget as part of the government's digital economy strategy".

The 2021/22 budget committed $16.4 million over three years to establish a peri-urban mobile program to improve mobile phone reception in areas prone to bushfire.

But due to high demand the government budgeted an additional $11.8 million for a wider mobile black spots program that had not been announced before, the briefing note says.

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