NORTH East Labor MP Jaclyn Symes has defended her ministerial colleague after he suggested concern about mobile phone coverage on the region’s railway line was “parochialism”.
Victorian Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis was lauding his government’s mobile black spots expansion on ABC radio this week when he was asked why it did not cover Seymour to Albury.
He said he understood the “parochialism about extending it beyond Seymour to Albury-Wodonga” and was accused by host Joseph Thomsen of being a “little dismissive”.
Mr Dalidakis then replied: “You tell the people of Geelong that they shouldn’t get black spots eradicated between Melbourne and Geelong.”
Ms Symes believes her fellow Legislative Council member, who comes from south-east Melbourne, is conscious of the woes of the North East railway line.
“I think he would be pretty aware of it and the North East’s problems,” Ms Symes said.
“He sits in the same house as me and he would hear my rabbiting on about it.”
North East MPs suggested Mr Dalidakis’ comments showed a lack of concern.
“I think Mr Dalidakis needs to get out beyond the tram tracks of Melbourne and understand what’s happening in regional Victoria,” member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said.
“When he thinks about regional Victoria he thinks of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong and that’s all.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said: “I think it’s outrageous that the minister would dismiss the needs of commuters along the North East line or the desire that we should have access to wi-fi services on our line.”
Ms Symes noted North East passengers would benefit from the upgrade south of Seymour particularly around black spots at Kilmore and Donnybrook.
She said Mr Dalidakis told her he was “prepared to look at considering funding to extend (coverage) to Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga lines down the track”.
Mr McCurdy hinted the Opposition may commit to improvements ahead of next year’s Victorian election.
“We’ll have more to say on this, a bit further down the track we’ll have announcements related to rolling stock and mobile services on trains,” he said.
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley and Ms Ryan did not specify a pledge.
“It makes sense to do the VLocity lines in the first instance because they’re closer to Melbourne and have a big commuting population on their way to and from work but that shouldn’t preclude long distance lines,” she said.
“If the government is ruling them out and saying its parochialism it just shows how city-focused they are.”