Stuart Robert, Assistant Treasurer in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage
Stuart Robert, Assistant Treasurer in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage

Liberal MP to repay huge internet bills

CONTROVERSIAL assistant treasurer Stuart Robert has agreed to pay back thousands of dollars in home internet bills he concedes are "much higher than what our community expects" from a politician.

His decision follows the appointment of Special Minister of State Alex Hawke by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to scrutinise Mr Robert's $90-a-day net bills, which dramatically exceed those of all other MPs.

"Once I've heard from the special minister of state, then we'll take the next step," Mr Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

"I think (voters would) want an explanation and that's why I've asked for one." Mr Robert was only returned to the federal frontbench a few weeks ago after he was sacked in 2016 over a trip to China for a mining company he was financially linked with.

His May internet charges alone totalled $2832, while the vast majority of other MPs spent under $300 a month and most about $100 a month.

Mr Robert confirmed he would pay back the money for the bills on Friday evening and blamed unreliable internet in his Gold Coast suburb for forcing him to use 4G.

"I will immediately and voluntarily pay back the total amount to ensure I continue to meet community expectations and standards," he told The Australian newspaper.

 

Stuart Robert, Assistant Treasurer in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage
Stuart Robert, Assistant Treasurer in Canberra. Picture Gary Ramage

 

"The problem with 4G is that it provides a modest amount of data usage per month and then has very high excess data charges. These excess data charges are what have caused concern." Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Mr Robert spent more than $2000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence. Mr Robert says his semirural home in Nerang, near the Pacific Highway on the Gold Coast, is too far from the telephone exchange to get broadband, so he was forced to use a 4G wireless connection.

"I can confirm that the NBN is now being rolled out in my local area and I have a connection appointment booked in," he said in a statement. "When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians." It's understood the NBN won't be rolled out in some parts of Nerang until the first quarter of 2019.

Mr Robert told Fairfax Media he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so had to pay for extra after exceeding his 50GB limit. He has been charging taxpayers more than $1000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

 

Minister for the Environment Melissa Price with Stuart Robert holding an Olive Python named Kiss at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Minister for the Environment Melissa Price with Stuart Robert holding an Olive Python named Kiss at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

 

Optus currently offers unlimited 4G broadband for $90 a month, while Exetel offers 250Gb a month for just $70.

"I went and checked my most recent (internet) reports, it's about $100 a month," Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

"There is no doubt Stuart Robert is a very controversial figure and that controversy seems to follow him." Mr Robert last week confused debt and deficit in a TV interview and was caught taking a selfie when the interview began.

He said his taxpayer-funded internet bills will soon drop back to normal levels. "I can confirm that the NBN is now being rolled out in my local area and I have a connection appointment booked in," he said in a statement on Friday. "When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians." Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Mr Robert spent more than $2000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence. Mr Robert has been charging taxpayers more than $1000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

 

Fadden MP and Gold Coast-based Federal Coalition assistant treasurer Stuart Robert blunders his way through Sky News interview with Kieran Gilbert and takes a selfie. Picture: Supplied
Fadden MP and Gold Coast-based Federal Coalition assistant treasurer Stuart Robert blunders his way through Sky News interview with Kieran Gilbert and takes a selfie. Picture: Supplied

 

Mr Robert told Fairfax Media he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so had to pay for extra after exceeding his 50GB limit. Optus currently offers unlimited 4G broadband for $90 a month, while Exetel offers 250Gb a month for just $70.

It's understood the NBN won't be rolled out in some parts of Nerang until the first quarter of 2019.

"I've asked the special minister of state to report back to me," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

"Once I've heard from the special minister of state, then we'll take the next step.

"I think (voters would) want an explanation and that's why I've asked for one."



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