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Beefs about broadband pork

You may have noticed I tend to take a free market line and am very sceptical about government supplying things when the private sector is perfectly capable.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor on

You may have noticed I tend to take a free market line and am very sceptical about government supplying things when the private sector is perfectly capable.

It's not just about economic efficiency but also keeping the politicians honest.

The "greedy" profit maximising capitalist will show no favour to anyone. They will offer a product or service anytime, any place, anywhere as long as there is a buck to be made.

With government? Well...

This week, when the New Zealand Government announced the towns and cities that would first take part in its $1.35 billion ultra-fast broadband roll-out, there were accusations of pork barrel politics.

Egged on by a left-wing blogger, the Opposition Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curren thought the pioneering towns chosen, typically held by government National MPs, looked a little suspicious.

Curren later backtracked after a right-leaning blogger pulled her arguments to pieces.

But it led to a debate on Kiwiblog that surely politicians should be expected to deliver pork. That is what democracy is about! That is how they get re-elected!

When government spends taxpayer money, there is often the accusation or temptation that government will spend in the "key marginals", as well as in areas that support them.

Labour in Britain has been accused of doing this, as has US President Barack Obama and his Democrats.

During Australia's recent election campaign I recall cries of "sandbagging" when, out of five pilot areas for the NBN, three were in marginal seats, one was safe Labor and one was held by an Independent.

Since Julia Gillard was "saved" by Independent MPs backing Labour, citing the NBN as a factor, it will be interesting to see what broadband pork they receive in the weeks and months ahead.

After all, there were accusations that these MPs turned NBN into a "shameless pork barrel".

Thus, we need to compare and contrast the delivery of the NBN to New England and Lyne in New South Wales and Denison in Tasmania, with other similar divisions to see what rewards Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Andrew Wilkie might receive for backing Labor.

It may well be that nothing untoward happens, but as the New Zealand case showed above, where government broadband is concerned, there will always be the whiff of suspicion.

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