Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Political journalism in New Zealand hit a new low today, when the New Zealand Herald decided that all government spending (except, apparently, tax cuts) should be classified as "pork". Hip operations for the elderly? Pork. Restoring New Zealand control over infrastructure? Pork. Building a new high-speed broadband network? Pork. Government? Pork. This is the sort of radical discourse you expect from American "drown government in the bathtub" conservatives and not even Rodney Hide (who is no fan of government spending) would accept it (he would for example accept that the government's spending on police, courts and prisons to protect the assets for the rich was not "pork"). But one of the joys of being the media is that no-one gets to ask you about the views you sneak into stories (or in this case, barge like an elephant carrying a howdah with a full brass band).

Make no mistake: the Labour government has engaged in pork-barrel spending. Their $9 million to the racing industry is one example. The coalition agreement roading projects in their coalition partners' electorates were another. IMHO their massive environmental subsidies to the farm lobby are a third. But to claim that every dollar spent is "pork" is simply ridiculous. Taking care of the sick, ensuring that every New Zealander gets a good start in life, and providing infrastructure are not "pork". They are what government exists to do. if the Herald has forgotten that, or thinks we would be better off without it (which is what their rhetoric implies), then I quietly suggest they take a look at those parts of the world where the government (such as it is) does not engage in such spending. Somalia, anyone?