Conference paper

Telecommunication infrastructure and pork barrel politics? An Investigation of the National Broadband Network early rollout and voting behaviour in Australia

Broadband Elections Voting Infrastructure Urban planning Governance Pork barrelling Australia
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Abstract: It has been argued that infrastructure unevenness rigidifies into more lasting structures of socio-economic and political advantage and disadvantage. This paper focuses on telecommunication infrastructure as the backbone of a fast-growing digital economy, and raises important questions about the early National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia. Previous studies argued that the early NBN rollout gives the release sites a regional competitive advantage against other localities that have to wait up to several years to receive similar infrastructure. This paper, however, takes the discussions on the provision of telecommunication infrastructure in Australia to a new level, and raises important questions about the political economy of infrastructure provision. It asks firstly whether there was any case of pork barrelling in the early NBN rollout; and secondly if the (targeted) infrastructure funding swung votes at all. In order to answer these critical questions, the paper examines voting patterns in the earlier NBN release sites versus all electorates in the federal elections in 2007-2013 using the data available via Australian Electoral Commission. Findings show trends of targeted funding with a focus on marginal seats, followed by vote swings in the following election.

The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.

This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.

Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer

The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.

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