LET THEM EAT ... PORK
Interest in ‘pork barrelling’ as a description of unsavoury political behaviour has been sparked recently in NSW politics. The term may have been around forever - or at least since the 1850s - but that doesn't make it right.
The term pork barrel, or pork, is a metaphor for taxpayers' revenue being spent on local projects primarily to bring money to a government member's electorate to induce more locals to vote for that government.
Its origins are thought to be from among United States slavers who gave 'their' slaves shares of salted pork in barrels supposedly as a 'reward'.
The fact that it's been around for so long is no justification for it to continue. Time to ban the practice so the usage of the term can also atrophy.
The piece of flash fiction by Robert Carrick below is an original take, focussing on the greed associated with a comparable practice in business.
It was the Friday before Christmas Eve.
Louise Chambers stood at the bus stop in the harsh amber glare of the streetlights that lit Alfred Street at Circular Quay. The Bondi bus was running late, and a cool misty drizzle brushed against her cheek, raising her awareness of her surroundings.
Stumbling towards her out of the gloom came a short rotund man in an ill-fitting tweed sports jacket, cream trousers and brown patent leather shoes.
Louise recognised him instantly as the celebrity chef, Oscar Peters. She'd worked for Oscar as his bookkeeper when he was starting out in the restaurant business. That was before his first Michelin Star gave him a big head and she quit, after deciding there wasn’t room in the restaurant for both herself and his ego.
'Oscar Peters! It’s been a long time and I must say, you are looking very, well, porky, if I can be so bold ...’ Louise said.
‘Give me a break, Louise. It’s Christmas. You know that I must run the gauntlet of all the events that the smallgoods suppliers turn on every year. I may have packed on a few pounds, but I’ve survived all my business Christmas parties yet again. That’s a triumph in itself, isn't it?’ Oscar pleaded as he flopped down on the bench next to Louise.
‘You’ve survived only by the skin of your teeth by the looks of you,' she said. 'Who threw the party tonight?’
‘It was Kowalski & Co’s turn tonight. They put on a spread at La Tavola here at The Quay. I can’t resist their delicious pork porchetta with all that garlic and pepper. Monday night was Primo Cochina. They did a Spanish pork sollomillo which they serve up with whiskey. But my favourite was on Tuesday night at Bulldog Smallgoods. Their pork pies are to die for.’
Louise laughed out loud. ‘They might kill you yet from cholesterol. It sounds like you’ve had your snout in the trough.’
‘Well, when they go to so much effort, I feel I can’t say no,’ was Oscar's excuse.
‘Oscar, do any of these suppliers give you good service during the year?’ Louise asked.
‘No. They're all hopelessly bureaucratic. I get much better deals from the smaller operators.'
‘Then why don’t you give them your business instead?’
‘As I said, I feel obligated to give the big boys the business when they work so hard to woo me at Christmas time.’
‘Oscar, if they were in politics I’d call that pork barrelling. That kind of social inequality - favours for money when a government politician funds a project in exchange for votes - shouldn't even be on offer in the first place.’
Copyright: text Robert Carrick; photo Wix