Governments targeted by April fools pranks

By Rob O’Brien
Stories including a surprise Packer-Murdoch bid for the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network and an announcement of public-voted peerages in the UK have topped this year’s online April Fools pranks.

According to a prank news story run by website the Federal Government had awarded its $4.7 billion National Broadband Network contract to a secretive consortium backed by the wealthy Packer and Murdoch families.

The group, led by heirs Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer, also has close links with Optus and plans to build a fibre-to-the-home National Broadband Network to service 100 per cent of the population and compete strongly with Telstra.

The deal was announced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy at a Canberra press conference this morning.

"It was crucial that we awarded this contract to players with strong commercial experience in the Australian telecommunications market," Conroy said.

"Messrs Murdoch and Packer have the capital to back their bid, with technical backing coming from Optus and a strong management team already in place."

According to ZDNet, Conroy said work on the new network would begin immediately, with 100Mbps speeds to be delivered to some homes in metropolitan areas by the end of 2008.

"As we promised during the election, we’re bringing high-speed broadband to Australia," he said.

In the UK the website Government Computing News released an online April Fools story claiming that the government was in the process of setting up a website for UK citizens to vote on future recipients of official honours.

Appointments of peerages in the UK, or membership to the House of Lords, has been littered with bribery scandals in recent years, linked to the Labour-run governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Blair.

According to the prank, a government spokesperson told GC News that the measure was designed to make the public feel they have a role in determining who should be bestowed peerages, knighthoods, CBEs and other honours.

"This has been discussed for some time, and Her Majesty is anxious that the awards should reflect the sentiments of her subjects rather than the views of a small group of high ranking public officials," the spokesperson said.

The story claimed that from early September the public would be able to nominate worthy recipients of specific awards with any person receiving at least five million nominations shortlisted for consideration.

“Our national dignity will be best preserved by ensuring that we carry on giving out gongs to obscure civil servants, ageing military commanders and the buccaneers of our financial services industry. After all, they’re the ones who made this country what it is today," the spokesperson said on 1 April 2009.

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