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Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:07

Vodafone's Berroeta has one thing in spades: chutzpah

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Iñaki Berroeta says said the government should have considered compensation for telcos affected by the Huawei ban. Iñaki Berroeta says said the government should have considered compensation for telcos affected by the Huawei ban. Supplied

Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief executive Iñaki Berroeta may lack many attributes, but you cannot accuse the man of lacking chutzpah. Nothing else could account for the fact that he is now beginning to float the idea that his company should be paid compensation for the fact that it cannot use Huawei gear in its 5G network rollout.

Wrap your head around this, gentle reader. Berroeta thinks that the Australian Government ban on Huawei equipment gives Telstra and Optus a competitive advantage – and so he wants money from the public purse to compensate his company for that.

Lest there be any doubt, he wants this money, your taxes and mine, to bolster the balance sheet of a publicly-listed company. A commercial firm. Not a charity. Not a non-profit. Let there be no mistake in what he asking for.

Berroeta reminds me of the heads of the three American automotive firms who flew to Washington DC soon after the global financial crisis struck — each on his own corporate jet, mind you — to ask Congress for bailout money.

These three worthies had sufficient cash to fly in on their own jets. They did not even give a moment's thought to flying in on a single aircraft, let alone on a commercial flight.

And still they had no shame to come to Congress and beg for money.

This was the ultimate expression of chutzpah, and perhaps Berroeta still has some way to go before he can match that trio.

But he is still asking the public to pay for the company's decision to use Huawei equipment in its 4G LTE network.

Has Vodafone ever offered to pay the government extra taxes in years when it had good earnings? What has it done to even contemplate the idea that public money should be donated its way?

Did Vodafone take any poll among Australians before it made its technology choices? Are the masses to blame for corporate decisions?

Corporates are very good at taking public money under this guise or that. They talk themselves hoarse about the free market when they ruthlessly cut staff, but when it comes to situations like that which Vodafone finds itself in, they have no shame in begging for public aid.

If Berroeta cannot manage to run the company without public money, let it fold. Australia already has too many telcos for a small population. Nobody will weep if Vodafone leaves this land.

But we will be free of at least one captain of industry who is looking for some excuse to dip into the public purse.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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