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Steve Bracks’s Media Director Sharon McCrohan has received about 300 emails for banning Crikey from a John Brumby press conference recently. Here is an early sample of what she was told.

As a former Victorian political reporter, I am appalled but not totally surprised by the Bracks Government’s decision to ban Stephen Mayne from attending the press conference on its business tax reforms.

Mr Bracks likes to talk about the new era of openess and accountability in Victoria but the reality is he’s not much better than Jeff Kennett. Just a bigger hypocrite. What’s he going to do next? Ban reporters from the ABC or The Age just because he doesn’t like the organisation they work for. Because basically that’s what he’s done with Crikey.

I don’t agree with everything Stephen Mayne writes but I defend he’s right to say it. If Mr Bracks and co. can’t handle some media scrutiny once in a while perhaps they should give the game away. Maybe they were afraid someone would ask them some probing questions about their tax package, eg: why they backed down on the $4000 tax on poker machines?

Lift your game Bracksie … keep up your good work Crikey.

Nick Johnston

ABC-TV State Political Reporter 1997-2000

NSW UNIONIST NOT HAPPY WITH BAN

Sharon,

As the editor of a political website, I can not understand your logic in banning Stephen Mayne today.

For a political party that has always professed to support media diversity, it appears a very short-sighted decision by a Labor Premier.

If you won’t recognise trade union accreditation, perhaps it is a matter that should be referred to the MEAA.

Peter Lewis

Editor Workers Online

PS Blackbanning Stephen will not make him go away.

CREAM PIES ARE FINE BUT JOURNALISTS ARE NOT

Dear Press Secretary (sorry Media Director),

Congratulations on a fine effort in corralling security forces and government staff in keeping that troublemaker Stephen Mayne out of the Treasurer’s press conference.

Perhaps you should tell Mr Mayne that if he wants access to senior government ministers without hindrance from security personnel, he should brandish the obligatory cream pie like everyone else.

May the Premier’s office continue the best traditions of the Kennett mandate, and keep all non-Murdoch and Packer people away from information like this. We the people just get confused by more than two opinions.

Yours ever

Malcolm O

SAM NEWMAN IMPERSONATOR

Dear Sharon,

You Idiot!

🙂 Sam

CRIKEY’S GADGET MAN WRITES!!

Sharon

It takes quite an event to get me to write. Congratulations 🙂

I have to say that the governments performance today was “amateurish”. Instead of focusing on the what matters to the Government, you’ve managed to promote crikey and Stephen Mayne in a way we could not achieve ourselves. For this I thank you. Well done.

We hope you hold the “Media Director” position for a long time to come.

Regards

The Gadget Man (Con Christov)

GIVE THE GUY A GO

Dear Sharon,

Your refusal to allow Stephen Mayne into the Bracks’ press conference is petty, undemocratic and downright contemptible. I’ve given up reading the daily newspapers because the Crikey site tells me most of the things I want to know. One day all the news will be delivered this way. Give the bloke a go!

John Underwood

FELLOW JOURNALIST DEMANDS RESPONSE

Dear Sharon,

I am writing to express my disquiet at the news that Stephen Mayne of Crikey.com.au has not been allowed to attend a press conference by Treasurer John Brumby.

I am a writer, working from home. I do not subscribe to any newspaper, but get much of my news from a variety of websites, including Crikey.com.au.

I realise that it might prove a problem to grant media access to just anyone who sets up a political website, but surely you can cross that bridge when you find yourself inundated with dozens of applications from internet journalists. For the time being it seems proper and desirable that a reputable and respected Melbourne journalist like Stephen Mayne be allowed to attend.

I might mention that my wife and I voted Liberal in the 1996 state election, but switched to Labor in 1999. It was not so much that we thought the Liberals were doing a bad job — we thought they were doing a reasonably good job — but rather our concerns that Jeff Kennett was slowly placing a muzzle on the flow of information within the state.

So it is disturbing, to say the least, to see the Labor government starting down the same track, and I would ask you if John Brumby and Steve Bracks are aware of your actions.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards

Martin R

AM I DREAMING

Dear Sharon,

Stephen Mayne is a journalist with the Crikey.com. In AD 2001, almost an institution in Australia as well as in other parts of the world.

Crikey is a source of public information, an analyser of news and a breaker of stories. The media owners and managers as well as the union acknowledges his existence.

But not you! We know that you are sorry now, several hundred e-mails later. However, as a media director, couldn’t you forespin how much it would hurt you and your master?

Yours sincerely

Freedom of the Media

MUMI WAS WRONG

Sharon, you are an idiot. Stephen Mayne is a respected journalist even if he’s not attached to a major metro daily. I understand you might have been concerned that he’d shit-stir (even after giving an undertaking not to ask questions), but if the Brack’s government can’t stand even the possibility of criticism, you all need to take a good hard look at yourselves. Only last night I was defending Steve “Open Government” Bracks to my Liberal-voting mother. Now I’m going to have to call her back and admit she was right… And for that, I can never forgive you.

Ivan Milat

DAN GIVES IT TO SHAZZA

Ms McCrohan,

So you’ve banned my esteemed editor from your piss-weak presser have you? Who exactly do you work for? Is it the repressive Singapore government or just Lee Kwan Yew himself? That’s what this all sounds like, a collapse into a repressive manipulative quagmire of petty bureacracy.

Come the Revolution, ma’am, we’ll see who’s wielding the rattan canes in the Public Square then.

Dan the Man from Crikey in Sin City

PS. Don’t bother coming back here to Sydney, we have enough poison to deal with in the local vege patch and Crikey spies are EVERYWHERE.

YOU SHOULD BE THANKFUL FOR JEFFED.COM

Sharon,

I was one of the earliest supporters of jeffed.com, checking it on an hourly basis in the time leading up the 1999 election and wishing, like so many others in Victoria, for a return to a more open, accountable and, frankly, democratic government. At a time when no other mainstream media, with the exception of Jon Faine, would give Stephen Mayne any positive public acknowledgement, and many of us despaired that Steve Bracks would lose the election, Stephen soldiered on in one of the rare positive performances by a journalist in Australia. He did his best to expose the truth and without any doubt contributed significantly to the change of state government.

On the one hand anyone can set themselves up as a newspaper and themselves as editor in chief. What criteria do you use then to judge admittance to a government press conference? Yes, we cannot have any nitwit setting up a website and passing themselves off as journalists, or any press conference – government or private – would be ruined. But www.crikey.com has more than done enough to establish itself as real news source. Any fair judge, given the weight of evidence, would come to the same conclusion. I can therefore only conclude that your problem with Stephen Mayne is the fact that his jounalism is “inconvenient”. Guess what? The truth often is, and the search for that most elusive of public attributes – truth – can also be messy and inconvenient. I believe however that it is because of previous messy inconvenience that Steve Bracks is Premier and you hold your current position.

Those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. There has yet to be a totalitarian regime that has not learned to its detriment the cost of annoying journalists for no reason. On the one hand I feel sorry for you that you will need to learn this lesson the hard way but on the other hand, such a sloppy piece of mis-judgement probably deserves the lesson(s) you are going to receive. My advice: learn how to retreat gracefully. It is an important part of any battle…

John M

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS SHARON

Dear Madam,

I was most disappointed to learn of the Victorian Government’s latest attempts to censor press coverage of important Government announcements, by not allowing noted internet journalist Stephen Mayne to attend a recent press conference. As you will be aware, Mr Mayne is probably Australia’s most noted internet journalist, and has been recognised by peers and critics alike for his excellent efforts in attempting to establish a culture of Government and Corporate accountability. Mr Mayne has been the recipient of a Walkely award, and more recently a Quill Commendation, and is a regular presenter on ABC Radio.

Having regard to the above, would you kindly advise me of the following:-

1. Who initiated the ban on Mr Mayne’s attendance;

2. What is the basis for the ban on Mr Mayne’s attendance;

3. Is it the Victorian Government’s position that Internet Journalism is in any way invalid;

4. Will the Victorian Government be adopting a policy of discouraging the development of a local internet media industry by denying participants in that industry content that is ordinarily provided to other local media;

5. Has the Victorian Government’s position on encouraging the growth Victoria as a centre of IT excellence changed, and if so, what will be the economic impact of this decision on commerce in the state.

If you are unable to provide me with answers to the abovementioned queries, would you kindly provide me with the relevant contact. Thank you for your anticipated assistance in this matter.

Yours Faithfully

Michael D

BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES

Sharon, what the hell are you doing to stephen mayne? Talk about winning friends and influencing people, you berk! Remember what Nixon said about j.edgar hoover? Well you’re about to find out what its like.. hope there’s no holes in your tent, cause it might get a bit rough with the Mayne man on your case.

Pissed off Crikey Subscriber

BREACH OF RIGHTS

Dear Sharon,

What is it that scares you so much about Crikey? Has the Premier something to hide? Have you got something to hide?

I’m surprised by the level of fear which you are bring to this government.

Congratulations of making an ass out of yourself.

Andrew Rutherford

Who frankly suspects you may well be operating outside your rights.

PR CHAIRMAN VERY UPSET

Dear Sharon –

Stephen Mayne is a journalist and Crikey.com is as much a source of public information, an analyser of news and a breaker of stories as any of the other more traditional, perhaps more celebrated media of our time.

As the Chairman of one of Australia’s biggest independent PR firms and an ALP member in good standing, I want to add my voice to Stephen’s in requesting he be allowed to attend the business tax lock-up this afternoon and report the proceedings to me and other readers in his own inimtable way.

There is a sense in which, in not allowing Stephen in, you’re not allowing me and a lot of other people in. This is regrettable.

Yours sincerely

Name withheld

WHAT WOULD QUEEN MAY THINK OF THIS

Her Exalted Highness, the Honourable M Delahunty, Minister for Education, would find your decision to ban a working journalist from the Ministerial briefing today by the Treasurer at least as offensive as the ban placed on her by the former discredited Premier, Jeff Kennett.

Stephen Mayne may have started his own political party but he is still a working journalist. You owe your job as does the Treasurer and the Premier to his stirling work in exposing the excesses of the Kennett government. His jeffed.com site was hailed as one of the major reasons for the narrow victory of the ALP in September 1999.

Is this the sort of game the Premier wants to play? Next time I see him in Williamstown, I’ll give him a piece of my mind.

I expect you to back down and apologise to Mr Mayne.

JO

(posted at vic.gov.au – have your say)

RECOGNISE THE VALUE OF NEW MEDIA

I am writing to express my disappointment at today’s banning of Mr Stephen Mayne, an accredited award-winning journalist, from the media briefing at 1:00 pm on the announcement of the government’s business tax changes. As a subscriber to Mr Mayne’s publication and a business person who employs staff in Victoria, I respect Mr Mayne’s analysis and insights on issues that cross political and business boundaries.

The banning is inexcusable and I expect an apology be given to Mr Mayne and his many readers. I take great offence that my subscription to Crikey is less valued by the government than my subscription to The Age, The Financial Review or The Economist. Perhaps it is time the government recognised the value of new media.

I would have thought that the Victorian Government would have liked to encourage business in Victoria, especially Australian-owned media outlets like Crikey.

I expect a reply from the Premier on this.

Giuseppe D

PS I have rarely been so angry at the hypocrisy of politicians as I am today. Suffice to say, I will not rest until this NSW import of a stalinist is sent back to Sin City, devil’s tail meekly between her legs.

A BIG MISTAKE

Ms McCrohan,

I fear you have made one awful mistake in blocking Stephen Mayne from attending today’s press conference.

I am not a Victorian, but you have federal colleagues who will be dismayed that you have upset potential Labor supporters. Beazley needs all the help he can get, and you ain’t helping!

Chris Murphy

Queensland

A PATHETIC STUNT

Dear Sharon,

Your actions today will ensure all my efforts will be made to discredit the Labor party in Victoria. Considering the history of quality Mr Mayne has been involved with both now and in the past, it is indeed a pathetic stunt to exclude him from any press conference.

Obviously you have no concept of the online presence; and the ability for this to quickly turn against you. You have again proved the petty nature of politics, the ability to cope with criticism and the inability to realise a poor decision when you have made one.

The least I can do is ensure you have full knowledge of how pathetic you are and promise my opinion of Mr Brack’s government will always be tainted by your foolish behavior today.

Simon B

DON’T MESS WITH OUR DEMOCRACY

Dear Sharon,

We do not pay your wage so you can play games with our democracy.

What is an accredited news agency is, in my opinion, a matter of opinion and Stephen Mayne is more qualified and independent than any of the “media” parties in attendance today including your good self.

Please do your job as your employers would want or stand aside so that someone can do what you can’t.

Sincerely

Glenn R

A RARE DISSENTING VIEW

Stephen

I think your moaning about being excluded from the Brumby press conference might carry a bit more credibility if you weren’t using your “news” web-site as a means of promoting your own political party.

Whilst I am the first to agree that there are some fairly insidious political games played by the media establishment in this country, I am not immediately aware of any media proprietor other than yourself who directly involves himself in the political process. (I’m not saying there isn’t one, but it isn’t really the done thing).

You can’t run around whinging about freedom of the press when you’re not a real media organisation. I read Crikey every day (I’m even a subscriber), but given the promotion of “People power”, calling it a news organisation is a bit like calling the Govt Members Secretariat a news organisation. John Howard publishes press releases and commentary on a web-site every day, but I wouldn’t call him a journalist.

I love your site, but I suggest you tone down the self-righteousness. Incidentally, as Hillary will confirm, I’m a Lib so I’m not jumping in to defend Brumby. He’s a git.

Regards

Nick F

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