By Crikey founder Stephen Mayne


You can only laugh at
the stupidity of the Victorian Liberal Party in frog-marching our
respected psephologist Charles Richardson out of last weekend’s state
conference on the grounds that he was representing Crikey.

After
all, Charles is no anarchist web warrior. He was chief of staff to
former Kennett Finance Minister Ian Smith, and is well regarded for his
historical work on Malcolm Fraser. Gerard Henderson wrote the following
in The Age on 11 January this year:

Charles Richardson, who has written the most
considered recent critique of Fraserism (see his essay in John
Nethercote’s edited collection Liberalism and the Australian
Federation), maintains that Fraser’s “beliefs were firmly within the
long-standing Australian tradition of active government involvement and
fell short of a real free-market outlook”. This is a sensible analysis
– yet it does overlook the fact that much of the internal criticism
that was directed at the Fraser government during its time in office
came from proponents of regulation, not from advocates of freer markets.

Besides,
banning Crikey is just not the done thing in 2005. If the Federal press
gallery was good enough to give Christian Kerr and Hugo Kelly
accreditation last year, then this should be a green light to everyone
involved in Australian politics.

This is not to say that the
Victorian Libs are alone, as many have tried this tactic before. I was
refused entry to a John Brumby press conference in 2001 when he was
unveiling some business tax reforms. This subsequently made all the TV
news and most of the papers, prompting a “review” of the policy by
Steve Bracks and a subsequent backdown. We’ve plucked parts of that
imbroglio from the Crikey archive here.

Our
luck in the sporting arena has not been good, as we’ve twice been
knocked back by the officious Australian Open press office and the AFL
also refused accreditation requests in 2001 on the spurious grounds
that Telstra had the exclusive “internet rights”. Yeah right, as if we
were planning to webcast the games.

However, Crikey’s outsider
status is no more when you consider that last year I spoke at the big
Australian Institute of Company Directors conference in Port Douglas
and will be returning for another go in Perth next month to spend two
hours with Don Stammer debating the following:

If the Corporation Were a Person Would that
Person be a Psychopath? Do people become alienated from the traditional
morals that guide human relationships as they pursue the goal of the
collective organisation? How do we ensure that corporate objectives and
societal morals and expectations are not mutually exclusive?

C’mon, if the AICD is prepared to cop a two-hour
ear-bashing from Crikey on corporate morals, surely the Victorian
Liberals can allow our reporter to attend their state conference along
with the rest of the media.

Peter Fray

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