Dear oh dear. Will they ever learn? We’ve written before about the glass jaw that keen Crikey reader Peter Costello sports, but never did we imagine this would extend to banning Crikey from the budget lock-up on May 10.

Sadly, we’re going to have to unleash the Crikey army, which now numbers almost 20,000, to force the Treasury boffins – who are following “guidelines” coming out of Cossie’s office – to see the error of their ways. Please email [email protected] and register your protest at this outrageous email which arrived in the Crikey bunker yesterday:

From: Gavin, Ray [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, 20 April 2005 11:15 AM
To: [email protected]
Cc: Mercer, Kerrin
Subject: FW: Budget Lockup

Dear Mr Ketchell, I refer to your email below requesting access to the Budget Media Lockup to be held on 10 May 2005. The purpose of the lockup is to provide full-time employees of media organisations early access to Budget documentation to assist them in meeting their publication deadlines.

Accordingly, as your organisation is not part of the mainstream media industry, your request to attend the lockup has been unsuccessful. This decision is in accordance with practice adopted in previous years and is in line with guidance from the Treasurer’s office. This decision is also consistent with your previous requests to attend the lockup. There is no record of a representative from Crikey attending last year’s lockup.

It would be unfeasible to accommodate all requests for access such as yours. You will appreciate a departure from the original purpose of the lockup and to allow non-media organisations access would place greater pressure on the already strained accommodation and security aspects of the lockup arrangements.

To assist with the immediate promulgation of information, the Budget documentation will be available on the internet from 7.30 pm on Budget night. The internet address is www.budget.gov.au .

Ray Gavin
Manager, Liaison Unit
The Treasury

Where do we start in demolishing this tosh? I was granted accreditation to attend the budget lock-up last year. Unfortunately, the officious Virgin Blue staff at Melbourne Airport did a Jet Star impersonation and wouldn’t let me board the plane 20 minutes before departure time. That led to a no show, but this year’s decision is certainly not “consistent with your previous requests to attend the lockup”. I was given accreditation last year but simply didn’t make it.

Since then, we’ve taken up office space at Parliament House, two Crikey reporters, Hugo Kelly and Christian Kerr, have been fully accredited by the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery committee, and we’ve even pre-paid the rent up until August 2005. The business has even been sold for $1 million to some genuine media professionals and I’m writing this from an office in innner-city Melbourne surrounded by about a dozen journalists.

“Not part of the mainsteam media industry”, says Ray. Has this clown heard of the internet? Did he read Rupert Murdoch’s speech about the power of the internet last week? And what about all this talk from the likes of Communications Minister Helen Coonan claiming that cross-media laws should be repealed because the internet opens up all these new media outlets. It all sounds a bit hollow when the government won’t let Australia’s leading ezine cover the Budget.

Christian Kerr has been Crikey’s political correspondent for more than five years. He produces more content each week for Crikey and The Reader than any other political commentator in the country. His reports triggered the Democrats leadership crisis of 2002. If Crikey wants to produce a special budget edition that hits almost 20,000 email inboxes before 8pm on budget night then who is this bureaucrat to deny Christian Kerr entry to the lock-up?

For heaven’s sake, we’ve got 172 Federal Parliament house email addresses on our database, a further 19 from the Federal Treasury, and when you search “gov.au” our database produces 1371 email addresses. There isn’t an ezine in the world which can claim such reach to political power.

If Cossie wants to confirm to the political world that he’s got a glass-jaw, he should press ahead with a decision that his underling says came straight out of his office.

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