Crikey readers have sent hundred of emails to Peter Costello’s media adviser David Alexander over the past few days, urging the Treasurer to lift the ban on allowing Crikey into the budget lock-up this year. That’s on top of the hundreds sent to Treasury bureaucrat Ray Gavin last week.
So far the campaign has been a text-book study in democracy at work – which is to say our requests have fallen on deaf ears. We rang Costello’s office again this morning, and again no-one was available to explain why Crikey isn’t “mainstream” enough to attend the lock-up to prepare our 8.30pm budget edition. Apparently someone is getting back to us, but that’s what we were told on Friday.
When it comes to the case for lifting the ban, the best arguments to the Treasurer have come from the Crikey army. Here’s what a few of you had to say to the powers-that-be:
Simon Curtis, Senior Research Officer, UNSW Communications Law Centre:
In 2002 and 2003, when your Government was attempting to relax the restrictions on cross-media ownership, one of its key arguments was that new media technologies, in particular the internet, made redundant any concerns regarding a loss of diversity in ownership. It seems strange then that you would prevent the most well-known and influential Australian internet-based independent media organisation, Crikey, from being part of the traditional budget media lock-up.
By doing so, you undermine any reference to the internet as justification for relaxing media ownership and control laws. Defining Crikey as “not mainstream” would suggest you deem internet-based news and opinion to have little or no influence on public debate. While there are, indeed, many Australian news websites, with the exception of Crikey nearly all are the electronic arm of Australia’s traditional media. As one of the few totally independent news companies left in Australia, Crikey deserves to be treated the same as any other news organisation.
One last point – I understand that admission to the budget lock-up is to be determined on historic attendance. That being the case, would this mean that if, for example, Fairfax attempted to start a new newspaper in Adelaide, it would also be barred?
J Robertson writes:
Dear Mr Costello
I thought I would send this email to you on Anzac Day as I thought it appropriate. My father, grandfather and uncle all fought for our freedom during World War I and World War II – they didn’t just fight for the people who’s political persuasion they agreed with or who’s opinions were the same as theirs – they fought for ALL of us. I would like to remind you that it included freedom of speach – So why have you banned Crikey.com.au from the Budget lock-up? Please re-consider your decision.
And Chris Quilkey has a simple solution to the ban:
Go through your 172 Parliament House subscribers, identify those on the Government side and delete them, along with the 19 from Treasury. Breach of contract? So what – what is the damage, a subscription fee? They would have to prove loss, which would involve argument of the benefits of subscribing to Crikey.com.au. If they protest to you, highlight their hypocrisy! Just because Crikey is impartial in its coverage doesn’t mean it can’t target those who deserve it.