Security is paramount in the Budget lock-up. Participants must not enter with electronic gadgets capable of transmitting information, so when a Treasury official spoke up just as hacks were settling down to read the Budget documents, eyes were raised. “Someone has a mobile phone…we’re getting a signal,” the official said. The culprit was unearthed soon enough: none other than David Alexander, Peter Costello’s press secretary. Not everyone has to abide by his own lock-up rules, it seems.
The best line on the Budget? Of the blizzard of media releases, one line stands out, from the Democrats spin doctor who came up with this pearler for leader Lyn Allison: “Last Budget the Treasurer told Australians to get procreating. A year later, the poorest parents got punished.” We liked it not for the implied vulgarity, of course, but the alliteration.
After barring Crikey from the lock-up, it seems Treasury is trying to cover its tracks by locking out other online publications. How else to explain the decision to bar Workplace Express, an online IR journal – a decision taken in the wake of the Crikey ban? Workplace Express’s Press Gallery correspondent, Bernadette McBride, was told her publication was not mainstream enough. This despite the appearence of industry groups, part-time journalists and lobbyists in the various lock-ups around the capital yesterday. The arbitrary issuing of lock-up permits smacks of command-and-control inefficiencies harking back to Fortress Australia.