Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

On the eve of Peter
Costello’s 11th budget as Treasurer, his spokesman has defended his
decision to lock-out Crikey from the budget lock-up. The president of
the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, Karen Middleton, yesterday
rang the Treasurer’s spokesman David Alexander to protest the decision
to lock-out Crikey as “neither logical nor fair”.

Middleton says
she “registered emphatically that I disagree with their decision to
exclude Crikey from the lock-up” while Alexander argued in defence of
Peter Costello’s ban, saying that the Treasurer has “criteria against
which they judge applicants for the lock-up and with commercially
sensitive information they have to manage the number of organisations
for security reasons and ‘non-mainstream’ ones are the first to go”.

Middleton,
who is chief political correspondent for SBS, argued that “everybody
was subject to the same non-disclosure requirements so nobody could
broadcast or publish before 7.30pm” and said she didn’t understand why
he was suggesting Crikey reporters were more likely than anyone else to
leak information.

“I said I didn’t accept the definition of
‘mainstream’ and ‘non-mainstream’ and Crikey had been accepted for
accreditation in the Press Gallery on the same basis as everyone else –
that its representatives devoted the bulk of their
reporting/analysis/commentary to national affairs and politics and not
to gossip.”

“On balance, as things stand, I think Crikey has
as much right to be here as any so-called ‘mainstream’ media
organisation. There are newspapers reporting unsubstantiated ‘gossip’
too. I don’t think anyone should do it particularly, but that’s an
editorial comment.”

According to Middleton Alexander referred
several times to Crikey boasting that its stock in trade was “gossip
& rumour” and suggested that Crikey reporters would be more focused
on reporting gossip out of the lock-up than reporting the substance of
the document.

Peter Fray

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