There’s a wonderful sequel to Wednesday’s report on Blair government spin doctors. There might be more than 3,000 of them – but when the BBC’s Today program sought to get just one to comment on their numbers, they had no takers.

But what’s the local story? Most of what you want to know about federal government advertising is available in this research note from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. Tracking the spin doctors, however, ain’t so easy. Some information is available from official Department of Finance and Administration figures on people employed under the Members of Parliament Staff Act, but even in Estimates it’s hard to get details of just who’s employed by the various government agencies.

That information is seeping out in a steadily increasing flow of leaks, but these are variable – and specific. Opposition sources say, however, that government agencies employ staff for spin and marketing work who answer directly to ministerial offices, but are not identified as ministerial staff.

Communications units are now de rigueur across all agencies. Sometimes they’re small – and then there are the magnificent edifices, like what’s now being called the “Sandy Castle” at Immigration. Communications might be a kind word. Obfuscation might be more suitable. And we haven’t even started on the states and territories…

Peter Fray

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