Crikey was invited to the Federal Budget lock-up in 2004.
That was something of a red letter day for new media, an entre to Canberra’s day of days for serious economic and political journalism, the chance to get a privileged first look at the national books and then deliver timely, informed content. The newspapers had been doing it for years … it’s an annual ritual for the national press gallery and the commentators on National Affairs.
And so, there was then-Crikey owner Stephen Mayne Canberra-bound, but sadly Canberra-bound a little too late. He had his ticket to the ball, but couldn’t find a pumpkin to get him from the airport on time. Classic Crikey really.
It looked like we wouldn’t get a second chance. For the next three years, treasurer Peter Costello, “Dollar Sweetie” as Crikey was in the habit of calling him, enforced a personal ban on our applications for admission to the lock-up. We kicked, we moaned, we ran letter campaigns and enlisted the collective might of the Crikey readership, but all to no effect. Last year as before, we hit a brick wall of studied indifference to our entirely reasonable request: if the Jewish News had a gig, if the Gold Coast Bulletin had a lock-up berth, why couldn’t we?
Well that, it seems, is history. Today we have been advised by the relevant officer of the Treasury that Crikey’s Stephen Mayne and Bernard Keane will be welcome in this year’s lock-up, preceding Wayne Swan’s first Budget speech on Tuesday May 13. Our first instinct, having won at last, was to say thanks but no thanks we’ll stay this side of the tent flap. But then, shouldering the knapsack of independent online media we said yes. Yes please.