There was a lot of talk last week about quality journalism in Australia — will it survive, how will it be funded, do enough people care about it, that kind of earnest dialogue.

There was also, last week, a highly instructive case study of the alarming disconnect between the rhetoric about quality journalism in Australia and its practice.

Last Wednesday it was announced that a new $50 million public policy think tank will be established in Melbourne, funded by the federal and Victorian governments ($15 million each), Melbourne University ($10 million) and non-government donors. To be called the Australian Institute for Public Policy, and modelled on Washington’s admirable Brookings Institution, the think tank will address the most important national Australian public policy issues on a serious scale.

For anyone interested in debate or ideas or the national agenda this annoucement was a Big Deal. At $50 million, the new institute will be bigger and more ambitious than all the other think tanks in Australia put together — including the Lowy Instutute, which is being funded by $30 million of Frank Lowy’s fortune.

A serious story, surely, for Australia’s “serious” press, worthy of major news coverage, analysis, editorial comment and debate?

This is how the announcement was covered by the heavyweights: The Australian (one par in its gossip column, page 13), The Age (11 pars, page 3), Financial Review (13 pars, mid-page, page 5), The Canberra Times (16 pars, page 8), Sydney Morning Herald (no story).

As for the follow-up analysis, editorial comment and debate in the serious press, there was no more coverage to be had.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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