The jury is still out on the Government’s approach to media management. There are regular stories of control freakery of various kinds, and the Government’s professed commitment to FOI reform sat rather oddly with Treasury’s handling of the ABC’s recent request for a briefing on the inflationary impacts of the Government’s industrial relations reforms.
But on one issue dear to our hearts, this Government has made a major step forward. Peter Costello’s refusal to let Crikey into the Budget lock-up prevented us from enjoying the same advance access to Budget materials taken for granted by other media, industry groups and key stakeholders.
But, worse, we also took some others overboard with us. Costello clutched at Crikey’s online status as the rather withered figleaf for his anger at our sceptical treatment of his political and economic pretensions. Unfortunately, that meant that other non-mainstream media were caught up in Costello’s petty vindictiveness. In particular, our Gallery colleagues at Workplace Express and Media Monitors were prevented from entering the lock-up because of the ban on us. Rather than be seen as arbitrary and precious, Costello was happy to be considered as a Luddite with 1960s views about what constituted media in Australia.
Kudos, then, to Wayne Swan for allowing all three organisations in this year. Swan only recently featured in a gimp suit on the Crikey website, and might be forgiven for wondering why he should have bothered. But at the very least he shows an appreciation for how to score an easy point over his now much-diminished predecessor and even, if we allow some uncharacteristic optimism, a commendable acknowledgement of the role of independent media.
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