The Australian Border Force Podcast is an extremely thrifty venture by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, thanks to the use of freeware and royalty-free music, according to a guide to the podcast released in response to Freedom of Information request on Right to Know.

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The Department decides who comes on the podcast and the circumstances in which they appear, with strict rules around keeping the conversation casual. The rules include:

  • Podcast interviews must not be ‘spin’. They have to be balanced, newsy and interesting.
  • ABF podcasts should be about border security/law enforcement, and to maintain credibility in the format, it is essential to stick to talking about it in an accessible manner.
  • The stories should not just be about the organisation’s successes, but also about its challenges and struggles.

The agency is also conscious not to put out a podcast that is “worthy but dull” and boring things to avoid include long repetitive answers. That means keeping the microphone away from senior executives. The guide states.

“No offence to the SES, but a 40 minute speech from a lectern can be very dull in a podcast format.”

Management speak like “synergies” is banned, and the podcasts shouldn’t be propaganda.

“It is essential that the podcasts aren’t propaganda tools or a personal vehicle or management vehicle. Podcasts aren’t a way to ‘spin’ our message, they are a window into the ABF, and should be treated with respect.”

We look forward then, to the in-depth reporting of the department’s handling of asylum seekers. Surely that’s topic for the third episode of the podcast? So far it’s steered clear. The first episode had an interview with agency head Roman Quaedvlieg, who discussed the agency’s maritime work and the Detector Dogs program. The second episode focussed on the agency’s airport work, as well as its staff training at the Australian Border Force college.

Each episode the department estimates costs $12 to make — it seems the department is skimping on proper editing tools, music, and recording equipment.

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Just how many people are actually tuning into these podcasts? In a response to a question on notice, the department said it had no way of knowing how popular the podcast had been, but noted it was the top of the government category in the iTunes podcast app.

Peter Fray

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