Llew OBrien, Mick Curran, Tony Perrett
Llew OBrien, Mick Curran, Tony Perrett

Gympie Times’ press freedom campaign met with triple blackout


WHEN asked for their views on the media campaign, “Your right to know” our local political representatives were predictably reluctant to express their unequivocal support.

The campaign is a last straw response to the AFP raids on the home of News Corp reporter, Annika Smetherst and the unrelated raid on ABC headquarters.

Both raids were clearly intended to intimidate journalists and to deter them from exposing matters in the public, but not necessarily the government, interest.

The raids occurred under the watchful, and apparently approving, eye of the newly-elected Morrison government.

State MP Tony Perret started his mainly evasive response with the breathtaking understatement that there was a tendency for governments to “...hold information close to themselves.” And it did not improve much after that.

Federal MP Llew O’Brien claimed to support the campaign, but immediately qualified it with the “red herring” stressing the motherhood need for journalists to report “ethically and accurately.”

And, despite the six clearly articulated key reforms demanded in the campaign, Mr O’Brien said...”It’s not specific enough for me to drill down on it”.

Mr O’Brien, it’s about Australia — a democracy or a police state? That should not be too hard “to drill down on”.

The Mayor opened his response with a promising flourish of applause for The Gympie Times for participating in the national campaign. And that was the last mention of the campaign, let alone any support for it.

The burden of his “Insights” column was a defence of council secrecy on the grounds that current legislation precludes transparency. But there was no mention of any concerted attempt (perhaps in combination with other councils) to challenge the draconian legal constraints.

The convenience of “closet government” favoured by the hierarchy in in this council (what Mr Kovacevic aptly calls the “cone of silence”) is apparently adequate compensation for the frustration of not being able to scream from “...the Town Hall clock tower some previous goings-on of council.”

While such elevated hysteria might cause some rare congestion at the roundabout, it would do nothing to assuage the community disquiet at the lack of transparency in the decision-making processes of the current council.

As far as the Right to Know campaign is concerned, it was a triple black-out.

Merv Welch, The Palms