Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeIssue 34Four more years of spin

Four more years of spin


“Media out!”

That was the impertinent instruction from Dale Wakefield’s minder when I arrived at Labor’s “after party” in the Todd Tavern soon after polling booths closed in the 2020 election.

We local journalists, including the ABC’s Katrina Bevan and News Corporation’s Jamal Ben Haddou (both pictured above in a piece-to-camera by Ms Bevan) had to practice our craft in the street.

I was told by the first Member of Gwoja, Chansey Paech, that the Aboriginal people inside did not wish to be photographed.

And so a minority considered itself entitled to interfere with a time-honoured democratic tradition, allowing media to paint a lively picture of the immediate aftermath of an election – the laughs and the tears.

The local Labor apparatchiks later in the evening changed their minds but it was too late for the ABC to send footage from inside to its admirably comprehensive coverage of the poll.

The rude minder’s boss is unlikely to do any more damage to freedom of speech because she’s unlikely to survive – as a Member and a minister – the 2020 election.

The News was at the after party in 2016 (I took this photo) when Federal Member Warren Snowdon predicted, accurately, that Dale Wakefield would be elected, by 27 votes, as it turned out.

Is the attitude to professional media doing their job going to get any better? Doesn’t look like it.

Ms Wakefield is likely to be replaced by Joshua Burgoyne who did not agree to be interviewed by the Alice Springs News about his party’s election platforms, despite repeated requests from us, starting in May.

ABOVE: There was no answer from Burgoyne to the text from the News on August 14. In between those texts reporter JULIUS DENNIS made several phone calls to CLP candidates and staff which similarly did not result in an interview.

Mr Burgoyne has previously stood, unsuccessfully, for the Town Council in 2016, for the Senate last year, and is the son-in-law of former Mayor Damien Ryan who contested the adjoining seat of Araluen.

Mr Ryan is trailing by a narrow margin sitting Member Robyn Lambley (former CLP, former Independent, now Territory Alliance, and if ultimately successful, its sole parliamentary representative).

The ALP candidates also refused to be interviewed. As with the CLP. we have told them we don’t do journalism by handouts from minders.

Bravo to the Independents, Territory Alliance, the Greens and the Federation Party who acknowledge the function of media in a free country.

Mr Burgoyne’s father-in-law must be asking himself why he isn’t doing any better after a decade as Mayor during which he was paid $1m by the Town Council for the role.

The answer probably is that his accomplishments in that job, to which he may well return, are hardly breathtaking: The town still doesn’t have flood protection, the dump is overflowing, street crime remains rampant, tourism was at a low ebb well before COVID, the national Aboriginal art gallery project is a dog’s breakfast, the sewerage plant is still wasting prime space and billions of litres of water and much of the council’s business is conducted in secrecy. And so on. All these are issues in which Mr Ryan, as the leader of the town’s elected government, had every opportunity of making a difference.

This is how things are shaping up in the wake of Election 2020: The town will not have a front-bencher; Ms Lambley will not represent a burgeoning third party but be its sole survivor; an inexperienced CLP Member in Braitling hiding from questions will become the incarnation of political irrelevance, 1500 km from Darwin; and of the two newcomers to politics seeking to represent Namatjira., take your pick – both were silenced by their respective parties during the campaign.

The town voted for faces, all around us, often doubled, trebled, quadrupled and the fences and planted alongside main streets.

Where were the issues, the ideas, the policies, the political philosophies, defined, costed and sourced to committed supporters?

Although Gunner had done no more about COVID-19 than follow instructions from health experts and the national cabinet, he perpetuated the fantasy that he was saving the NT. Enough people swallowed that to get him over the line – just – with clearly the loss of several seats.

Damien Ryan on Facebook with a corflute of Damien Ryan.

For how many more elections will The Centre be the patsy to the northern suburbs, domicile to the members of our bloated bureaucracy, and the safe seats for ministers whose minders cushion them from probing media, churning out handouts complete with “comments” from the ministers so we don’t have to bother them: Wanguri Nicole Manison, Casuarina Lauren Moss, Nightcliff Natasha Fyles, Fannie Bay Michael Gunner.

They are feeding the public spin. Example: As the world is learning to do business by Zoom and the like, the Alice Springs News asked to participate in the daily press COVID conferences, mostly monologues by Gunner and Fyles.

A minder’s answer: No, you need to be here in person. (That would be a return trip of 3000 km every day.)

Gunner’s management of COVID has created two classes: On one side the massive number of public servants, suffering not an iota of financial disadvantage, their jobs secure, their full pay guaranteed.

On the other, the rest of us – businesses closing, people losing their jobs, their life’s work crashing down.

Whose votes does Gunner rely on? To a great extent those of the public servants in the northern suburbs of Darwin.

How will the rest of the people fare as Gunner’s crushing debt approaches or exceeds eight billion dollars – well in excess of the NT’s Budget?

Four more years.


  1. Terrible to hear political parties think this behaviour is acceptable in a democracy.
    Darwin ABC’s Jo Laverty and Michael Park were invited to the CLP’s election night party in Cullen Bay. Seemed to go okay watching the broadcast. Maybe check with them.
    NT Independent also seem to be being treated like second class citizens by NT Labor.
    Such a duplicitous herd of weasels – talk up freedom from one sheet, but behave inline with another.

  2. @ Erwin. I can honestly say that I really feel for you and your paper being excluded by the major parties in the lead up to this past NT election.
    As one of four candidates for the Federation Party in Central Australia, I too had trouble getting a foot in the door, finding myself out of favour with both our local ABC Radio’s morning show and our town’s only local online “paper”, one that claims to support press freedom, if only for itself.
    If the Territory is condemned to another four years of Labor spin, the local media must bear some of the blame, through its refusal to allow alternative parties and independents the opportunity to present themselves, their policies and ideas to the voters.
    Painting the election as a three horse race ensured the voting public’s attention remained focused on the major parties, and this represents a great public disservice.
    I thank you for your “bravo” to the independents and minor parties, but would have appreciated it more during, not after, the election.

  3. @ Domenico Pecorari: Dom, we’ve published 147 readers’ comments from you.
    That includes 13 since the beginning (in earnest) of the 2020 election campaign in June, in that period a total of 1993 words.
    Over the years we have published hundreds of stories on heritage issues, frequently quoting you.
    We published a profile about you on July 14 and reported some of your comments in our story on August 14 about the Chamber of Commerce presentation of candidates.
    We mentioned the Federation Party on June 4, 8, and 25, and on August 6, 7 and 18.
    Your surprising response are snide comments about the Alice Springs News and not a word of thanks.
    It is more significant for the public interest when the major parties avoid scrutiny by “our town’s only local online paper” as you correctly put it, than when the recipient of 2.5% of the primary in his seat vote thinks he’s not getting enough publicity.
    Where was the refusal? Where was the direct approach from you?
    Also, we make advertising space available at very reasonable cost in our mass circulation medium.

  4. Fabulous to see the two candidates responsible for the vile desecration and destruction of our sacred cultural heritage at Anzac Hill were both given their marching boots.
    Trust the 90 day wonder from Melbourne leaves no traces as she crosses the border at Kulgera soon.

  5. One million over 10 years ie 100K per annum seems to fall into line with the gazetted remuneration rates that I could find.
    Would also appear to be in line with comparative management positions.
    Whether the performance matches the reward seems to be the question. I get the impression you don’t think so. Not impressed with the way you were treated.


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