Come in spinners
BACK in 1931, that pompous pommy PM Stanley Baldwin, quoting Rudyard Kipling, described the press in a speech as ‘All power and no responsibility; the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages’. (Hearing this, one Lord lamented ‘That’s torn it, now he’s lost us the tarts’ vote!’)
That 1931 view has been echoed down the ages in many different ways and in many places where democracy exists, and believe it or not, it has filtered all the way down to the bureaucracy of the Thuringowa City Council. Yeah, ridgy didge. If Thuringowa residents have been feeling a bit superior of late, leaning on their pitchforks and casting a supercilious eye over the fence at how the sleek metrosexuals of Townsville have their council news, views and general doings all filtered and sanitised through a multimillion-dollar public relations department, you can wipe the smirk off your stubble-studded faces. Because you’re in for a dose of the same. Now, in Thuringowa, this appears not so much a matter to do with the elected councillors, it is to do with the innate fascism as practised as a creed by all levels of government bureaucracy.
The Magpie casts no such aspersion on any individual, this mindset came about decades ago, when more and more skilled managements techniques started worming their way into the decision making of elected representatives, through the creation of rules that hemmed in that process.The TV series YesMinisterisn’t funny because its fanciful, it’s funny because it is absolutely true.
And just what does this have to do with the Thuringowa farm, The Magpie hears you ask, as you lazily scratch yourself indelicately and reach for another breakfast beer?
Well, recently the very able and very amiable Christina Pery, Thuringowa’s answer to Townsville’s Dolan Hayes in the media spin department, fired off a little missive of muted alarm to Farmer Tyrell’s toilers in the barnyard, otherwise known as councillors.
She came straight to the point: ‘‘Just a heads up that the TownsvilleBulletinis now sending a reporter to our committee meetings. This means we can expect more media scrutiny of discussions and reports that are presented to committee.It has been some time since we have had this level of scrutiny, but it is also refreshing to have strong interest in the activities of our council.I think it reflects the growing maturity of our city.’’
So far so good, although there seemed to The Magpie just a touch of air raid warning in the repeated word ‘scrutiny’.
Ms Pery went on, ‘‘As has always been the case, you should keep in mind that reports to committees and council are available to the public (and journalists) once tabled, unless deemed ‘In Confidence’.’’
Then came a glimpse of the bureaucrat shining through.
‘‘If you receive any media queries, please follow our protocol and direct them to our unit, so we can assist in preparing a timely response.’’
Wonder if this applies to Les Tyrell.This newspaper and just about every reporter on it has had direct access to Thuringowa’s head honcho, who happily makes himself accessible at all times and is a friendly, straight-talking spokesman for his city.
He is savvy enough to be as forthcoming as he needs to be, without the filter of any dancing bears in a spin department.Let’s hope he doesn’t become Tony Tyrell.
Following this memo came another enlightening bit of correspondence, which seemed to reveal that there is a touch of beer and skittles at committee and council meetings.
The author is a senior council bureaucrat, Allan Lee, who displayed a nice casual literary style chatting to his students.Err, sorry, councillors.
Backing up Ms Pery’s alarm bells, Mr Lee began, ‘‘There will be a need to be more aware of our meeting procedures, protocols and behaviours.’’
‘‘We tend to be a little less formal in the committee environment and often make comments which the press would love to make a story of.’’
Yes, buddy, rest assured we would, because, old chum, here’s how it works: You say and do, we report.Simple really, although there seems to be an accusatory hint that we of the gutter press are sensationalists .Heavens to Betsy, the bloody cheek (heh, heh, heh.) Mr Lee then does a neat meaculpa. ‘‘I am likely the worst offender with smart alec remarks but promise to behave in future. (when the press are present)’’.
Why, pray tell, do you and the people with whom you govern Thuringowa need two sets of behavioural rules.Surely, if it’s not fit to be reported to the public, it isn’t fit or right to be said or done in such a forum in the first place, given the position and responsibility you hold. Save it for the water cooler.
There’s some other interesting stuff about what matters can become Secret Barnyard Business aka Business In Confidence, but The Magpie will hold off on that subject for a while, just so as to ensure that one and all can eagerly look forward to a happy and interesting new year.
From this harlot of an old bird, have a powerful and responsible 2007.