Come in spin­ners

Townsville Bulletin - - Weekend Extra By The Way -

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.

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