Doc­u­ment ‘ dump’ a dis­ser­vice

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION - CLARE CLARE ARM­STRONG CLARE.ARM­STRONG@NEWS.COM.AU

TWO weeks ago the State Govern­ment was slammed for “dump­ing” more than 75 an­nual re­ports on a Fri­day af­ter 3pm.

The re­lease of thou­sands of pages of doc­u­ments, which de­tailed the per­for­mance of var­i­ous de­part­ments and pub­licly owned en­ti­ties, was con­demned by me­dia out­lets and the Op­po­si­tion as be­ing “anti- trans­par­ent”.

Of course the Govern­ment didn’t just pick any Fri­day, it was the one be­fore a long week­end fea­tur­ing two foot­ball grand­fi­nals.

It meant the only num­bers any­one was likely to be de­bat­ing around the of­fice wa­ter cooler come Tues­day were the score­boards.

It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter if the Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ta­ble so much in­for­ma­tion at such a time was de­lib­er­ate or not.

At best, the poorly timed re­lease sti­fled the pub­lic’s abil­ity to ab­sorb the is­sues. At worst, if it was de­lib­er­ate, the Govern­ment knew very few jour­nal­ists would have the time or re­sources to scru­ti­nise and present the in­for­ma­tion thor­oughly. Ei­ther way the pub­lic is worse off. For me, the “doc­u­ment dump” meant hours of read­ing to try to glean an in­sight in how de­ci­sions made in Bris­bane have im­pacted the North.

There was a lot of math and a lot of back and forth with Min­is­ter’s of­fices as I checked I had cor­rectly sum­marised per­ti­nent de­tails. It was time con­sum­ing and dull and I can say that in a fort­night, dur­ing which an­other few dozen re­ports have dropped, I’ve barely scratched the sur­face.

The anger at the Govern­ment when the doc­u­ments were first re­leased was pal­pa­ble. I know of many me­dia col­leagues who traded in their stub­bie cool­ers for a cal­cu­la­tor that week­end.

But the out­rage soon dis­si­pated, the news cy­cle pushed for­ward and other press­ing is­sues bumped the re­ports off the agenda.

The Govern­ment hasn’t emerged un­scathed – there are a few mil­lion dol­lars’ worth of bonuses that won’t be ar­riv­ing in board mem­bers’ bank ac­counts and some pub­lic ser­vants have lost their po­si­tions all to­gether.

Yet for ev­ery rev­e­la­tion that has come to light thus far, there are likely just as many that have slipped through the cracks.

North Queens­lan­ders have ev­ery right to de­mand bet­ter of their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and I can only hope the city main­tains the rage and sends a clear mes­sage to this and any fu­ture Govern­ment that such an act is wholly un­ac­cept­able.

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