Media a force for democracy

Jessica Brown

Only a few weeks ago, a motley crew of jumpy Ministers and gloating Greens demanded a media inquiry. Now it seems the media – with the help of Freedom of Information (FOI) laws – are doing a better job of upholding democracy than the politicians.

This week, news emerged of a scathing 470-page report into federal Indigenous policies. The Finance Department recommended scrapping 25 separate programs.

A separate government review of the Disability Support Pension showed that many people use the program for early retirement, with as many as two in five 63- and 64-year-old men claiming the benefit.

In the Emerald City, consultancy firm Booz & Co. warned that bus commuters in the Sydney CBD can expect worsening congestion in already overcrowded bus lanes.

South of the border, Victoria Police warned of a cost blow-out and serious problems with recruitment.

These four reports, undertaken or commissioned by government, were all withheld from the public. Presumably, this was because of their embarrassing content.

The reports were only released after Channel 7, The Australian, and The Age made FOI requests.

The Finance Department’s report has highlighted the government’s response to Indigenous disadvantage as weak. It has spent $3.5 billion, and has little to show for it. The report has again kick-started the debate.If it weren’t for Channel 7, this would not have occurred.

Reports of this type should be published as a matter of course. Taxpayers foot the bill; they deserve to know the results.

Before worrying about media accountability, perhaps the governments of Australia – federal and state – should be worrying about their own.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 12 August. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

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