By now, you probably would have heard about the Your Right To Know campaign, the Australia-wide media push for press freedom. It comes in the wake of July's Australian Federal Police raids on the ABC and the home of News Limited journalist Annika Smethurst but reflects an insidious clamping down on government openness that's been under way for at least two decades.
The Your Right To Know campaign focuses on areas of law reform that would stop the suppression of information the public ought to be aware of. An example is the government's refusal to disclose the aged care homes named in 4000 reports of assaults on residents in 2018. Law reform that guarantees freedom of information is one area on which the campaign is focused.
Over the past 10 years there has been a worrying trend in local government and other services to either obstruct the flow of information or manage it in such a way that the truth is forced into the shadows.
Where once journalists could pick up the phone and speak to a department head or staff member directly involved with an issue and get the unadorned facts, media units have been created whose job, it seems, is to run interference rather than help get the information to the public. Questions are demanded via email and often, after lengthy delays, elicit only obfuscation rather than illumination.
This is not a matter of law but one of culture. In their bid to manage information - to send the nothing-to-see-here message or to deal in spin - local organisations like councils or health services contribute to the cloak of secrecy.
When these organisations are on the public payroll, we see no reason for them to withhold or obscure information and certainly no justification for them to build bloated media units when those costs would be better diverted to frontline staff. There's more value in a teacher, nurse or certifier than yet another spin doctor.