Friday, February 10, 2012

The tangled web…

Last week’s dismissal of one of the Premier’s media advisers will cause significantly more harm than good for the average taxpayer – and the journalist who leaked the offending email should be the one to lose his or her job.

Let’s get a few things straight.

Firstly, the ugly truth is that our political system is adversarial and purposefully encourages confrontation. It sometimes gets personal and that is an important part of the process that provides insight to the character of the people who are paid to represent the public.

This age-old process delivers hardened leaders and exposes others who try to climb to a position they are not competent to manage. It’s far from a perfect system, but in the main it works in the favour of the public at large.

Next, hardened leaders don’t lead alone. They require (and demand) an enormous amount of assistance and support from their staff. Both the Premier and Leader of the Opposition have a handful of what are known as “term of government” staff who are in every sense, political appointments. They do the work required to navigate the messy political system that delivers our leaders and keeps them on their toes.

The media adviser who lost his livelihood and well-earned reputation last week was doing his job. It is an ugly job but it is one that has always been done by TOG’s and will continue to be done for generations to come. His actions weren’t explicitly approved by the Premier, but that is because neither Mr Barnett nor anyone else in his position could possibly approve everything his staff have to do to keep him on top of the messy system of politics we have. This background noise is managed by a group of hard-working, often under-appreciated and evidently disposable soldiers who do so to enable him to focus on the big issues of State.

Finally and perhaps the ugliest truth of all is that this has irrevocably damaged the public’s access to important insights into the State’s current and future political leaders.

The fact is that tips and suggestions like those in question are sent to journalists every day and play a critical role in the evolution of governments. The need for whistleblowers and political mischief-makers alike to feel safe when providing information to the media is clearly in the public’s interest. The decision to publicly name the author of these communications caused a series of events that has damaged that trust.

Ultimately this means less accountable governments and oppositions who do not receive the scrutiny they need before they rise to power. Bearing in mind that some journalists have chosen to go to prison rather than disclosing their source, it’s fairly obvious to at least some in the profession that the media’s responsibility is far greater than a 2 day cheap headline and scalp of what turns out to be just a young guy doing his job.

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