I went to Canberra from the 16th to the 18th of September with the intention of interviewing politicians. The trip did not go to plan as outlined to some degree in my previous post. The politicians that I approached said no to interview requests and I knew before I went that I would not be getting a media pass for the two sitting days but decided to go anyhow.
While I did not achieve what I wanted it was certainly not a waste of time, just a starting point to a degree. It is not a case of not getting interviews or a media pass and giving up, I will keep on driving until I do get what I want and what I believe I am entitled to.
For example, there are a number of avenues for the decision by the Canberra Press Gallery Committee to refuse me a media pass to be overturned. It is the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate who have ultimate responsibility for media passes and I will drive the issue through them. Also the ACCC might have something to say about media companies using their market position and power to block out competitors which is what happened in my case as outlined in my previous post. (Click here to read)
Then there is the question if the decision to not give me a media pass is able to be appealed in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The AAT allows all people to appeal government decisions in government departments. While the decision was made by the Canberra Press Gallery which is not government, it is only because the government give them the authority to make the decision. It is worth noting that once the decision is made, if they have granted a pass they do not issue the pass, security at the parliament house do. This to me says they are in effect acting as part of the government when they make the decision which from my viewpoint should be appealable at the AAT.
I approached 5 politicians for an interview, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, The Greens leader Christine Milne, Senator Barnaby Joyce, Senator Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie MP. All responded except Ms Milne even though I sent her a follow-up email. Maybe it was the post I did on The Greens a couple of months ago which Ms Milne did not like. I could have approached more but if two had of said yes that would have kept me busy and also I know that the media advisors all talk to each other so I thought I would just approach one from each side of politics and the two independents and see how I went. I do not think if I had of approached more it would have made any difference.
I only gave them a two-day window of opportunity and my site is not the largest on the net so them refusing an interview is hardly surprising. As sites like this one grow it will harder for politicians to ignore them. It is a matter of people like me to keep on trying.
One of the main reasons I decided to go to Canberra anyhow is that I thought I could go to the door stop interviews that the politicians do in the morning. They are done outside the building so I would not need a media pass or so I thought. This was time-consuming in trying to find when and where as there is a number of entrances to parliament house. It was one of those standard situations of asking around and getting wrong information and then asking a cab driver to drop me off at the spot and it turns out to be the wrong spot. That took care of Monday morning. The rest of the day I did a few videos, none of which were great quality and was on the phone still trying to override the decision for a media pass.
By Tuesday morning I knew what time and the two likely spots for the door stop interviews. Just after 7am on Tuesday I am told by security that I need a pass. I argued and someone from security management came to see me. I was told I need authorisation to film and someone would have to sign me in even though it is outside the building. That put paid to that idea.
After the discussion with security I noticed a gathering opposite Parliament House and could see a couple of politicians walking to it so I followed.
It was a UN Millennium Declaration on poverty rally. I filmed part of it which you can see Peter Garrett talking below.
It made me think at the rally that we could have an annual anticorruption rally in Canberra. In the video Peter Garrett talks about the people who organised the rally that they have the full support of the government. I wonder if we did have an anticorruption rally if we would have the full support on the government. I doubt it as they are the ones who are the most corrupt. But that is something for the future.
The other point I realised at the rally is that if myself and others are going to be blocked from getting a media pass then I could always do the ambush interview. By that I mean just walking up to the politicians with camera and microphone in hand and start asking questions. Other media do it all the time. I thought about it but decided to hold off and continue to try the standard avenues at this point.
I approached independent MP Rob Oakeshott as he was walking back to parliament house and I walked with him and told him my issue with the media pass on the way and asked him for an interview. He was receptive but wanted to see documented evidence first. It was a cart before the horse situation. I approached him because I know he has been critical of the media coverage he has received in his own electorate. He said he had seen my site which to me says I am doing something right. Although he did not say whether he liked it or not, but I am 100% sure he does like it.
After that I decided to head back to Sydney. You know the saying a picture is worth a thousand words. To me the picture below says I have arrived and you can not hide forever. It sends a message to the politicians and Canberra Press Gallery Committee that you can only block people out to a certain degree.
While I did not achieve a lot while I was in Canberra it was of value from a number of points and was certainly of value when taken together from the overall viewpoint of the planning and trip together.
If I had not planned the trip I would never had the dealings with the Canberra Press Gallery Committee which uncovered a lot on how they operate and what I need to do going forward to try to overcome their roadblock.
Benefits of the trip:
1. I found out that I accreditation for filming and a media pass for the door stop interviews. Or at least have someone sign me in.
2. I found out when and where the door stop interviews are done.
3. Learnt that I need to practice doing live outdoor reporting with the video camera. I did one which is on the about page last year and did not have major issues so I did not foresee any issues in Canberra. Doing videos outdoor is more difficult. For starters I am squinting my eyes in the photo, which is a screen grab from a video, because I was facing the sun and in others I twitched the shoulder then leant over slightly on one leg. Things like these I did not realise until afterwards and they make the video look amateurish. Simple problems that can be fixed with a bit more practice.
4. From a logistical and general knowledge of where things are the trip was a benefit.
5. If I cannot get access I can always fall back to the ambush style of interviews. This is an alternative option but can also be problematic in trying to find the politicians.
6. It sends a message loud and clear that they run but not hide forever. To the politicians and the Canberra Press Gallery Committee.
While the trip was far from perfect, it is a start. I will be much wiser next time and there will be a next time.
I always think to myself that no matter what I achieve I like to believe that at least some of the things I do will help others from a learning perspective. The Canberra trip and what I have learned should benefit other bloggers if they try the same, so they can avoid the same problems.
Admin: The above is just a brief overview of the trip. From planning, to going and what I have done since I have arrived back in Sydney and what I will do in following up issues takes a lot of time. I am currently looking at a couple of options to try to go full-time working on this site and will let you know more soon.
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Categories: Canberra Press Gallery