18 August 2007

Brief bites

Theory: the increasing number of trucks on the road is directly related to our hunger for consumer goods and the shorter shelf life of same.

I thought I'd heard it all, until I foreign minister Alexander Downer (ABC TV news, 17 Aug) said India had a pretty good record when it came to non-proliferation, apart from the fact that it had nuclear weapons.

If the number of welfare recipients is supposedly decreasing under the government's tough new rules; why is the Centrelink agency expanding (Burgeoning bureaucracy triggers boom, SMH, 15 August)?

Just how top secret was John Howard's letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister (Howard warns Iraq: move now or we pull troops out, Weekend Australian, 11-12 August)? Reporter, Greg Sherdian says it was top secret. If it was, has he breached Australia's security by revealing the contents? Or is this just an example of someone in the Liberal Party revealing Howard's early exit strategy so he doesn't get burned even more before the election. Honestly, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is a farce: always has been. Iraq is now lining up with Iran, and the poppy harvest in Afghanistan is a record. So much for positive "intervention".

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06 August 2007

Military muzzled

I'll take a guess why the military said nothing about the shooting of children in Afghanistan: the government told it not to.

This is a prime example of the military being manipulated by the government. It's a dangerous area to be dabbling in.

The government "spin" machine controls everything its faithful officers do and say. They, in turn, are advised by public servants (all schooled by the government at Defence-sponsored PR courses). Never mind PR supposedly being about honesty and transparency. I guess they don't teach that one at the government school.

The bearer of the bad news, Brigadier Nickolic, has just come into the "top" PR job, probably without any formal journalism or communications qualifications. I'll bet he's never even written a media release but but that he's been through the standard government "how to handle tricky questions" course.

Most of the people in that position are former Special Forces commanders who are being prepped for higher duties. The previous spokesman, Brig Peter "Gus" Gould was a former SAS commander. They stay about 12 months and move on.

In the years I've been in Defence PR, both in (Army) uniform and as a public servant, it's become obvious that since Tampa and the Children Overboard cases, the military has not been at liberty to conduct its own PR affairs.

As a senior PR Officer, I could not contact the media directly without telling the media office in Canberra. I was not allowed to distribute media releases. Never mind that I had worked on metropolitan dailies for 17 years. It seemed I could not be trusted. The politicians had to know everything that might occur.

Just before I resigned, John Howard's office put out a message to commanders, asking them what events or activities they had coming up that he might be able to appear at. If that's not using the military for political purposes, what is?

The bottom line is the Hoawrd government is so afraid something might damage its reputation. ("It [the control] will to get worse before the election," was the comment to me by a senior uniformed officer a few months ago). They do it across all departments.

Yet despite all the resources it pumps into PR, the government's reputation is still lousy. So why bother with the layers of media advisers? Let the military get on with being pro-active in its PR stance. I'd also hope one of those brave military spokesmen would have the courage to tell the government what it should do with its spin. Trouble is they wouldn't get a medal.

Olympic gold at what price?

At least Australian athletes' will not be denied free speech at the Beijing Olympics (Olympics can speak their mind, Letters, 6 August).

However, the Games are being be held in a tyrannical, oppressive country.

An example of Chinese democracy and freedom in action occurred on the weekend TV news, with AOC president John Coates not being able to get the Aussie media contingent to accompany him to the new Chinese rowing venue. The Chinese eventually let one camera in.

On the same weekend, Australian International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper was waxing lyrical about what a great games these will be. Great, for whom, Kevan? Certainly not the millions of Chinese who couldn't give a rat's about the "world's best man-made rowing course".

Now, are there any athletes willing to sacrifice gold for humanity?

About Me

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The PR Lab is a consultancy, specialising on research, reputation management, social media, media relations and the development of measurable strategies that produce results. It is run by Dr Greg Smith, a former journalist and PR professional. Greg worked on daily newspapers in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. He held senior PR positions in the Australian Defence Force, Sydney Olympics and national not-for-profits. He has also lectured in PR at Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame Australia.