"Who really benefits from this outpouring of materials? Is the ordinary voter, the ordinary citizen,
made more aware of the things on which his money is being spent? Or does the material go,
in the main, to those who are already involved in political or administrative processes of government?
Are we, so to speak, just taking in each other's fanciful and gambogeously printed washing?"
-- Charles Porter, MLA, discussing Queensland Government public relations activities in the
Parliament, October 27, 1970.
As a backbench member, Mr Porter does not have a press secretary, liaison officer, public relations officer, or similar officer under whatever title to write his speeches - which may have nothing to do with his being one of the Assembly's more articulate and critical speakers. And if 'gambogeously' is an unfamiliar word, its imagery seems appropriate for a new field of public service endeavour derived, in part, from journalism, a profession (or trade) which Australia's most august industrial bodies have succeeded in classifying only as 'sui generis'.
The growth of public service journalism in Australia has so far attracted little study, despite the questions it raises for government, press, and people: not only considerations of 'who benefits' and the democratic ideal of an informed public, but by journalists' claims of PR-frustration, and a continuing exodus of their journalist colleagues from mass media into government service. Not coincidently, of Brisbane's recent emigres, five had been government roundsmen for newspapers or television news services, and three others were assistant roundsmen or Parliamentary gallery reporters. There may be undesirable consequences of this pattern through loss of respect for political journalism and its role on the public and democratic interest if the possibility, even likelihood, of future government employment is suggested as a threat to the professional attitude and integrity of the political reporter. Political and public distrust of the media, already a fact, needs no further encouragement. ...............................