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Stop the Culture of Spin

ADH Staff WriterMarch 13, 2024

NSW Police Commissioner sacks another spin doctor but the problem is a culture of talking in riddles to the public and people have had enough.

The New South Wales Police Commissioner’s problem isn’t that she’s getting bad advice from spin doctors - it’s that she thinks she needs to spin to the public in the first place.

Policing used to be the one of the last great bastions of 'straight forwardness' in the public service.

Things happened or they didn’t. Detectives solved the case or they’re still searching.

But in this era of bureaucracy rarely being straight with the public, even the highest ranked Police Officer in the State seems to thinks we can’t handle the truth.

It’s a culture right through government.

The public would be stunned to know how many public servants are employed to withhold, obstruct or confuse information getting out.

Two years ago, a major media outlet ran a freedom of information request with the then-Coalition controlled NSW Government.

They asked “how many people were employed to communicate with the public”.

Every major government entity was approached.

It took months to get a straight answer.

The collective tally was staggering.

In 2021, NSW taxpayers employed over 430,000 public servants.

In roles of PR, marketing, communications, and media relations – the number exceed 18,000.

That excluded regularly hired external PR companies and perhaps a hundred more employed in political offices.

For relativity, we have 17,000 police for the entire state.

The government’s PR army far outguns the thin-blue line.

Even today, with a quick search you can easily find 20 vacancies for very well-paid communications jobs in the NSW public service.

Journalists make a better living spinning for the government than they can ‘doing journalism’.

Would be a fair assumption it’s no different in Canberra and around the country.

Even as the Australian media shrinks, government control of the message continues to grow.

Getting answers to what’s happening should be straight forward but those of us outside of the bubble are treated with contempt.

If the old saying “knowledge is power” is even slightly true, the good old taxpayer are rarely given any of it.

Transparency matters.

Take youth crime in country towns - a big issue almost everywhere.

Strangely, Police Headquarters seems determined to keep it quiet.

2GB’s Ben Fordham recently took a call from a resident of Narromine on the edge of outback NSW.

The report was about a case where an 11-year-old boy had broken into the local police station and stolen a police car – taking it on a joyride.

He was barely able to see over the steering wheel, and ended up crashing the car.

The kid was badly hurt and the car was a wreck as well.

Mind you, that’s not the story the police wanted you to know.

The public was told through a vaguely worded media statement that the boy was “found beside the crashed car”.

It almost implied the kid was a victim rather than the perpetrator.

Undoubtedly, not the finest hour of law enforcement in Narromine … but why the attempt to play it down?

The irony here is Police need resources and political will to tackle youth crime in the bush – not a smokescreen puffed out by headquarters, hundreds of kilometres away.

It’s a little like the appalling attempt to smother the ugly taser-death of an elderly nursing home resident, once again through crafty language and double-speak.

No one was fooled. What happened tragically happened.

The Police Commissioner needs to make it clear, things are to be said as they are.

Stop treating the folks as fools.

Government has so many people employed to colour what’s going on that they lose track themselves.

This is a crucial moment for Karen Webb, the NSW Police Commissioner.

If she wants to earn back the respect of the public, perhaps it’s time she made honesty NOT optional.

Her office has a cultural problem of disrespecting the public’s intelligence.

Sacking yet another media advisor is just searching for a fall-guy.

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