Palaszczuk’s new ministry of propaganda
Annastacia Palaszczuk's office has refused to say how many spin doctors the premier's department employs, and how much they cost.
A former print and television journalist now in charge of "communications and engagement" fobbed off my questions, after initially suggesting the answers may be supplied.
So much for communications and engagement with the public.
Could it be that the Premier, her media minders and chiefs of staff are embarrassed about the number of spin doctors and are attempting to conceal them?
Are we to assume the Premier and Mr Communications and Engagement do not know how many there are?
Or perhaps they do know and are attempting to keep it secret.
Compare this behaviour with the real world.
Imagine if you were manager of communications in, say, a big law firm or a mining company.
I'm damned sure your shareholders would expect you to know the exact number of people in your team, and how much they cost.
If you didn't have the information at your fingertips you would be shown the door.
Hiding the number of spin doctors is not an insignificant breach of your right to know.
Palaszczuk is wearing her promises of openness and accountability like a cheap perfume.
We have already heard from the Crime and Corruption Commission and the Industrial Relations Commission of a toxic culture of deceit and cover-up, with government officials churning false and misleading statements.
I'm afraid there may be another sinister reason for the cover-up.
The Palaszczuk Government has expanded its propaganda arm.
It has created a new division with cameramen and journalists and producers working to supply video press releases, for use on social media and also for distribution to regional television and radio networks hungry for content.
To me, it suggests we are all subsiding Labor's re-election campaign.
And Palaszczuk was up to her neck in it this week in the marginal seat of Maryborough.
She took an entire film crew with her to visit Allweld Manufacturing, a gutsy little business that won government funding for four new apprentices.
It seemed like a huge extravagance to talk about just four new apprentices.
The costs associated with the mission would probably have paid for another four.
Sometimes these filmed publicity stunts go amiss.
Labor Member for Barron River Craig Crawford went to Redlynch State College at Cairns to talk up a new science block.
A drone was launched to capture aerial video of the site works.
In a Facebook post, Crawford got the name of the college wrong while introducing the principal "Morris" to talk about the new building.
Wrong again. The principal's name is Tony Fuller.
I'm guessing the "Morris" who appeared in the video was Maurice Andrejic, named on the Redlynch website as the head of the secondary school.
In my view it is improper for MPs to use public funds for Twitter and Facebook posts designed simply to create a glossy image about manufacturing and building that has tanked under Labor.
Moreover, I do think it is unwise for public servants to appear in propaganda shoots.
And here I am not reflecting in any way on Maurice's role in the production.
The Education Department is already under a cloud with disturbing findings from the last Trad inquiry.
With no Budget before the election there will be little prospect of scrutinising the spending.
Despite failures in most areas of government, Labor appears to be winning the propaganda war.
The Palaszczuk chief blocking answers to my questions is paid around $268,000.
Ken Crook was criticised by this paper in 1984 when his salary jumped to $45,000.
And he did far more work as press secretary to the Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and director of the Queensland Government News and Information Service.
Inflation charts show $45,000 to be worth around $144,000 in today's dollars.
Crooke told me he had to be available 24/7 to respond to media inquiries. He wrote all Joh's speeches and press releases.
"In those days, Joh had one press secretary - me," he said.
At first he didn't have a car from the government pool.
"I drove to and from work at all hours in my 1961 Ford Anglia," he said.
It was known to his colleagues as The Blunderer.
"Eventually I was allocated a government car because the Head of Premier's thought I needed something more reliable to get to work and the airport."
He got $70 for The Blunderer at the wrecking yard.
Des Houghton is a media consultant and a former editor of The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail
Originally published as Palaszczuk's new ministry of propaganda