Charles Gutjahr

Melbourne, Australia

Australia May Well Be the World’s Most Secretive Democracy

17 Jun 2019 — a 1 minute read on opinion

I try to post an opinion here once a week, but missed a couple due to being overseas.

Only two Australian news stories made headlines in Europe while I was there: the appeal hearing for George Pell, and the raids on ABC by the Australian Federal Police. I thought it interesting that the ABC raid featured so heavily, and especially interesting that coverage was so negative on Australia. The New York Times headline "Australia May Well Be the World’s Most Secretive Democracy" illustrates what typical coverage was like.

I agree that we are too secretive in Australia. I have been glad to see opening up in some areas, for example the Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate (traditionally a very secretive security agency) recently giving speeches about what ASD does is great. But I think the foreign media's assessment is correct: Australian government is still too secretive, especially when the words 'national security' are invoked.

I don't doubt that AFP and ASD are trying to make our country safer but when they don't explain what they are doing the void gets filled with speculation and bullshit. The result is a lot of worry about our government — worry that may well be unnecessary but we just don't know. Not providing enough information to us has costs, just as providing too much information could be harmful. I hope our government agencies recognise that.