A very different covid budget lockup for Canberra Press Gallery radio reporters | radioinfo

A very different covid budget lockup for Canberra Press Gallery radio reporters

Monday 05 October, 2020

The budget lockup in Canberra will be very different for reporters in the Federal Parliament Press Gallery, thanks to Covid.

Normally during budget week, the ranks of the usual press gallery reporters are swelled by hundreds of other reporters who are granted special passes to join the press gallery for the Budget Lockup. It takes place in the locked confines of the main committee room of Parliement House, which is set up with long tables and crowded with journos.

Reporters are required to surrender or not bring their mobile phones or other connected devices into the lockup, to ensure news of the budget figures do not leak before the set time. The doors are only opened once to let journos in, then they can digest the budget papers and speak to ministers and treasury officials to understand the details until the budget is delivered at 7.30pm.

Spokespeople from analysis and lobby groups are also allowed, so that they can study the budget papers in advance and have an immediate comment available for media when the room is unlocked and the treasurer begins to speak on the floor of parliament.

The lockup protocol is in place to ensure enough time for accurate analysis without the risk of figures and details being leaked to financial markets before it is officially public. In recent years, governments have drip fed some budget information in advance, through pre-budget announcements, but the lockup practice is still an important element of every budget.

This year is very different due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There will be no physical budget lockup room.

Instead, budget papers will be delivered to the offices of press gallery media, accompanied by a treasury official who will sit with the journos to ensure there are no leaks. The no mobile phone protocol will remain in place as will other protocols, supervised by the treasury official.  As usual, everyone who gets the budget papers will be required to maintain confidentiality.

A Treasury spokesperson has told radioinfo:

"This year’s lock-up arrangements have been adapted to ensure they are compliant with health restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19. The media will be given embargoed access to Budget material in the Press Gallery at Parliament House, and will be limited to those Press Gallery pass holders for whom the Press Gallery is a place of work.
"All attendees will be required to execute a Deed of Confidentiality and only media with pre-approval are permitted to be inside the zone. Strict security and embargo conditions will apply in every location to ensure that Budget information is not to broadcast, published or made publicly available prior to its official release at 7.30 pm."


Only those with existing press gallery accreditaiton, already working in Parliament House will have access to the documents, "meaning not all organisations and individuals who have had embargoed access to the Budget in the past will have access this year." This has caused some outcry from some lobby groups who feel the pandemic has been used as a way of shutting them out from bring able to comment on the budget.

Nine Radio's national political editor Michael Pachi will work on news reports with Harry Spicer and Helene Lambestos and will be be involved in programs with Brooke Corte, Tom Elliot, Scott Emmerson and John Stanley. He has told radioinfo:

"We can't transmit any information and mobile phones will be taken. The lockup starts at 3.30pm and ends at 7.30pm - so it's only a 4 hour lockup, rather than the usual 7 hours.

"It's an unusual lockup, but I suppose these are unusual times and Treasury has had to adapt in the way it does lockup this year.

"It's a shorter lockup because so much information has been delivered ahead of the budget." 





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