Wall St Journal banned from Budget events until 2025 after breach

The Treasury has banned the Wall St Journal (WSJ) from attending future Budget events until 2025 as a consequence of a breach of an embargo.

The reporter at this year's Budget also cannot attend the events until 2025, regardless of what media outlet they are representing.

Before the Budget and other financial documents are released publicly, journalists and other registered interested parties attend a 'lock-up' event where they get early access. However, there's a strict embargo restricting publication until a specific time due to the information being sensitive and having the potential to influence markets.

On the day of Budget 2022 in May, Treasury said the embargo had been breached by the WSJ, an American business outlet, which published Budget information an hour early. The report was then carried on Dow Jones newswires.

An investigation was launched and on Tuesday, Treasury announced the WSJ will not be allowed to attend future Budget, Financial Statements of the Government, Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update and Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update restricted briefings up to Budget 2025. This also impacts the specific reporter.

"The Budget 2025 restricted briefing will be the first that WSJ and the specific reporter will be allowed back to be a participant. The Treasury currently plans on hosting nine restricted briefing events between now and Budget 2025," said Struan Little, the deputy chief executive and deputy secretary of Budget and Public Investment.

"These consequences for WSJ and the specific journalist are proportionate with the degree of seriousness of the embargo breach and the need to reinforce to everyone the importance of compliance with the lock-up protocols."

Treasury has also provided more information about what led to the breach.

"The journalist proactively alerted Treasury officials inside the Budget 22 lock-up of the situation soon after the embargo breach," Little said.

"The Treasury promptly contacted WSJ requesting a full explanation of how this embargo breach happened. WSJ has told us that a failsafe against accidental transmission, that was installed in the journalist's usual work laptop, was not installed in the laptop they had taken into the Budget 2022 lock-up. It stated that the journalist also left their mobile hotspot running, which allowed the story to be transmitted to WSJ's publishing desk."

The media outlet also told Treasury that the editor handling the story "skipped one of the protocols that would have provided a failsafe against accidental publication". 

"Despite the story being marked with a 2:00pm embargo it was published on the Dow Jones website at approximately 1:00pm."

Little said Treasury takes security around the Budget information "extremely seriously" and this is communicated to all lock-up attendees. 

"As stated in the briefing's terms and conditions, 'any individual or organisation that breaches the lock-up terms and conditions may be refused permission to attend future restricted briefings.'

The WSJ story was angled on the level of inflation and unemployment forecast over coming years and included details about the Government's borrowing plans.