Murdoch’s Australian newspapers – including The Australian, Daily telegraph, Herald-Sun and Kurierpost – were all armed to protect Murdoch’s economic and political interests. Politicians, business people and others know that if they cross Murdoch they will be destroyed. You’ve seen it so many times that they lost the count. This well-equipped protection racket will also defend politicians who advance its goals. Journalists at Exiled News Corp speak openly about their articles being suppressed or rewritten.
In the past decade, News Corp has ceased to be a news organization. It functions as a political party in coalition with the Liberals and Nationals. It is the government’s primary communications arm. The Murdoch newspapers have campaigned for the coalition in every federal and state election for the past decade – 18 out of 18 elections – and are now ranked 19th in Queensland. News Corp’s chief executive officer has an effective veto over who can and cannot run the Liberal Party. Look no further than the Turnbull saga and Murdoch’s infamous interventions at the height of the liberal leadership crisis in 2018.
Free, independent and balanced national media are the essential infrastructure of democracy. And that infrastructure is now threatened. It is for this reason that a royal commission with full authority and independence is required to examine our entire media landscape, weigh alternative regulatory models and make recommendations to ensure a strong and diverse news medium for the future. There is no parliamentary committee capable of carrying out this systemic analysis on market terms. You are too close to the problem and too vulnerable to Murdoch’s power. In less than a week, 300,000 Australians added their votes to the official parliamentary petition I started calling for such a commission.
In fact, the parliament building tells us that the petition was visited nearly a million times in the first few days and crashed the website. It is impossible to know how many Australians failed to sign or mistakenly believe their signature was registered. I encourage them to try again before the petition ends at midnight on November 4th.
This commission is not just about News Corporation. Many Australians are concerned about Nine’s acquisition of the newspaper and her subsequent decision – with Murdoch – to stop funding the independent AAP Newswire, which threatens its future. Worrying new monopolies are emerging online, including Google and Facebook. The ABC is also under attack. Professional journalists have legitimate concerns, including unfair searches, official secrecy and freedom of information, which should all be addressed.
They cry hypocrisy and realize that in 2007 I sought Murdoch’s support. If you were the Labor leader you would be trying to reduce the bias as well – even from 75-25 to equilibrium for the Conservatives – although the record shows that Murdoch’s 2007 papers did everything they could to add to my leadership destroy one confectionery scandal after another.
Then there is the academic Rod Tiffen who comes in one Herold Opinion last Tuesday attacked my role in the Gillard administration’s decision to invite News Corp to tender for Australia’s international broadcaster. In fact, I never proposed to advertise Australia Network. I first found out about it when the then Prime Minister announced in September 2010 that she had already promised News Corp a shot on the 10-year $ 233 million contract.
I have withdrawn from any involvement in the process and handed it over to my department head, Dennis Richardson, and a group of officials he chose to evaluate the offers before the Cabinet made the final call (I apologized again ). Personally, as a lifelong supporter of ABC, I would have preferred to assign the contract to the national broadcaster, as it ultimately did. Turnbull’s subsequent abolition of the Australia Network devastated the ABC budget and ceded our diplomatic clout in the Asia-Pacific region to China – all at the clink of champagne flutes at News Corp.
Kevin Rudd is a former Australian Labor Prime Minister.
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Kevin Rudd is President of the Asia Society Policy Institute and was Australia’s 26th Prime Minister.
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