In a country where two out of every three newspapers in major cities are owned by Rupert Murdoch, and which possesses the unenviable mantle of the most highly concentrated media ownership in the Western world, it is no surprise that public discourse on all things related to big business and the shadow it casts over society tends toward the lowest common denominator. According to the minions of Murdoch, the sole threat to human existence—re-affirmed on a daily basis—are “boat people” destined for the shores of
Since the election of the Labor Government in 2007, proposed reforms have generated hysteria from the business elite. Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp has maintained its position as media
attack-dog par excellence. Foremost has been opposition to the Resource Super Profits Tax (RSPT) and the proposed responses to climate change—the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), “shelved” by the Kevin Rudd-led Government, and its successor, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Murdoch’s Newscorp, in true fashion, supported the election of the Rudd Government after 11 years of John Howard’s conservative rule. This is not the first time the media mogul has mounted an aggressive agenda against an incumbent after initially leaping on the bandwagon of change.
In 1972, Gough Whitlam, Labor Party poster child of progress, after 23 years of post-war conservative rigidity, was swept to power on the slogan of “It’s Time.” The campaign summed up the general mood of an Australian public tired of the Vietnam War, of conscripting its teenagers in death-lotteries, and of the paternalism of our presumably loving overseer, Uncle Sam. It was also an Australian public convinced it was time for many other reforms, aside from ending conscription and freeing draft-evaders, offering free universal higher education, a raft of progressive legislation for women, and recognizing
Most disconcerting for our benevolent masters in Washington—whom members of the Whitlam Government had labeled “maniacs” and “corrupt” due to their bloody campaigns in Southeast Asia—was the government’s pre-election promise to “buy back the farm.” By this they meant an end to subservience to (mainly
Subversion of Democracy
Earlier that year, 75 Murdoch journalists went on strike over one of Murdoch’s papers, the Australian, becoming “a propagandist sheet” and “a laughing stock,” presumably before laughing-stockery became his mainstay. On the 20th anniversary of what has become known as the “constitutional crisis,” Murdoch suggested that historic accounts and speculation of his involvement in the events of 1975 do not do him justice and that his behind-the-stage puppetry and consequent subversion of Australian democracy was actually far more extensive.
This time, unfortunately for the forces of real democracy in
The Australian Mining Industry, tied parasitically to the growth of
The debate about the RSPT in
According to Andrew Hughes, an
The Murdoch-led attacks have led to an alliance of big business interests between media and mining that has flexed its political muscle over the last year. The Sydney Morning Herald, a broadsheet produced by Fairfax Media—the other approximately 30 percent of the Australian print media not owned by Murdoch—reported that $22 million was spent by the mining industry to “bring down” Prime Minister (former) Kevin Rudd: “The industry’s national body, the Minerals Council of Australia, spent $17.2 million, mainly on TV advertisements; BHP Billiton spent $4.2 million; Rio Tinto just over $537,000, and a smaller lobby group, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, just under $274,000.”
Moreover, significant financial contributions from various mining corporations were made during the same period to the parliamentary opposition, led at this time by archconservative Tony Abbott. Abbott was fundamental in the overthrow of the former leader of the opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, who supported the Rudd Government’s CPRS. Speculation has been rife that Abbott’s push for leadership was the result of significant lobbying from the energy sectors. The money spent on the campaign to oust Rudd brought significant returns: the tax remains, although it has adopted a new name, but it now will seek only three-quarters of the original intended amount, leading many within the mining community to suggest their investment has provided returns above and beyond expectations. The mining community has also begun a TV advertising campaign entitled “Australian Mining: This Is Our Story” whereby they portray the various life stories of their employees.
The daily attacks from the Murdoch media and other conservative sources, particularly on radio, have created an atmosphere that was largely unknown in Australian society, similar to that created by Fox News’ inflammatory rhetoric and the Tea Party “movement” in the
Although hastening to depict itself as a grassroots organization, the U.S. Tea Party has been exposed as being backed financially by various right-wing think-tanks, lobbies, and billionaires. An article in The Sydney Morning Herald revealed Australia’s own version of the Koch Brothers, Senator Corey Bernardi—climate change denier and anti-Islamer extraordinaire—was heavily involved in the establishment of six different anti-Carbon Tax “grassroots” organizations, also pioneering “pro-market” and “traditionalist” values. Bernardi was the subject of recent controversy for his offer to aid Geert Wilders’s visit to
Never has the Murdoch press been so supportive of the rights of working people. One could even suggest the Australian Tea Party keep their eye out for advertisements for Marxist baby clothes appearing on the back pages of Murdoch’s tabloids. The Convoy, initially claiming to include thousands of trucks, cars, and buses destined for Canberra, managed to produce barely a couple of hundred, many of whom struggled to articulate a rational argument as to why they were converging on the capital.
Discussions of Murdoch’s capacity to influence his editors and his paper’s perspectives usually adopt what could be described as the anti-conspiratorial theory—that Murdoch, with his extensive media operations all over the world, clearly could not have the capacity to supervise and influence the content and character of his various papers, particularly here in the “arse-end of the world,” as former Prime Minister Paul Keating lovingly referred to Australia. Mungo MacCallum, writing in the Monthly, sums up this perspective: “…these days Murdoch regards his Australian operations as pretty much on the fringe and allows his editors the kind of independence that their predecessors only dreamed of. An obvious example of this is Murdoch’s support of the use of short-term stimulus packages to combat the global financial crisis, while his Australian economics writers (Michael Stutchbury in the Australian, in particular) have been highly critical. Also, Murdoch declares himself a true believer in climate change, but the Australian has become a haven for skeptics and deniers…”
What MacCallum doesn’t recognize is that the stimulus package the Rudd Government initiated came from the public coffers to support the private sector and is thereby an upwards transition of wealth, particularly in a country with a regressive taxation system. What he also doesn’t comprehend is that Murdoch’s supposed belief in climate change certainly does not correspond to his support for responses to climate change—given that they are directed at the interests of his class allies in big business and also himself. Furthermore, having Murdoch’s editors attacking from a class perspective on these issues—with Murdoch himself claiming he believes otherwise—leads people like MacCallum to assume that Murdoch stays at arms length of his papers’ ideological persuasions.
Like most powerful men in charge of large corporations, Murdoch presumably chooses or oversees the employment of his staff, particularly at the higher echelons. Those people are chosen because they already support Murdoch’s class prerogatives. Given the hierarchical nature of corporations where decisions come from the top—or are overseen or overturned from above—leads one to the conclusion that Murdoch’s staff are Murdoch’s staff because they largely agree with Murdoch’s ideology, with few exceptions. However, one must avoid such logic, given such assumptions presume acts of a conspiratorial nature. Assuming that rich people look after rich people’s interests patently borders on delusion, doesn’t it?
Brendan Libertad is an activist, aspiring labor historian, and a musician with the anarcho-folk band, A Commoner’s Revolt.