John Menadue. Murdoch, Abbott and Credlin

Jan 29, 2015

In August 2013 I wrote about Rupert Murdoch’s abuse of power and his intense fascination with party politics. That blog is reproduced below.

Rupert Murdoch is a frustrated politician. He loves the political game. Usually he works indirectly through ultra-loyal and uncritical editors and journalists. But new technology, particularly twitter, allows him to indulge his love of political intrigue more personally. The family must hope that sometime soon he will call it a day, but I think Murdoch will persevere to the end.

I can’t recall such a blatant abuse of power as Murdoch’s call on Tony Abbott to sack Peta Credlin. ‘If [Abbott] won’t replace Peta Credlin she must do her patriotic duty and resign’. Murdoch should admit that his unprofessional and biased support of Tony Abbott at the last election was misplaced. But rather than directly state the view he clearly holds about Tony Abbott, he blames a staffer and a woman. What a gallant performance by Murdoch.

This personal attack on Tony Abbott via his chief of staff is even more bizarre than the appointment of Prince Phillip as an Australian knight. Tony Abbott described the social media reaction to Sir Phillip’s appointment as ‘electronic graffiti’. He may think the same now about Murdoch’s social media effort.

Murdoch wants to micro manage Tony Abbott’s office but failed in managing scores of telephone hackers in the London Sun and News of the World!

Every politician that Murdoch supports pays a price in the end. Tony Abbott is now paying that price and his attempts to oblige Murdoch particularly with his attacks on the ABC, count for very little once Murdoch has determined that a political change is necessary.

Perhaps Julie Bishop gave Murdoch an insightful briefing when she called on him when she called on him a few days ago in New York.

Hopefully this latest bizarre twitter effort by Murodch will bring home to him and his family how much he has overplayed his hand. How much more will his loyalist staffers be prepared to accept?

I have no doubt that Murdoch’s intervention will produce a quite contrary effect to what he intends. If Tony Abbott gave way to Murdoch’s demands and sacked Peta Credlin, he would make himself look quite absurd.

Rupert Murdoch’s abuse of power (First published 7 August 2013)

Controlling 70% of Australia’s metropolitan newspapers, one would hope that Murdoch would exercise some responsibility in the use of that power. But none of that responsibility for Rupert Murdoch!

The Australian is the ‘intellectual’ leader of the mad-hatter’s tea party in Murdoch’s Australian media. No matter how badly the government is performing, The Australian can always make it worse. Then the Murdoch tabloids follow.

I worked for Rupert Murdoch for seven years 1967-74 as the General Manager of his Sydney newspaper operations. Looking back on those years, what strikes me most is his convenient memory about important events. The Murdoch media played an important role in backing Whitlam in 1972. Murdoch wanted a favour in return. He raised with me his possible appointment as the Australian High Commissioner to London. He said he would put his newspapers and television interests in a trust so that there would not be a conflict of interest. He also told me that he believed that he could influence other Australian media proprietors in order to avoid flak for the new government. I put Murdoch’s request to Gough Whitlam. In  rather colourful language he said ‘no way!’.  Rupert Murdoch denies that he sought the London job. I stand by my account. (For more background see ‘Things you learn along the way’ on my website at page 113.)

I had lunch with Rupert Murdoch in Canberra four days before the Whitlam dismissal on November 11, 1975.  He told me that he was quite certain that there would be an election before Christmas and an election specifically for the House of Representatives. I pointed out that the half-Senate election was the only possibility. He rejected my view and said that he would be staying in Australia for the election. To reassure me, as I was then the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, he said that I had no need to worry as I would be appointed in the event of a Liberal victory as the Ambassador to Japan. Malcolm Fraser had obviously told him. About 18 months later I was in Japan as Rupert had predicted. Once again, Rupert denies my account but I stand by it. (See page 157)

What drives Murdoch is that he is really a frustrated politician. He wants to play the political game. He can’t help himself. He is a political addict. He loves the exercise of power.  He once discussed with me that he might seek to become a member of the Australian parliament. He was close to Jack McEwen who was the leader of the Country Party. I assumed he would seek Country Party pre-selection for the seat of Hume within which his country residence of Cavan near Yass was situated.

What impertinence it is for the Murdoch media which abuses its power everywhere and hacked telephone conversations up and down the UK to tell the Australian voters in such an aggressive way how they should vote. He leads an organisation without a moral compass.

Rupert Murdoch is not even an Australian citizen. For business advantage in the US, he gave up his Australian citizenship long ago. What role should a grumpy 80 year old American Republican billionaire play in Australian politics today?

In the 1975 election, journalists on the Australian went on strike  over Murdoch’s election bias. I wonder if any of his courtiers now, whether executives or journalists, will make a stand for editorial independence and integrity.

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