John Menadue on Rupert Murdoch, the Last Mogul

Jan 5, 2024
Rupert Murdoch Image: Wkimedia Commons /David_shankbone / CC by 3.0 Deed

We have a major problem with the damage that Rupert Murdoch has done to newspapers in Australia, and any self-respecting government should take steps to correct that as soon as possible.

I met Rupert when I was working for Gough Whitlam in Canberra. I got to know the people in the Canberra press gallery well. In the old Parliament House, we were all a closely knit group and a friend of mine, Eric Walsh on the Daily Mirror introduced me to Rupert on a couple of occasions. So, I developed an occasional contact with Rupert at that stage. Later, I decided that I’d spent seven years with Gough, and it was time for a change. Eric asked me whether I was interested in a job in newspapers, and he got in touch with Rupert.

Rupert was always interested in politics from his Oxford days. I secured a job initially as personal secretary to him. It wasn’t really a job of any description. Within about six or eight weeks I became General Manager of The Australian and my career then continued working for Rupert. It was enjoyable. My personal relation with Rupert really ended with the Dismissal. And whilst I’d had that very close relationship with Rupert for about seven years, I haven’t had a relationship with Rupert for 50 years since then. The Dismissal was the breaking point in that relationship because Rupert was a very clear and important player in the dismissal of the government. He was part of the inner circle with Malcolm Fraser in the dismissal and I found that unacceptable. And so, the relationship hasn’t really developed since then. But Rupert, like in most situations and I suppose I’m a bit the same, when you have a break, you don’t go back over old ground. You don’t hold grudges unduly about it. You move on to other things. And that’s what Rupert did and that’s what I did.

I was very impressed with Rupert, as many people were. It was a pleasure working for him for seven years. He even cooked my breakfast and drove me to church.

He was open to new ideas. He moved away from the parochialism of the State broadsheets and tabloid newspapers in launching The Australian national newspaper. I found it quite exciting working for Rupert and of course the support he gave the Labor Party in 1972. That was the topping off point I guess for that relationship. I was very impressed.

But I think it’s tragic the path that Rupert has taken in recent years, having shown so much promise as I saw back then. Rupert has become a great danger to responsible media around the world. But at the time I worked for him, I must say I found it exciting and very encouraging and rewarding.

On 9 November 2023, John spoke with award-winning journalist and author of The Successor, Paddy Manning of Schwartz media for the 6-part podcast series, Rupert Murdoch, the Last Mogul.

We invite you to read the transcript of John’s considered comments on Murdoch, his earlier days, as an employer, his rise in media and his role in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Transcript: John Menadue: Rupert the Last Mogul, the Kingmaker and his King 

Listen to the episode: Rupert the last Mogul: The Kingmaker and his King


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