Not only governments exert foreign influence. What about Rupert Murdoch?

Dec 1, 2020

A Royal Commission under the best leadership could shine an enormously powerful spotlight on the fact that NewsCorp grossly breaches our foreign interference laws on a daily basis.

According to Michael West Media, NewsCorp in Australia has paid no tax over the five years of available ATO data despite racking up almost $14 billion in total income. At 89, Rupert Murdoch seems intent on disproving the old adage about the only two certainties in life being death and taxes.

The foreign interference laws are aimed to prevent foreign persons – which certainly includes Murdoch’s family and his companies – from influencing a political or governmental process or influencing the exercise of an Australian democratic or political right or duty.  His Australian newspapers seem to be maintained for the primary purpose of influencing Australian politics and Australian governments.

Our two most recent former Prime Ministers from the Liberal Party (Malcolm Turnbull) and the Labor Party (Kevin Rudd) last month gave testament on the ABC’s 7.30 to the major force that Newscorp is in Australian political life. The 7.30 item was in the context of Rudd’s petition, signed by Turnbull, calling for a Royal Commission into media diversity.

As Turnbull argued, news media are a critical part of our democracy. He accused Murdoch of effectively working for hand in glove with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister:

“Tony Abbott operated in almost in a partnership with News Corporation. They had their reporters, their editors had access to Cabinet decisions before they were taken, in fact, reported Cabinet decisions as having been taken when in fact it turned out, they hadn’t been. So there was extraordinary access. Morrison, I think has is determined not to suffer the same fate I did from the right of the Liberal Party and the Murdoch press, so Morrison is cleaving very closely to the Murdoch press and they are backing him up.”

Turnbull told 7.30 that Murdoch wanted to install Peter Dutton to replace Turnbull as Prime Minister. Turnbull was toppled, but Scott Morrison got the gig.

Rudd told 7.30: “In the 19 most recent federal and state elections since 2010, Murdoch has campaigned viciously for the Liberal and National Party and viciously against the Australian Labor Party. It has now become a totally one-eyed, one-side operation, and on top of that, acts as a protection racket for the Liberal National Party in power.”

Former News Corporation CEO and ABC executive, Kim Williams told 7.30 that he doesn’t believe another media inquiry would achieve anything.

I signed the Rudd petition. But I consider that by far the most useful outcome of a Royal Commission would be to shine a spotlight on the enormous extent to which Murdoch and NewsCorp are guilty of breaching Australia’s foreign interference laws by influencing political and governmental processes and our democracy.

Australia’s foreign interference laws are bad laws in many ways. One of the worst aspects is that they are blatantly political – prosecutions can only be brought on the say-so of Christian Porter, the Federal Attorney-General. He has shown himself to be unworthy of that high office and of carrying Ministerial responsibility for integrity in the Federal Government. So he will authorise prosecutions against respected members of the Chinese community. But do you think for a moment that he will let the Government’s most important electoral asset – the Murdoch media – be annoyed over a trivial thing like massive breaches of the foreign interference laws?  Not a chance!  These are the times in which we live. Times we have not experienced before.

A Royal Commission under the best leadership could shine an enormously powerful spotlight on the fact that NewsCorp grossly breaches our foreign interference laws on a daily basis. It and the American family which controls it are the greatest practitioners of foreign interference in Australia – by means of the enormous media power that they influence and the political power that gets them.

The Emperor is totally naked. More than new laws on media diversity, we need our existing laws on foreign interference to be used as they should be – to prevent one American family insidiously exerting enormous power over how Australia is run.

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