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.