Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has stated that Australian politicians are afraid of Rupert Murdoch, a fear that persisted when he was in office and diminished only when he left politics.
Speaking under parliamentary privilege at the House of Parliament in Canberra, Rudd said the “Murdoch mob” was looking for “obedient politicians.” He said in an inquiry into media diversity that politicians feared facing a “systematic campaign.”
“Everyone is scared of Murdoch. They really are. There is a culture of fear across the country, ”said Rudd, who has become an outspoken critic of Murdoch’s dominant media role in Australian print media.
The former Labor prime minister said the unspoken word about Murdoch in the House of Parliament was that “it is not in your personal political interests to go after Rupert Murdoch or Lachlan Murdoch because they will catch you.”
Rudd said this culture of fear about Murdoch’s media monopoly was “completely wrong for any democracy.”
“The truth is that as prime minister I still feared Murdoch’s media beast,” he said.
“When did I stop being afraid? Probably when I left the building in 2013. “
Rudd said he had had a lot of discussions with former Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about this culture of fear in recent times.
“No one should be afraid of Murdoch, but I can tell you that he is a terrifying guy because of the power he wields,” Rudd said.
The media diversity inquiry, chaired by Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, is expected to hear from News Corp representatives later Friday.
Rudd used the appearance to continue his campaign for a royal commission on Murdoch’s media and broader media diversity issues.
“The reason I am here, Senators, is because more than half a million Australians signed a petition,” he said, noting that it was “quite a large number.” It was “a great call from the Australian people” to look deeply and carefully at the diversity of media for the future of democracy.
Rudd said he was still looking for a real commission and should consider not only Murdoch’s monopoly, but also the emerging monopolies of Google and Facebook.
Rudd said that in the most recent 19 federal and state elections over the past decade, Murdoch’s media “campaigned fiercely for one side of politics” – the Liberal and National parties – and against the Labor Party.
Rudd made a general comment that he believed that “the monopoly has a real danger of fostering corruption over time.”
He cited the “old days in Queensland” before Wayne Goss’s election in the early 1990s “where it’s a case where you scratch your back, I scratch yours.”
Rudd also maintained that media monopolies “destroy the voices of alternative media” and criticized News Corp for shutting down regional newspapers during the Covid-19 crisis last year.
He says another reason for having a royal commission was his “deep and constant concern about climate change.” Rudd told the Senate committee that Murdoch was “a climate change denier.”
Since he first introduced carbon pricing legislation in 2009, Rudd said there had been “this ongoing systematic campaign” against climate action. He cited what he described as an “organized coalition between the Murdoch empire and the carbon lobby.”
Rudd also expressed concern about the potential construction of an “alternative political ecosystem on the far right.”
The former prime minister asked the Senate committee to play a video in which Sky News Australia host Alan Jones interviewed a guest who promoted the conspiracy theory known as “the great reboot.”
In the video, the guest warned viewers about “a coup from the globalist elite” and that “this is our third world war, it is not the world war we expected.”
Rudd said that Murdoch’s Fox News in America had seen “the most unfounded conspiracy theories turned into gospel truth.”
He pointed to the assault on the United States Capitol building on January 6 by Trump supporters who believed unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election had been stolen.
“What worries me in this country is that Sky News is becoming Australia’s Fox News-isation vehicle,” Rudd said.
The former prime minister said his concern was not just the broadcast, but the “huge” online presence of Sky News. He asked “what happens to this ecosystem” in Australia in the next five to 10 years.
Rudd was questioned by some Coalition senators if News Corp was the only media outlet that carried out character assassinations.
“No, but they have brought art to science,” he replied.
Rudd showed a Herald Sun cover page showing the “Dan-Wrought Disaster,” attacking Labor Premier Daniel Andrews’ handling of Covid-19.
Rudd also answered questions about tweets from reporters for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. When asked if he believed that ABC’s role was to “balance” Murdoch’s media, Rudd said, “No, I see that your role is to provide a fair and balanced platform for the presentation of news across the country.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism