Ex-PM Kevin Rudd has delivered a scathing assessment on the inner-workings of Rupert Murdoch, claiming the media tycoon only cares about money, minimum regulation and power.
The former prime minister, who came to power with Murdoch’s backing in 2007, made the comments to a federal parliamentary inquiry into media diversity on Friday.
Mr Rudd levelled several criticisms against Murdoch, 89, and his News Corp-owned newspapers, which includes mastheads such as The Australian, Daily Telegraph and The Courier Mail.
He claimed the newspapers spread a ‘culture of fear’ that were the product of a media tycoon who held ‘enormous influence’ over the political future of the country.
Mr Rudd said politicians were afraid of Murdoch and of facing a ‘systematic campaign’, such as the one against former prime minister Julia Gillard, which ‘bordered on misogyny’.
Mr Rudd was deposed as leader by Ms Gillard in 2010 before regaining the prime ministership from her in 2013.
‘Everyone’s frightened of Murdoch,’ Mr Rudd said, who is pushing for a royal commission into Australian media.
Mr Rudd claimed the newspapers spread a ‘culture of fear’ that ‘bordered on misogyny’ in some cases and were the product of a media tycoon who held ‘enormous influence’ over the political future of the country (pictured, Murdoch with Jerry Hall)
Kevin Rudd (pictured, at the parliamentary inquiry on Friday) has blasted Rupert Murdoch claiming the media tycoon only cares about money, minimum regulation and power and ideology
‘They really are. There’s a culture of fear across the country.’
Mr Rudd said he met Murdoch ‘many times’ and that his ‘interests are three-fold’.
‘One, money. Tax minimisation as a result of that. Two, minimum regulation. That’s his world view. He’s out there on the far-right about everything, including climate. Three, power and ideology.’
The former prime minister famously went to New York to woo Murdoch ahead of the 2007 election, and ended up at a well-known strip club with the editor of the New York Post.
News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller also appeared at the inquiry where he was asked by the panel why people, particularly politicians, were afraid of Murdoch.
‘It’s a question for them,’ he said after a lengthy pause. ‘If we could explain the relationship between politicians and media … some of the most important appointments that politicians make is their media advisor.
‘Equally they are fearful of maybe not the media, but what their political competitors are saying about them.’
Mr Miller went on to deny that News Corp ‘makes or breaks prime ministers’ after the question was posed to him.
He also said prime ministers were not summoned by Murdoch to his residence in New York.
‘It’s not summons,’ he said. ‘What else are you suggesting?’ he said to the panel.
Mr Miller would not admit News Corp was the most powerful media organisation in Australia.
Mr Rudd told the inquiry the proposed bargaining laws simply entrench the power and reach of the Murdoch media empire.
‘Even if it no longer delivers profitable revenue lines, he has enormous influence over the nation’s future political and policy agenda,’ he said.
Mr Rudd levelled several criticisms against Murdoch and his News Corp-owned papers, which includes mastheads such as The Australian, Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail
The former prime minister famously went to New York to woo Murdoch ahead of the 2007 election, and ended up at a well-known strip club with the editor of the New York Post (pictured, Rupert Murdoch with Kevin Rudd in 2008)
Mr Rudd called for parliament to listen to the more than half a million people who had signed a petition calling for action.
‘It’s not simply a random call for a royal commission. They know something is crook,’ Mr Rudd said.
‘The truth in this building is that everyone’s frightened of Murdoch.
‘What the Murdoch mob is after is compliant politicians who won’t rock the boat.’
He says monopolies are wrong and lead to corruption that is buried, denied and not investigated, and also change behaviour over time that skew the national debate.
The ‘Fox News-isation’ of the Australian media was well under way, breeding climate change denialism and encouraging far-right political extremism, Mr Rudd said.
‘The Murdoch media empire has campaigned viciously against one side of politics.’
The panel at the inquiry asked Mr Rudd if he believed the Murdoch empire had a ‘problem with powerful women.’
The ‘Fox News-isation’ of the Australian media was well under way, breeding climate change denialism and encouraging far-right political extremism, Mr Rudd said
Mr Rudd turned his attention to former prime minister Julia Gillard and the Murdoch empire’s coverage of her during that time.
He labelled the depictions as ‘venomous’ that ‘bordered on misogyny’ and called to the mind the ‘Ditch the Witch’ protests.
‘Ditch the Witch’ was the slogan written across a placard that was waved during a protest against the controversial carbon tax in 2011.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott was pictured standing in front of the placard, before drawing criticisms of sexism.
‘While you couldn’t directly blame the Murdoch outlets for the protests,’ Mr Rudd said, ‘the fact that that sentiment was fairly redolent across the Murdoch coverage, I think made the challenges faced by the Gillard government greater than they would have otherwise been.’
Mr Rudd then challenged Murdoch and his son Lachlan to front the parliamentary inquiry.
Mr Rudd turned his attention to former prime minister Julia Gillard and the Murdoch empire’s coverage of her during that time
‘Ditch the Witch’ was the slogan written across a placard that was waved during a protest against the controversial carbon tax in 2011
‘I wonder whether it would be good to hear from Rupert Murdoch himself, to hear from Lachlan Murdoch himself,’ he said.
‘How the working editors respond to the instructions they’re given. That would be a great exercise in transparency.’
Senior executives from News Corp and Nine Entertainment are also attending the hearing, arguing Australian consumers have access to diverse news and information, with very few readers accessing only one news brand.
Australian Associated Press will be represented at the hearing by chief executive Emma Cowdroy, chairwoman Jonty Low and editor Andrew Drummond.
They will argue one of the most efficient ways of supporting media diversity is to ensure the national newswire is properly resourced.
The competition watchdog has said its two key concerns about diversity are the impact of big platforms such as Google and Facebook and ensuring the viability of an independent national newswire.