There are two upcoming power battles in Australia. One pits Kevin Rudd against Tony Abbott. The second positions Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers against our democracy. The outcome of the first battle may depend on the second, yet we only get to vote in one of them.
That Murdoch wants a change of government in Australia is evident. He has said so himself, tweeting that the Australian public are “totally disgusted with the Labor Party wrecking the country with its sordid intrigues. Now for a quick election”.
Of course, the octogenarian, New York-based global media magnate is perfectly entitled to his opinion and is well within his rights to express it so openly. But one’s opinions carry a lot more weight when they are magnified by a virtual monopoly newspaper business that amplifies his views through ‘news’ coverage that makes no pretension at being even-handed.
Take for example the News Corp papers’ treatment of the Rudd government’s proposal for a modest levy on banks to pay for insurance for depositors in the event of a bank failure. Predictably, Rudd and his treasurer were photo-shopped as bank robbers raiding the savings of battlers. “Rudd plans to pinch Aussies’ savings” was the headline in the trashy Daily Tele.
Not mentioned was the fact that until recently Australia and New Zealand were the only industrialised countries not to operate deposit insurance schemes for authorised deposit taking institutions. Under the Howard Government in 2005, the Council of Financial Regulators recommended a limited mechanism to provide depositors and general insurance policyholders with access to their funds on a timely basis during a crisis. The rationale was to avoid hardship for ordinary people. (For a detailed history of our move toward international standards, see this paper from the RBA here PDF).
The idea – as supported by APRA, ASIC, the RBA and the generally very conservative people who administer our financial system – is that it makes sense for deposit taking institutions themselves to pay a levy to insure that people’s savings are protected. This is consistent with what happens in many other developed economies, including the US, the UK, Canada and Norway.
Just how this sensible, moderate and prudential policy idea could be twisted into Rudd Raids Battlers’ Bank Accounts’ is testament to the utter corruption of the Murdoch media and the preparedness of its editors to distort news coverage to advance the commercial and ideological agenda of their expatriate boss.
The Murdoch apologists, of course, will defend his papers with the line that they are pursuing the sort of vigorous, take-no-prisoners tabloid journalism that holds governments to account. That’s fine, but journalism that twists facts, omits key information and manipulates public emotion to achieve ideological ends for powerful interests is not journalism at all. Even the most conservative public commentators now recognise how calculated Murdoch’s agenda of propaganda has become.
None of this would matter so much if the Murdoch footprint in our media was not so overwhelming and if his papers did not so routinely set the agenda for talkback radio, commercial television and the ABC, which has given up any pretence of being anything other than a News Corp echo chamber. On this score, John Pilger got it right – Australia is the world’s first Murdochracy.
What does this mean in the coming election? It means that Rudd’s ALP, the Greens and the cause of progressive politics in this country are up against two foes – Abbott’s populist, hidden agenda conservatism on one hand and, on the other, a Murdoch press willing to lie, misinform, twist and smear to get its way.
If Abbott wins, the Murdochracy will be complete.
(Image courtesy of Driftglass – licensed under Creative Commons)