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Guarding Australian journalism through Trust

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Founder of the Scott Trust:John Scott (centre, image via guardian.co.uk)

There must be a better way to disseminate news objectively and financially in Australia, says Rodney E. Lever, who suggests a solution.

ABOUT 40 years ago, when I was still working for Rupert Murdoch, I was general manager of News Corp in Queensland, which also happened to be the state where my ancestors had settled in 1850.

My  great grandfather, Joseph Hodel, was a small boy when his parents come to Queensland on a sailing ship in 1850 under an arrangement that their fares would be free. They would be provided with free land on which they had to develop a farm and a business and remain for two years. They did so and they prospered.

Joseph Hodel became very wealthy, first importing draught horses to provide transport equipment to the miners and help the squatters who were pouring into Queensland to enjoy the riches of gold and sheep and cattle production.

Great-grandfather Joseph was also the chairman and principal shareholder of the Townsville Bulletin (now owned by Murdoch). He became a member of the Queensland Legislative Council until it was abolished under fierce pressure from the Australian Labor Party.

Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary in Britain, took the decision that it was "a matter for determination locally" and gave the ALP in Queensland its first political victory over a governing Legislative Assembly that consisted only of the wealthiest members.

Rodney E. Lever's great grandfather, Joseph Hodel (Image via Wiki Commons)

To this day, Queensland, for good or evil, remains the only State Government in Australia to have no upper house to guide the decisions of the lower house members. The Churchill decision remains effective and is often blamed for a range of self-serving governments like those of the Bjelke-Petersen era and its LNP successors.

Today, I see Rupert Murdoch has grown into a ruthless magnate, self-centred, greedy and powerful, placing his faith in his own children to maintain and grow the family fortune with a variety of business acquisitions and a failing empire of newspapers and television beyond which he does not seem to have any vision.

The advent of Tony Abbott and the 2013 election debacle is a reflection of Rupert's failure to see the reality of the emerging 21st century and how the dissemination of news is a changing element that is not sure where it is going.

That is why I believe now that Australia must find a better way to bring honest and sensible, reliable reporting of news through the internet sources that we have discovered and are continually improving.

I offered my articles to Independent Australia because I saw it as a balanced and courageous form of reporting and I believe it has a geat future.

From my own knowledge I am aware that many of the online service are struggling. Advertising methods gave already changed and most will do so in the future without the need of the print newspapers.

Independent online news sources have to rely on hand-to-mouth donations from readers in order to survive. Some people gladly donate but in the current climate of falling incomes, unemployment and an Abbott Government that cannot find its way, things are getting tough for contributors.

If Australians are going to have decent news sources to read, some way has to be found to adequately finance them, otherwise some will no longer be able to continue.

One overseas newspaper, the Guardian of England, is making its way through the changing times most sucessfully through its support founded by its astoundingly generous and foresightful owners — the Scott family and, in particular, John Scott.

They published two newspapers, named originally the Manchester Guardian and the Manchester Evening News. The origin of the Scott Trust is a long and a detailed one, but its existence has kept the newspaper alive and allowed it to spread out around the world — including Australia.

I see in this a base for a future of an Australian media trust which could offer opportunities for online newspapers to succeed and grow in importance and independence by way of limited government support but only in legislation to maintain a high standard of quality reporting funded by investors offered guaranteed returns or tax incentives.

It would require a committee of trustees and a set of rules to govern the quality of reporting of all sides of politics.

It would be not unlike the ABC, now facing another attempt by outside forces, like Murdoch, to destroy it.

There must be a better way to disseminate news objectively and financially. It is a matter that concerns us all.

We must consider a new plan for an independent financial source for news, it would at least compensate for the great error that leaves Queensland Government again in a sad state.

We must never be again left with newspapers owned by billionaires who believe they can set the standards of what we can read, as happened in 2013.  The result is a three year economic disaster for Australia and we have to wait and hope for a better result at the next election.

Independent Australia is currently looking into ways to turn itself into a Scott trust type entity. You can follow Rodney on Twitter @RodneyELever.

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