Politics Analysis

News Corp's war on 'Albo's Voice'

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Rupert Murdoch's media empire serves as a platform for the Coalition to spread Right-wing causes, fear and hate, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.

THROUGH THE Murdoch Referendum Accountability Project, my team and I found News Corp’s coverage was not just biased in support of the Voice Referendum “No” campaign. It was the “No” campaign — the mainstream media arm of it. 

News Corp’s Voice coverage demonstrates that Murdoch media is not a news media organisation. Nor is it a political party, despite former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull calling it this. Describing it as a political party implies it competes against other political parties, which it does not.

News Corp is a political campaign organisation. It exists to campaign for Right-wing causes, particularly the Right wing of the Liberal Party, the National Party and any other group on the far Right, including One Nation.

It is time the Murdoch media was treated as a political campaign platform rather than a news organisation and held accountable as such by the Government and by other media.

Sometimes there are glimpses into the political establishment that suggest politicians are totally aware that the Murdoch media is not really a news organisation.

In May 2023, before the Voice referendum, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had met with senior News Corp executives and editors ‘in a bid to convince the publisher that it should back the Indigenous Voice to Parliament’.

The very fact that this meeting occurred shows News Corp could not be relied on to report neutrally about the Voice like a news organisation is meant to do. Much like meeting a group of politicians, Albanese met with News Corp cap in hand to ask them not to campaign against the Voice. Albanese had similar meeting with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to try to convince him to do the right thing by being bipartisan in supporting the Voice. Albanese showed he knew Dutton’s support was vital and so was News Corp’s.

The report ended with the optimistic views of an unnamed News Corp employee who said ‘there was a sense internally that the company did not want to be “on the wrong side of history” on the issue’.

Not only were Albanese’s team naïve to think News Corp might ever take a position on the Voice that did not mirror and extend Peter Dutton’s “No” campaign while simultaneously trying to undermine Albanese as Prime Minister, but the unnamed News Corp employee was also shown to overestimate the company’s integrity.

Let the history books show that no matter what was said privately to Albanese, Murdoch media swung in enthusiastically behind the “No” campaign.

News Corp’s anti-Voice campaign had two clear agendas. The first was to destroy the Voice and the second, related to the first, was to use the Voice’s defeat as a political stick to beat Albanese with. Both these agendas were carried out with manipulative and vindictive glee by News Corp campaign media.

You will recall that during the Voice Referendum, Dutton’s motives for defeating the Voice became crystal clear, not that we didn’t know already.

Phillip Coorey in the AFR published a text message from a Coalition MP which said:

‘We can’t win the election unless we defeat the Voice solidly, ie we need to defeat it to get to the election starting line.’

Dutton’s motive for campaigning against the Voice was no doubt the same as News Corp’s. Same as Dutton, News Corp apparently did not consider how its campaign against the Voice, which morphed from opposing an advisory body in the Constitution to opposing Indigenous recognition, rights and funding more broadly, would impact on Indigenous people themselves.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians – who overwhelmingly voted “Yes” – are the collateral damage from the “No” camp’s cynical and malicious campaign. In fact, judging by opinion polls, Dutton’s “No” campaign has done nothing to undermine Albanese’s political popularity and certainly has done nothing to improve his own.

Dutton has divided the nation and turned non-Indigenous Australians against Indigenous people – with the help of News Corp – for no return other than creating hate.

I hope Albanese has learned that there is no point in negotiating with News Corp. Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt, in secret recordings, referred to Rupert Murdoch alongside Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani as “like the mafia”, saying he wanted to be a “customer, not a competitor”. When it comes to the mafia, there is no negotiating. You either work with them, like Peter Dutton does, or you end up with cement boots at the bottom of the ocean.

Dr Victoria Fielding is an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Victoria on Twitter @DrVicFielding.

If you would like updates from the Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission Murdoch Referendum Accountability Project, join here.

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