The ABC, the IPA and Abbott's debts to Murdoch

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In launching his unwarranted attack on the ABC, Tony Abbott is repaying debts to the Murdoch media empire for getting him elected prime minister, writes Matthew N Donovan.

THE SHADOW OF RUPERT MURDOCH and his loss making propaganda machine looms large over the Abbott Government and its far right agenda.

The victim of the agenda this time? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  

The beloved Australian institution, often affectionately called "Auntie", is under coordinated attack from News Corporation's Australian newspapers.

Tony Abbott recently gave his friends in the media the all clear to enter full attack mode after he said to his mate Ray Hadley at 2GB that

"... the ABC instinctively takes everyone's side but Australia's."

It is clearly an outrageous statement. But why should this surprise anyone? He's prone to making those.

He was obviously irritated by coverage that was damaging to his government in relation to the Snowden leaks and allegations of abuse perpetrated by the Australian Navy against asylum seekers.

Before I go any further, I should probably take you back a few steps.

The ABC has traditionally been in the crosshairs of most conservatives — who want to control the whole media agenda. To them, compared to the one-eyed coverage from Australia's Murdoch-dominated conservative press, the ABC is "left wing biased".

In most reasonable Australian's minds, however, the ABC provides fair, balanced and award winning coverage. Immeasurably better than the frothing right-wing Orwellian "fair and balanced" coverage provided by Murdoch's Fox News at any rate.

Chief among the critics is the far right "think tank", the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) — a lobby group for hire. The IPA is able to act as mouthpiece for its business sponsors without any requirement to disclose who they actually are, whilst pretending in the media to be a venerable independent research institute. In truth, this is nothing more than a scam and a coporate rort — but don't expect the Abbott Government to announce a royal commission into that any time soon.

Many people may not be aware that Rupert Murdoch's father Keith helped establish the IPA — which itself, in turn, helped establish the Liberal Party. Indeed, Rupert was much heralded guest speaker at the IPA's recent 70th anniversary celebration.

A cosy and closely intertwined relationship indeed.

The guest list at that event reads like a progressives nightmare — Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart, Andrew Bolt and, of course, Tony Abbott.

The IPA is, without question, politically partisan lobby group that works closely in tandem with the Liberal Party and its corporate sponsors — including its public relations arm, the Murdoch media.

The IPA have been very open in saying they want the ABC sold off and again spruiked this desire recently as part of their wish list for Abbott to undertake.

In fact, in a brazen display of political pork-barrelling, the Abbott Government recently appointed the stereotypical smug self-entitled Tory Tim Wilson, the former IPA director, to a $325,000 role as a Human Rights Commissioner — what Attorney General George Brandis calls his "Freedom Commissioner". More Orwellian phrases from this Government.

Wilson, during his time at the IPA, actually called for the end of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). He is also someone who went on countless episodes of ABC's The Drum calling for "smaller government" and an end to "government waste" — yet was delighted to drop his job at the IPA in an instant to receive a cushy Government sinecure. Hypocrisy much?

All this would all be light and shade, apart from the fact the IPA is believed to be heavily financially backed by Rupert Murdoch. This is difficult to establish because, as mentioned, they refuse to officially acknowledge who funds their "think tank" and it's operations. However, we do know the IPA have received the foreign media mogul's largesse in the past.

The IPA is many things, but one of them is most certainly not a think tank. It is an agent and agent provocateur for far right vested interests.

These attacks on the ABC are part of a long term Murdoch desire to delegitimise the highly respected institution in the minds of Australians and legitimise the cuts at the ABC the IPA and Murdoch want — chiefly to hamstring a competitor to Murdoch's foreign-owned propaganda outfit.

And this is an agenda to which Abbott and his cabinet will surely oblige. 

High on Murdoch's wish list is to pick up the $250 million 10 year Australia Network contract. Whether he gets this is yet to be seen, but there appear to be moves by the Abbott Government to strip it from ABC and maybe even shut it down.

Why all the efforts to please the IPA and Murdoch?

Well, the Liberals, for the most part, owe the fact they are in Government to the the Murdoch network. The biased coverage of News Corp Australia's newspapers during the last 4 years – and most particularly the election campaign, as steered by Murdoch apparatchik Col Allan of New York Post fame – was instrumental in getting Abbott into office — an office he simply never merited.

That's what makes these developments most galling. 

The Abbott Government is apparently concerned about bias at ABC and yet they give the Murdoch press a complete free pass to act in the most irresponsible manner possible on a range of fronts — whether it be political bias, climate change or promoting its own business interests.

If this is about the standard of media in this country, isn't it reasonable to expect them to look beyond Liberal Party self-interest?

Critics of the ABC will say there is a different standard expected because it is taxpayer funded organisation, but isn't it reasonable to expect all media – whether funded by taxpayers or not – to act in a fair, reasonable and ethical manner. The Murdoch media fail that test on a daily basis.

And do we really want a country where media considers blind patriotism before the any other consideration?

As usual, the corrosive influence of Murdoch divides and conquers and moves the agenda ever more to the right.

Make sure to keep an eye on the IPA and their wish list. I suspect more of their wishes will come true by virtue of a keen and willing government.

The vigilant among us need to keep them to account and shine a spotlight on how they collude and cooperate.

We don't want Murdoch becoming in Australia what his mates the Koch Brothers have become in the United States, which is exactly the way it's heading.

Click on image to see Youtube video of the incident. (Image via @KieraGorden)

Matthew N Donovan is a Labor Party member and a former ALP state candidate.

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