Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told a Senate inquiry into media diversity on April 12 that News Corp’s role in politics is too powerful, and he wants the media giant to be held to account.
Turnbull alleged that the media giant was the most powerful political actor in the country.
“The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Labor Party; it is News Corporation,” Turnbull said. “And it is utterly unaccountable. It is controlled by an American family, and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with our own.”
News Corp owns many Australian newspapers, including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier Mail, The Advertiser, Sky News Australia, and online outlet news.com.au.
Turnbull attributed reporting by News Corp-owned media outlets and radio shock jocks for helping to fuel his losses in politics and for being dropped after only one week from his most recent appointment as the head of the New South Wales Net-Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board.
“Being as candid as I have been today is something that you would do at your peril if you were prime minister or a minister or you wanted to keep staying in Parliament because the retribution would be very intense,” he said.
“Even if you were prepared to take the heat, your colleagues definitely wouldn’t.”
Turnbull also accused News Corp of being a danger to Australian democracy linking the media group’s coverage of the 2020 American election to the storming of the United States Capitol building in early January this year.
He also said that the organisation promoted racial animosity while at the same time working to prevent action on climate change.
A former journalist, Turnbull, has joined with fellow former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s efforts to decry News Corp’s power in the Australian media.
In October 2020, Rudd called for a royal commission into News Corp to investigate the abuse of media monopoly, particularly in relation to Murdoch’s interests.
“The truth is Murdoch has become a cancer, an arrogant cancer, on our democracy,” Rudd said in the video launching the petition.
The push for the Royal Commission closed unsuccessfully in January, but it then spurred the current Senate inquiry.
News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller and Executive Campbell Reid both refuted the criticisms by the former prime ministers, with Miller declaring the criticism was “a convenient diversion from their own failings.”
Further, Reid gave evidence to the inquiry that the company’s work in Australia was as a “professional, accountable media” and said that the company operated with an “extraordinary degree of both government, and indeed regulatory, oversight and legal oversight if we get things wrong.”
However, former Herald Sun editor and co-founder of The New Daily, Bruce Guthrie, said News Corp had a list of “friends and enemies” that the organisation would reference and act on.
Guthrie said it was important for the government to support the Australian Associated Press news wire service in order to encourage news startups and to see independent organisations succeed.
“The survival of AAP as an independent news wire service is really important because what it’s doing is providing the bulk of the news copy for a lot of smaller publishers. Whether they’re broadcast or print or just online.” Turnbull echoed.
Rudd also gave evidence in March that he was “fearful” of News Corp until he left Parliament in 2013.