Kevin Rudd’s claim that the Murdoch media is a “cancer on democracy” is gaslighting the Australian people.
Last week a Rudd-initiated petition was submitted to the House of Representatives calling for a Royal Commission into “the strength and diversity of Australian news media”. In case anyone was in any doubt over what that meant, Rudd called the Murdoch media a “cancer on democracy” when announcing the petition on Twitter last month. The petition had over 500,000 signatures including Malcolm Turnbull’s.
Rupert Murdoch owns a lot of real estate in the real world, but surely not as much as he occupies in the heads of the Australian left. In keeping with many on the left’s preference for character smear over debate, anyone straying remotely from the orthodoxy on climate change, the economy, or COVID-19 policy is accused of being an agent of the #Murdochcracy.
Of course, Rudd’s beef with Murdoch isn’t about democracy at all. Rudd’s toys have come out of the cot because large swathes of the Australian population still stubbornly refuse to sign up to many of the modern left’s ideological mutations.
Many don’t seem to think climate change warrants impoverishing their children. Or they quite like the idea that people be judged on their merits rather than their gender or race. It seems to not have occurred to Rudd and Turnbull that people may have legitimate reasons for these positions that have nothing to do with a New York almost-nonagenarian playing underwater 8D backgammon with our democracy.
But having seen the city I love destroyed by the Andrews government in the last eight months, what stands out about Rudd’s claim is its stunning audacity. Because we may never know the full depths of the corruption, incompetence and lies of the Andrews government in 2020, but we wouldn’t have got within a bull’s roar without the News Corp journalists.
Maybe it’s just my Murdoch-addled brain speaking here, but as the Andrews government catastrophically mishandled almost every aspect of the pandemic – and attempted to victim-blame the Victorian people – it’s been the likes of Rachel Baxendale, Gabriella Power, and Andrea Crothers that have held them to account.
And of course, in about five minutes the peerless Peta Credlin uncovered more malfeasance than the Coate Inquiry into hotel quarantine was able to over a period of months.
At a time when simultaneously the government was making possibly the worst public policy mistakes in Australian history, wielding unprecedented power, and parliament was greatly restricted, a handful of journalists in Andrews’ press conferences provided one of the few accountability checks the Victorian government faced.
The fact that even this was characterised by many as a Murdoch plot is extraordinary – as if a political leader having to answer questions they’d rather not is some kind of assault on democracy (as opposed to being the opposite).
Besides, if Andrews was that worried about the News Corp journalists being mean to him, perhaps he could’ve reconsidered the necessity of daily Castro-length press conferences throughout a crisis that for all its horror has at this point, fortunately, claimed fewer lives than Australia’s annual road toll.
The performance of the News Corp journalists in these press conferences meant something. Politics is not a spectator sport for Victorians anymore. In the dark winter months as despair settled over Melbourne, it meant something that some journalists were able to extract a measure of accountability over what the government was doing to us.
I say “some journalists” because of the government-funded elephant in the room. Too often the ABC shamefully ran interference for the government as the bodies piled up, businesses were sent to the wall and families were stretched to breaking point.
Victorians should never forget their betrayal.
And to make the most painfully obvious of points, Rudd and Turnbull may not like the Murdoch media, but they don’t have to pay for it. A poll commissioned by the IPA in February found that only 32% of people thought the ABC represented the views of ordinary Australians. The rest of us have to pay for the ABC so that they can tell us how terrible we are.
In short, Rudd thinks an independent media organisation that people can decide for themselves if they wish to consume is “a cancer on democracy”. But the state media organisation that we are forced to pay for, covered for a tyrannical government in Victoria, and uses the power of the state to tell us how wrong most of us are, is hailed as independent, objective, and balanced.
I think this is what the signatories of the anti-Murdoch petition would call gaslighting.
Peter Gregory is co-host of the Young IPA Podcast at the Institute of Public Affairs. Join as a member at www.ipa.org.au.
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