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Get used to it, Malcolm – Murdoch is losing his grip

Last Friday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took time out of his busy(?) schedule to launch a book written by Chris Mitchell, former chief editor of Murdoch’s newspaper, The Australian.

Malcolm’s speech was, according to him, “uncontroversial” but it was interesting nevertheless – not for any scandalous revelations but for the embarrassing sycophancy peppered with self-promotion about his own journalistic credentials, followed by a hypocritical plea for truth in politics and reporting. .

Turnbull said of Mitchell’s retirement “He left his job at the peak of the industry at the very premature age of 60. I can’t imagine why he did that, seems far too young to step down from a big job.”

Well according to AFR, Mitchell was “nudged into retirement by Lachlan Murdoch just before Christmas last year.” Oops.

Turnbull sang Mitchell’s praises saying he had led The Australian with “great insight and great intellectual ability during a critical time in our nation’s history.”

This is not a view shared by other journalists and it is not borne out by the reality of declining sales.

Guy Rundle gives a scathing assessment of Mitchell’s time at the Oz at Crikey.

Right-wing papers have tended to concentrate their firepower in the opinion pages, while preserving a degree of accuracy and objectivity in the news pages. But under Mitchell’s reign, the Oz broke away from this, and became unashamedly partisan, injecting comment and spin into the slightest of news items

…. they decided to be a megaphone for neocon propaganda. The Oz was the vanguard command for a war against Labor, with the Melbourne and Sydney tabloids providing the heft.

….campaigns were descending into vendettas; the attacks on commercial rival the ABC were self-parodic; those on people like Australian Human Rights Council president Gillian Triggs unfair; and the sustained assault on Aboriginal academic Larissa Behrendt was simply an attempt to do her head in.

There was one big result of this indeterminate period: Tony Abbott. The continued batty stoking of climate change denialism, and sundry other matters, had done in Australia what News had done in the US with Fox News: created a bubble, separated from the world, which made reality testing impossible. Murdoch’s organisation, taking on implicitly and explicitly the mix of batty Christian culture politics and free-marketeering of its master — his fully erratic nature now visible to the world through his tweets — simply didn’t want to believe that the neocon future hadn’t worked out. While economies became more concentrated in the hands of capital, social values became more progressive, green, intersectional, “diverse”, etc, etc. Abbott was their neocon champion reborn, and so there was never any real criticism of his approach, until it became impossible not to record the full disaster. But Abbott could only ever have been chosen as leader in the first place by a party working within the right-wing bubble, to which News had greatly contributed.

…on [Mitchell’s] watch, the paper has gone from being merely unprofitable to being genuinely precarious. Mitchell leaves a right-wing politics in disarray, and a paper so uneconomic that its continued existence depends on the kindness of strangers. Vale Mitchell, power’s valet.

Considering this widely agreed view of the demise of factual reporting under Mitchell, it was with some incredulity that I read Turnbull’s speech calling for “truth, fairness and accuracy.”

Turnbull expressed concern about the “trends towards an industry too often prey to shallow analysis, a blurring of ethical standards and focus on the ephemeral rather than the substantive.”

He spoke of high-level discussion at the recent UN leaders’ summit in New York about “post-truth politics – the phenomenon of politicians relying on claims that sound right but simply aren’t true.”

What we are starting to see, and you see it, I believe we saw it in the last election with the so-called Mediscare, you see it increasing in other places of the world where the range of political discourse has become so disconnected from reality. And even though the media calls it out, the politicians have the ability to access consumers directly in a manner than reinforces their prejudices.

… increasingly as we move into a world where narrowcasting is possible, and this of course began with cable television and the internet has absolutely supercharged that, we run the risk that everybody in effect gets the news service that they want, that confirms their prejudices, confirms their disposition rather than challenging it to a balanced analysis.

Now this is an issue that we are grappling with. As usual technology has moved ahead of our ability to understand it and indeed reimagine a civil and a balanced discourse that is going to lead us to the right policy outcomes.

I believe that the fourth estate has a very privileged role in our democracy. You’ve heard me say this again and again that the work that journalists and editors do is just as important in maintaining our democracy as the work we do as members of Parliament or ministers or Prime Ministers or judges. It is absolutely critical.

Without the commitment to truth, fairness and accuracy we won’t get the intelligent, well-informed, rational public policy discourse Australians are entitled to expect and it is getting harder to get that across. Harder than ever before.

In the noisy, frenetic world of internet media where barriers to entry have never been so low and competition so intense – how can media outlets continue to invest in the quality journalism so vital to democracy?

The sheer gall of a Coalition politician praising a Murdoch newspaper whilst blaming the internet for a lack of balance in reporting is beyond laughable.

Get used to it, Malcolm. Your mouthpiece/boss is losing his grip. And so are you.


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  1. helvityni

    Mal is not speaking of Mitchell, Mal’s praising Malcolm, fancy bringing the mediscare into it.

  2. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    ‘Pollywaffle’ Malcolm speaking polly waffle. If he believed those ‘eloquent’ words he was spouting, he’d ensure he followed the meaning of his own words and expect it of Uncle Rupe and the sycophants too.

    Good riddance to Chris Mitchell, one of Australia’s neo-con burdens.

  3. Kaye Lee


    Mal spoke about himself at length….

    “When I was a mere boy, 20 and 21, I came to work here as a political correspondent. I had a rather eccentric collection of media outlets paying my way – one was Nation Review, one was Radio 2SM and the other one was Channel 9.

    Now as many of you may know, I was very nearly lured down the same path. When I was a kid, and I was in England around 1975 I first made the acquaintance of Harold Evans, the legendary editor of The Sunday Times

    Harry was a great inspiration to journalists at the time because of the insight and investigative journalism The Sunday Times had.

    And he heard me give a speech at a university debate in England and actually sent a note round to this young journalist, just imagine yourself at 20, 21 and a note from Harold Evans, editor of The Sunday Times: “Please call on me in the Gray’s Inn Road tomorrow.” I mean it was like getting a summons from God. Extraordinary.

    Anyway, I went round there he encouraged me to have a lifetime career as a journalist and I told him I was studying law, he told me I should drop my legal studies immediately – he said: “If you persevere with them, you will be bored out of your wits. You could end up becoming a judge”, and he shuddered. And then he shuddered again and he said: “Or worse still, you could become a politician.” Well at least I avoided the bench.

    Now having been on both sides of the media, I have a deep and enduring respect for the role that newspapers play and that journalists play and that the media plays.

    I remember as a young man being so entranced by it – just the noise and the vibration of the pressers in a big newspaper, the excitement of late-breaking news. All of those, you know, the eccentrics that fill every newsroom, of course not at The Australian, of course. It is unique in the world. It is a wonderful romantic business.”

  4. helvityni

    “He left his job at the peak of the industry at the very premature age of 60. I can’t imagine why he did that, seems far too young to step down from a big job.”

    In Mal’s veiled fashion this translates to : I (Mal) am too young to retire.

  5. Terry2

    Since Malcolm returned from NY I’ve noticed editorials in the Australian have taken a far more friendly approach to the PM, Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan in particular ; no more criticism of policy back-flips and lack of direction but plenty of encouragement and recognition of his long-term view.

    Not reported but, could there have been a quiet cuppa in New York that has resulted in Turnbull kissing the ring of the sun king and receiving a blessing – Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.

  6. crypt0

    At last malcolm has done something … he launched a book !
    Well, somebody else’s book actually …
    Still …
    When a country has a PM who snookers his considerable wealth in the Cayman Islands, 30% of big business and wealthy individuals pay no tax, the parliament is infested with the likes of malcolm roberts, george christensen, christopher pyne just to name a few, the MSM covering for them at every turn; the government continues (as always) to embroil Australia in never ending overseas wars, and the streets are increasingly becoming the residence of the homeless, you know where you, as a country, are headed.
    It’s later than we think.

  7. mark full,of himself.mark

  8. Kaye Lee


    The Pauls came in for mention in Turnbull’s speech

    “It is under great challenge but a great newspaper, a great newspaper today under Paul’s leadership forging ahead on foundations built by many others including Paul Kelly”

    From January this year….

    According to well-placed sources in Murdoch’s headquarters, Turnbull has expressed a wish to meet Murdoch in New York, although this suggestion was met with a flat denial from the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra. A spokesman said Mr Turnbull had no plans to visit New York during a tight two-day schedule.

    This does not preclude Turnbull meeting a highly ranked member of the Murdoch team – like, say, Robert Thomson, the Australian journalist who is boss of Murdoch’s News Corp group – in Washington. There are pressing matters to discuss, including Australian government plans to free up the local media regulation scene in a way that may not be convenient for Murdoch, who controls more than two-thirds of newspaper sales in Australia and one half of Foxtel, Australia’s principal pay TV operator.–a-question-on-many-minds-especially-malcolm-turnbulls-20160114-gm61c4#ixzz4LyodyO35

  9. paulwalter

    They fight to grovel before Murdoch and his functionaries.

    Julia Baird’s attack on Clementine Ford in todays Fairfax is another example, why else would someone attempt to defend the indefensible in the form of Shari Markson, concerning a Drum episode last week.

  10. crypt0

    Kaye, the best indicator may well be whether or no malcolm comes across with a NewsCorpse approved answer to the question of the local media regulation scene
    My guess is that murdoch will be accommodated … one way or another.

  11. Jaquix

    Apart from having no respect whatsoever left for Malcolm Turnbull, I question the appropriateness of his lending the mana of his office as Prime Minister of this country, the top political figure in the land, waxing lyrical about one particular newspaper. Newspapers and genuine journalists, are meant to hold politicians to account. This smacks of corruption of ethics, to me. The top politician should not be endorsing any newspaper at all. As we know, this is a newspaper which has been Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece for about 50 years, and responsible for brainwashing 3 generations of Australians to his own peculiar way of thinking. All this book launch did was give Turnbull a chance to, guess what? wax lyrical about himself – and as Helvetyni pointed out, offer us a thinly veiled message that he is too young to retire himself.

  12. Christian Marx

    Hahahaha, Turnbull must be demented. There is very little truth, fairness or accuracy in mainstream papers,
    which is why the populace is moving onto, non establishment news, internet sites in droves.

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Whether Malcolm Muck intends to retire soon or not, he will be out on his pokey little ear before he knows it.

  14. Kaye Lee

    It will also be interesting to see what happens regarding internet access and intellectual property if they sign the TPP.

    Under TPP, Internet Service Providers could be required to “police” user activity (i.e. police YOU), take down internet content, and cut people off from internet access for common user-generated content.

    Violations could be as simple as the creation of a YouTube video with clips from other videos, even if for personal or educational purposes.

    Mandatory fines would be imposed for individuals’ non-commercial copies of copyrighted material. So, downloading some music could be treated the same as large-scale, for-profit copyright violations.

    Innovation would be stifled as the creation and sharing of user-generated content would face new barriers, and as monopoly copyrights would be extended. The TPP extends copyright terms for six of the 12 negotiating countries by another 20 years.

    Breaking digital locks for legit purposes, such as using Linux, could subject users to mandatory fines. Blind and deaf people also would be harmed by this overreach, as digital locks can block access to audio-supported content and closed captioning.

  15. lawrencewinder

    It seems to be getting very close to the stage of “…they threw a party bur nobody came.” Such sycophantic drivel lthey spout at each other…..they surely can’t believe any of it. I saw the Ford / Markson contretemps on The Drum and thought Ford’s arguments left Markson looking rather embarrassed in her intellectual paucity…. Hmmm Baird on the attack over this… seems the weekend was one full of outsiders getting up over of the favourites.

  16. Kim Southwood

    Truth, fairness and accuracy – so speaks the self-styled Messiah who aspires to save us from ‘narrowcasting’ on the internet. But surely this argument is flawed. His own lamentations suggest the Australian has very successfully narrowed its own audience. The internet does not afford his fave newspaper a monopoly and therefore they must fight for their market share. Is he not the proponent of Free Trade? Though of course even on the internet The Australian newspaper is not free, thereby shooting itself in the foot perhaps.

    Having to pay for their daily dose of rationality has led more and more Australians to be held in the thrall of un-intelligent, ill-informed, irrational public policy discourse. The Messiah has spoken and I’m sure we are all suitably contrite. That is unless the noisy, frenetic internet media has turned us all atheist.

  17. diannaart

    “Truth, fairness and accuracy” – from the Ministry of Truth AKA the Federal government.

    It is true we are over-governed, but it is not the states we need to eliminate – mostly they actually do stuff (Victoria public transport, S.A. renewable tech), it is the federal government we do not need.

  18. Kronomex

    Mal protecting Mal, who is hanging on by his fingernails,and trying to give as little ammunition to Rupert. At the same time Mal is sucking up to Rupert in the vain hope that Rupert won’t find anything useful to use against the Mal that Mal is looking after. Good luck Mal.

    I know I repeated malself but I was enjoying malself.

  19. Brad

    chris mitchell turned me off ‘the australian’ for life. His running of that rag was pure red neck.
    Slagging off the tofu eating, cloth shopping bag, greeny brigade in a rant on behalf of a meat eating lobby group some years ago was the final straw. The man had no class.

  20. stephengb2014

    You are right, we should actually dismantal the federal government, the role can easily be carried out by a meeting of the heads of each State and Territory.
    With decisions made by a majority of 5 to represent the federation.

    Of course it would be difficult to achieve the changes to the constitution but probably not as hard as removing the States and Territory. The States and Territories, would probably assost a movement to remove the federal government and replace it with a counsel of premiers who would ensure that states pass simultaneois and common legislation for the good of all States and Territories.

  21. diannaart

    Thank you, stephen2014, for your consideration – of course we both know it won’t happen, but it is good to think about alternatives to the oligarchy we presently endure.

  22. Harquebus

    “One thing I resent is the slur that I just support political candidates because of the business.” – Rupert Murdoch

    “I’m not ashamed of any of my papers at all and I’m rather sick of snobs that tell us that they’re bad papers, snobs who only read papers that no one else wants. I doubt if they read many papers at all.” – Rupert Murdoch

    “I feel that people I trusted – I don’t know who, on what level – have let me down, and I think they have behaved disgracefully, and it’s for them to pay. And I think, frankly, that I’m the best person to see it through.” – Rupert Murdoch

  23. Steve Laing -

    It is truly a very insular little bubble that these people exist in. Murdoch, Hadley, Jones, Stokes – is it any wonder that they can’t release a single policy without having to make substantial changes to it before it has any hope of being passed, when this is the mirror to which they hold up their work?

    Listening to Mitchell being interviewed on the ABC (where else?) last week, he appeared to be of the belief that it was entirely due to him that Rudd was elected, that Gillard was brought down, and that Abbott got in. Total hubris.

  24. guest

    Get used to it, Malcolm.

    You are losing your grip.Malcolm.

    Newspoll tells us that the Coalition is behind and is being deserted by the rural sector.

    Then we have the silly things Malcolm says, about such things as Coalition action on Climate Change and the success of their immigration policy and protection of borders. And now, about power failure in South Australia.

    In The Weekend Australian Chris Kenny, Dennis Shanahan and Graham Lloyd are swarming around leadership and power blackouts..

    Kenny tells us: “Leaders who do less are preferable to grandmasters” – and we know whom he thinks is the leader who does less. It is about you, Malcolm. Kenny goes on: “Premiers ….(MB and JW)…would be more useful if they stuck to the knitting.”

    Is that what you are doing, Malcolm? Sticking to the knitting?

    Kenny dreams up what he sees as ‘grandstanding’: “Don’t worry about providing plentiful cheap energy, parade your desire to save the planet.”

    You see how Kenny thinks he is suppporting you, Malcolm. He dengrates renewable energy and even hints at the value of coal – plentiful and cheap.

    And it was to Kenny whom Chris Mitchell handed over for a time the role of editorial comment. Both, it seems, were as ideologically driven and confused as each other.

    Then Dennis Shanahan tells us: “Turnbull connects with the people” How did you do it, Malcolm? Why, you said how people hate power blackouts. “…the first priority of government must be to keep the lights on.”

    You said what, Malcolm? You forgot that 22+ power-line towers fell over in once in 50 years high winds – and you do not mention that, but seek in future a centralised restriction of renewable energy growth. Good one. Malcolm!

    In fact we have here a large picture of a fallen tower – and near it a picture of an old coal-fired station being torn down at Port Augusta in September. The belief is that a coal fired station would not have failed. Do you believe that, Malcolm?

    Graham Lloyd does. He says: “The meltdown …is a demonstration of what a loss of reliability looks like.”And what is reliable? We can only guess, Malcolm, but would it be coal?

    More and more Malcolm is sounding like a fizza. And those who support him are not convincing either. But of course an alternative is Tony. Get used to it, Malcolm. You nee to do more than knitting, Malcolm.

  25. Alan Baird

    Malcolm doesn’t SOUND LIKE a fizza. He IS a fizza. He has achieved official fizza status. Parliament itself is riddled with never-ending incessant insincerity. Every day is an act. Reality is routinely suspended. Everything is determined by how it will sound, not what will be achieved. No matter how derisory and specious the claims for “achievement” of any neocon wing-nut are found to be, there will ALWAYS be a sycophant who will give a mouthpiece to him (usually). The ABC’s free pass to “Honest” John is a perfect example. The ABC’s earlier revelations of Suisse’s dodgy practices make its “partnership” with Suisse laughable. The malleable values of our institutions are worsened by any contact with right wing politics and the media that support them. Malcolm is the living embodiment of all this fuffing about. What a crock of ordure that fulsome twaddle about Mitchell was. The Australian is nothing better than a print prostitute and Mitchell was the perfect punter. It was ALWAYS said that if an editor had to ask Rupie baby what his opinion was on an issue, he would be on the skids. He had to KNOW what the Big Man thought. Kevin Rudd used to regularly suck up to Rupie and had a column in the Tele apparently, although I never saw it for some reason. Terrible to prejudge someone but it’s unavoidable. Onward and downward we go…
    PS: “Fulsome” doesn’t mean enthusiastic. It means “insincere”. Little Johnnie Howard used to think it meant the former. He regularly said he gave fulsome praise to so-and-so in Parliament. A rare outbreak of frankness. I hope Malcolm’s praise of Mitchell was fulsome (for him at least).

  26. Jaquix

    Alan Baird – love your language – spot on – please consider expanding your comment into an article for The AIM ! Especially scary that Fizza and all his little bungers are now “reforming” the media laws. The last political party you would trust to do anything for the benefit of Australians.

  27. helvityni

    “We are told Malcolm Turnbull is not “bullyable”. It is a fine quality to be sure, but it might make a person see bullies where there are only ABC journalists asking reasonable questions. It might make him thin-skinned. Doubtless his supporters like to see the prime minister accusing Tony Jones of doing Labor’s work, or snapping at Leigh Sales, but to the rest of the public, and to his political enemies of every stripe, it’s a certain sign of weakness – the weakness of a bully, one might say.”

    says Don Watson on The Monthly, and I could not agree more.

  28. Kaye Lee

    That same opinion is borne out in this revealing article from 1991 helvityni

    Suddenly, he can turn. The charmer becomes the menacer, the defender of freedom of speech its most sophisticated challenger. He laughs, and disarms, but always be on guard. Remember, he can turn.

    “He’s a turd,” says former Labor senator Jim McClelland. “He’s easy to loathe, he’s a shit, he’d devour anyone for breakfast, he’s on the make, he’s cynical, he’s offensively smug. He’s a good exploiter of publicity”

    It is quite something to experience the Turnbull presence; he can be devastatingly funny, breathtakingly arrogant. Having defamed one, possibly two, of his former colleagues, he will in the next moment give you a mini lecture on Section 22 of the Defamation Act, just so that, when you write about him, you will be extra careful.

    Armed with an awesome, carefully cultivated network of contacts, Turnbull roams the corporate landscape, a hired gun after the main chance

  29. Steve Laing -

    He certainly seems to have the MSM exactly where he wants them. The tugging of forelocks by “respected” journalists is sickening.

    Its clear that he has had journalists removed from the ABC for opinions they’ve tweeted privately, so how far he will go to if they dare criticise on the public purse…

  30. guest

    Another Murdoch scribbler in The Australian today perpetuates the lie: that Weatherill created the blackout by his renewable energy policy. No mention that the power supply in SA was privatised by the Liberal Party – and privatisation means profit gouging.

    It is astonishing that such scribblers air their ignorance so boldly in public. And this from the Menzies Research Centre – which clearly has some homework to do. But then it is a government subsidised entity. What can we expect?

    I am looking forward to the Federal Opposition aiming some tricky questions at the Coalition in future. See them squirm.

  31. Steve Laing -

    guest – I’d love to see that, but I’ve realised that a pre-requisite for being an LNP member and particularly minister (as well as the journalists that support them), is to be utterly shameless when it comes to telling the truth. I’m guessing that many have a background in the law, as they lie with ease. They will happily argue black is white, and next week argue the opposite without even a suggestion that they have changed their position one iota. If it wasn’t destroying the country, it would be quite something to watch – a bit like a talented magician and their prestidigitation.

  32. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Before one criticises the quality of the lawyers or those with a lawyer’s background, one needs to scrutinise the Boards of Examiners who let such sycophantic and ethically-questionable lawyers through.

  33. Graeme Finn

    Post-truth politics or ‘truthiness’ as Colbert refers to it is a creation of the right. Of course the liars claim that others are liars. Of course self serving incompetents accuse other people of their own failings. This has gone beyond projection and has become some bizarre ritual with mystic chants to prove that up is down and black is white. It makes true communication impossible.

  34. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    There is never post-truth politics.

    Just well tuned scrutiny of every statement and claim …

    …as well as the ready preparedness to call them out them for falsehood and their perpetrators for frauds, as necessary.

    Simple really!

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