Melbourne academic Robert Manne rightly calls for a neutering of Murdoch empire power in Australia:
The company’s domination of our newspaper market poses a real and present danger to the health of Australian democracy…
Unquestioning support for American foreign policy led the paper to conduct an extraordinarily strident campaign in favour of an invasion of Iraq – launched on the basis of false intelligence – which was responsible for perhaps 400,000 deaths, and for which it has never uttered a word of apology.
The Australian has conducted a prolonged and intellectually incoherent campaign against action on climate change and undermined the hold in public life of the central values of the Enlightenment, Science and Reason. This has helped make action by any Australian government on the most serious question of contemporary times far more difficult than it ought to have been.
The paper has conducted a series of high-volume and unbalanced campaigns directed against Labor governments, in which its journalists, rather than investigating a problem with an open mind, have often sought out evidence in support of a predetermined editorial conclusion. It has sought systematically to undermine the credibility of its only broadsheet rivals – The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – and, in a relentless campaign, to intimidate and drive towards the right the only other mainstream source of analysis and opinion in this country, the ABC.
It has conducted a kind of jihad against the Greens, a party supported by 1.5 million of the nation’s citizens. By its own admission, it has devoted itself to the task of trying to have that party destroyed at the ballot box, a statement which in itself undermines any claim to fairness or to balance. The Australian has turned itself into a player in national politics without there being any means by which its actions can be held to account.
Even though its core value is the magic of the market, it is doubtful The Australian could survive without hidden financial subsidy from the global empire of its founding father, Rupert Murdoch, for whom it offers the most important means for influencing politics and commerce in the country of his birth.
There seems to be only one possible solution to the threat to democracy posed by The Australian: courageous external and internal criticism. The strange passivity of its two mainstream rivals, the Fairfax press and the ABC – even in the face of a constant barrage of criticism and lampooning – has left victims of the paper’s attacks vulnerable and friendless. There is an old joke that suggests that no individual ought to engage in battle with those who buy their ink by the barrel. But Fairfax and the ABC have the same arsenal of weapons at their disposal.