Editorial: The Australian wages Fox News-style war on Greens

February 17, 2012
NSW Greens MPs John Kaye, David Shoebridge and Jamie Parker lampoon The Australian, February 12. Photo: Rachel Evans

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire does not have a TV network like Fox News in Australia — at least not yet. But he does have the sole national newspaper, The Australian, which is busy running a Fox News-style smear campaign against the Australian Greens.

Anxious at the Greens’ growing electoral success, the paper said in a 2010 editorial that it planned to have the Greens “destroyed”.

The Australian’s plan is transparent: attack the Greens and give space to its critics. But its method is odious: if the facts don’t fit the story, ignore the facts.

Two recent examples show this in practice. Former Liberal party staffer Christian Kerr has written several articles in the Australian that say ASIO files show federal Greens MP Lee Rhiannon met with a high-ranking KGB spy in 1970 before she boarded a Russian cruise ship bound for England.

Rhiannon has denied the claims, saying on February 6: “On 19 January 1970 when I left Australia on the MS Shota Rustaveli and for the following six weeks of the voyage and indeed for my whole life to the best of my knowledge, I have never met a Russian spy.”

But Kerr wrote on February 13 that Rhiannon “has yet again refused to offer a categorical denial to a report in The Australian that a secret meeting was set up between her and the man identified as the KGB station chief in Australia”.

Of course, Rhiannon did offer a complete denial. More than that, she said she had never knowingly met a Russian spy in her entire life. The Australian published a letter from her that denied Kerr’s claim completely. Do Kerr and Australian editor Chris Mitchell even read their own newspaper?

In the other example, The Australian attacked Greens NSW MLC David Shoebridge for giving greetings to the Socialist Alliance national conference in January.

Imre Salusinszki and James Massola wrote in the February 2 Australian that “eyebrows were raised within the party” due to Shoebridge’s decision. But the authors could not say who exactly in the Greens was supposed to be upset.

Shoebridge said on February 13: “Having not seen any such eyebrows myself, you’d have to think that certain people are spinning so hard they’re in real and present danger of flying right off the political chess board.”

He said that he, along with NSW Greens MPs John Kaye and Jamie Parker, “also had a bit of fun at The Australian’s expense [at the Sydney Mardi Gras Fair Day], posing for a photograph or two at the Socialist Alliance’s stall, photos which we then tweeted, hiding in full sight our joke about The Australian’s previous attack piece”.

But Salusinszki wrote in the February 14 Australian that the joke had angered “fellow NSW Greens who said yesterday they planned the matter at a state council meeting”. Again, Salusinszki’s mysterious insider critics, who, most conveniently, always agree with the claims he makes in his articles, are not named.

But Murdoch’s media empire doesn't let facts or a lack of sources get in the way of a good story that favours elite interests. And its near-monopolistic media control gives it the political leverage to attack the Greens and, in turn, progressives and leftists broadly.

If progressives are to rise to the huge challenges that face us — from climate change and racism, to hunger, poverty and discrimination — standing together against Murdoch's attacks and building the widest unity between Greens and leftists is essential.

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