Rinehart grabs for media control

February 10, 2012
Gina collage
Gina collage

She’s proposed nuclear explosions for open-cut mining, funded tours by climate deniers and called for bringing in cheap migrant labour to work her mines.

Now Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, has bought the largest individual stake in Fairfax Media, which runs the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review, plus various radio stations and regional papers.

In 2010, Rinehart bought herself a seat on the Channel 10 board when she paid $166 million for a 10% stake in the television station.

Her expansion from mining baron to media mogul is most likely not a financial decision. Rinehart is spending less than 1% of her wealth on Fairfax, and media is far less profitable than mining.

An online video first posted on YouTube by the free market Mannkal Foundation helps explain Rinehart’s move. The video shows prominent climate denier “Lord” Christopher Monckton in a meeting hosted by Mannkal in July last year.

Monckton told the audience they should encourage “super rich” backers to invest in a Fox News-style media for Australia. He said: “Frankly, whatever you do at a street level … is not going to have much of an impact compared with capturing an entire news media.”

He said setting up an Australian version of Fox News “would be a breakthrough and give to Australia a proper dose of free market thinking”.

Video: Monckton proposes mining industry news ventures in Australia. GetUp! Australia.

It appears Rinehart has taken Monckton’s advice. Rinehart is buying into media so she can further her pro-mining, anti-environmental outlook.

Rinehart was groomed to take over the family mining business by her ultra-conservative father, Lang Hancock.

Alongside former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Rinehart helped launch Hancock’s 1979 book Wake Up Australia.

In words that resonate with Rinehart’s latest moves, the book said the power of government “could be broken by obtaining control of the media and then educating the public”.

Hancock continued: “Control of the press could also be obtained by several of the big mining groups banding together with a view to taking over one or more of the present giant newspaper chains which control the TV and radio channels, and converting them to the path of ‘free enterprise’”.

In a 1984 interview, Hancock said of so called half-caste Aboriginal people: “I would dope [their] water up so they were sterile and would breed themselves out. And that would solve the problem.”

Rinehart joined her father’s company when she was 21. The ABC’s Hungry Beast program said last year that the young Rinehart “announced a plan to revolutionise open cut mining by using nuclear explosions. The plan was scrapped, but 20 years later she mused: ‘It’s a pity it didn’t happen’.”

More recently, Rinehart founded the climate denial lobby group Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV).

ANDEV demands the creation of “a special Northern Economic Zone stretching across the north of West Australia, the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, where companies can bring in temporary labour”. It campaigned heavily against the Rudd government’s tax on mining super profits and lobbies for government concessions and business tax breaks.

ANDEV’s membership includes conservative mining company executives, former Pauline Hanson adviser John McRobert, Mannkal Foundation chairperson Ron Manners and prominent Australian climate denier Ian Plimer.

Rinehart has called Plimer “one of the leading sources of reasoned and factual information in Australia on global warming and climate change”. In January, she appointed him to the boards of two of her companies.

Climate of denial

In May last year, Rinehart spoke out against what she called the “global warming fear campaign” in an opinion piece in mining industry magazine Australian Resources and Investment.

She said: “Let’s consider climate change — the world has constantly changed climate and will continue to do so.

“Even before human civilisation, the world went through ice ages and periods of global warming …

“I am yet to hear scientific evidence to satisfy me that if the very, very small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (approximately 0.83%) was increased, it could lead to significant global warming.

“I have never met a geologist or leading scientist who believes adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will have any significant effect on climate change, especially not from a relatively small country like Australia.”

Rinehart helped fund Monckton’s Australian speaking tour last year. Australian journalist Graham Readfearn described Monckton’s views in a 2011 ABC Drum opinion piece: “Among other things, Lord Monckton argues that attempts by governments and the United Nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and burning fossil fuels are part of a conspiracy to install a world government. In Lord Monckton’s eyes it’s all a socialist plot.”

Rinehart even revived the Lang Hancock Lecture at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University (which she also sponsors) so Monckton could give it.

Corporate power and the media

Other mining billionaires may also join Rinehart’s bid to shape Australia’s media in her own image.

Queensland-based coalmining magnate Clive Palmer, the Liberal Party’s biggest donor in 2010, flippantly told the February 3 Lateline that he might follow Rinehart’s lead: “You could have an east-west play with Fairfax. Gina should come from the west and buy 15% and we could buy 30% from the eastern side of Australia and really get the place humming again.”

Rinehart’s grab for Fairfax and Network Ten is meant to make sure any views that challenge her industry, which depends on making climate change much worse, are squeezed out of the media.

However, the corporate rich’s control of the media is hardly limited to Rinehart. It is the rule, not the exception.

Channel Ten’s board, for example, not only includes Rinehart, but also James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch, and Paul Mallam, the nominee of billionaire media baron Bruce Gordon.

Perth-based billionaire Kerry Stokes has big stakes in The West Australian newspaper and Channel Seven. Alongside Stokes, The West Australian’s directors include the CEOs of Woodside Petroleum and Rio Tinto Australia.

Even without Rinehart, the Fairfax board is packed with people with interests in mining, energy, retail and the military.

Australia already has the most monopolised media in Western world. Fairfax controls about 30% of Australia’s newspaper market. Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited owns most of the rest.

Before Rinehart decided to become a media mogul, the corporate media had already shown their bias toward climate denial. For example, Monckton’s 2010 Australian speaking tour coincided with a tour by the world’s most famous climate scientist, James Hansen. A Media Monitors study found Monckton received 455 media mentions. Hansen was mentioned just 21 times.

The mainstream media like to present the illusion that they offer “choice”. But similar to the “choice” offered between two conservative parties in Labor and the Coalition, mainstream media options are false choices. Whether rabidly through Andrew Bolt and The Australian, or more subtly through the Fairfax media, debate is limited to what fits within the confines of the status quo.

Rinehart’s push to control the media will make all these things much worse. But the core problem is not a lack of diversity in media ownership. It is that all the mainstream media are owned by members of a tiny, super rich corporate class.

Super-rich players like Rinehart, who monopolise key sections of the Australian economy, have already shown they will use their wealth to corrupt the political process, to control the media, and even get rid of elected Prime Ministers who dare to touch their interests.

Rinehart’s grab for more media influence means the alternative media — the media that are independent of corporate interests — are more important than ever. This struggle for a genuinely independent media is also part of a broader struggle, which requires breaking apart the huge concentration of wealth and power in so few hands and replacing it with a society founded on grassroots democracy, equality and sustainable human development.


All she is doing is exercising her free speech. No one is stopping GLW from doing the same. The mining industry are perfectly entitled to voice their concerns at government policy. Oh, and it was Labor that dumped Rudd, not the miners.
Yes, "free" speech that she spent $200 million dollars acquiring. The point is not to restrict the super-rich from speaking, but to recognise their purchase of the media should shatter the illusions that Australia's media plays a part in assuring democracy and informing the electorate. By doing so, you'd hope that people would see such media as being biased due to conflict of interest and they'd support existing alternative media or help build and create new media that tells the truth for the rest of us.
You talk about truth? This very article can't even get it's facts straight. Firstly, what is the obsession with labeling Monckton a 'climate denier'? What is a climate denier? Who is denying the climate, and denying it of what exactly? The term just doesn't make sense. Secondly, News Ltd does not own 70% of Australia's media, News Ltd accounts for about 29% of media but 70% of Australians CHOOSE to read News Ltd papers. Is it that wrong for people to choose what they read? I have a feeling if the people behind Green Left had their way, it's only their way we would have!
Blah blah blah, talk about the issue, its a clear conflict of intrest, how can any sane person believe she wouldnt influence the sheep out there, as it was put 70% are sheep, how can she be trusted, it will be no different to murdochs influence, we already know fair unbias reporting doesnt work like that, I dont trust that the "riches" people in Australia are there to provide the public with information while losing money, fairfax's association with mining imtrests means I and many other will view it as a sales yard for political ideas opposed to just reporting current events and actual news, we all know we will get scare campains about the carbon tax and so on, I want to know, will it be full of opinion pieces or actual news by journo's?
The issue at hand is not free speech, which is obviously something every serious person supports, but power. Money should be able to buy goods and services but not power. Control of the media is control of information that the ignorant public absorbs. This leads to power over the public. If you believe it's ok to live in a society where the richer you become, the more powerful you are, that's fine. As for myself I believe that a society where wealth is equal to power is not a true democracy.
Excellent article. Things are pretty bad already in Australia with the climate change denialism-supporting Murdoch Empire dominating 70% of newspaper readership. Boycott should be the response of sensible, science-informed people (Google "Boycott Murdoch Media:). However Fairfax is little better and remorselessly censors science-informed opinions (Google "Censorship by The Age"). Thus today The Age On-line National Times section published an article by its political editor Michelle Grattan on the ex-PM Kevin Rudd versus PM Julia Gillard stoush and entitled “Rudd plays it cool as pressure mounts on Gillard”. I sent the following comment on the article to The Age which of course completely censored it:: "Julia Gillard is unfit to govern Australia because she has been wittingly or unwittingly an agent of foreign interests wanting the political demise of a very popularly elected Australian PM Kevin Rudd. As reported by the ABC Four Corners program "The Comeback Kid?" the largely foreign -owned Mining companies were the major players in Rudd's downfall and the Australian Electoral Commission has revealed that they spent $23 million in 2010 on their anti-Mining Tax campaign. Four Corners also revealed that the US knew about the Coup at least several weeks before it happened - as evidently did our very pro-US Ambassador to Washington. According to John Pilger, Wikileaks revealed US "assets" among the Coup Plotters and US unhappiness with Rudd (see "Threat to Assange a threat to us all"). Outstanding, anti-racist and patriotic Jewish Australians, notably writer Antony Loewenstein in an article "Does the Zionist Lobby have blood on its hands in Australia?", have detailed the extreme pro-Zionist stance of the Coup plotters and upset of the Zionist Lobby over Rudd's rebuke (albeit very limp-wristed) re Israeli forgery of Australian passports and kidnapping of Australians in international waters, the latter continuing under Gillard who has allowed 2,500 US marines to be stationed on Australian soil and is offering Australian citizenship to US Alliance veterans, this likely including Israeli as well as US and UK war criminals. Australia first means restore Rudd." The ABC is as bad as Fairfax. Thus Four Corners reported Mining Lobby activity but ignored the $23 million; reported that US pre-knowledge but ignored the CIA "asset" coup plotters; and of course it ignored the reality that it was a pro-Zionist-led Coup. while misleadingly reporting that "[Rudd unlike Gillard] wanted Australia to remain neutral on whether the Palestinians should have a voice at the UN" [ Rudd wanted Australia to abstain but pro-Zionist extremist Gillard made Australia vote against Palestinian membership of UNESCO] (for more of the same Google "ABC Censorship"). I tell everyone I know to read the Green Left Weekly.

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