Was Rupert taking the piss?

April 11, 2013
Rupert Murdoch addresses the Institute of Public Affairs.

Rupert Murdoch's recent speech to the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) was so full of bizarre contradictions it could easily pass as satire.

He spoke proudly of the IPA's founders — his father among them — who came together in 1943 “concerned about the drift to socialism”. He went on to say with a straight face: “What they wanted was simple: an Australia where men and women would rise in society not because they were born into privilege — but because they earned it with their hard work, their thrift, and their enterprise.”

This is Murdoch, a billionaire, speaking. Surely he was taking the piss? We can assume there was laughter from the audience, which included Liberal leader Tony Abbott, and other prominent conservatives.

Murdoch went on, praising the IPA for its role in defeating the post-war bid to nationalise Australian banks, for being advocates of the reforms “pushed by Labor and Liberal governments alike” to deregulate and privatise.

“And today you are leading the fight for freedom of speech in Australia,” he said. At this point the audience must have been rolling in the aisles, begging media-monopolist Rupert to give them a comedic break. After all, he controls 70% of the capital city press in Australia, so much that the term “Murdochracy” has entered Australia's vocabulary.

You could write a thesis in response to Murdoch, discussing the contradictions and deliberate distortions. For example, when he says, “as the Productivity Commission recently reported, since those market reforms of the 1980s, Australian wages have increased by one-third in real terms”, he fails to mention the commission also noted that the rise was in part due to more hours being worked by part-time workers. He also left out this fact: The rate of growth has been higher at the "top end" of the distributions than the "bottom end".

A 2010 study by the Australian Council of Trade Unions said: “Living costs for working households have risen by 4.5% — well above the overall Consumer Price Index and the rate of pay rises enjoyed by most Australian workers in the past year.” The ACTU said the average CEO’s total pay packet is now worth almost 100 times that of the average worker.

While he extrolled the moral virtues of the free market, Murdoch simply ignored the plight of hundreds of thousands of people in this country, and billions around the world. Poverty, wealth disparity and social misery are on the rise, and free-market policies have made things only worse.

Rupert did make some good points we could all agree on though. He said: “At its core, a fair and just society is one where opportunity is open to all — not just those at the top.”

Good call, Rupe. He asked the question: “What's fair about taking money from people who have earned it and giving it to people who didn’t?”

Good point again, nothing fair about that.

But again you wonder, is he taking the piss? It sounds awfully Orwellian coming from one of the world's wealthiest people sitting “at the top”.

Nothing short of a powerful people's movement, backed by a genuinely free and independent press, is needed to challenge the free market policies of Labor and Liberal parties alike in this Murdochracy called Australia. And as Murdoch told the IPA, “Success is not something we can take for granted. Success must be fought for. Success must be won.”

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