After a record high vote for the Greens in the August 21 federal election, it did not take long for the corporate media to get its claws out.
In particular, Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd’s flagship newspaper The Australian has been called out for its string of critical stories and headlines targeting the Greens.
In a September 9 editorial, the paper responded to Greens Senator Bob Brown's criticism that the paper was openly attacking the Greens-Labor deal, saying the Greens “are bad for the nation; and ... should be destroyed at the ballot box”.
ABC's Media Watch on September 13 said The Australian was “driven by a determination to attack people whose politics you don't like”.
Crikey.com said on September 15 that the editorial campaign was “way beyond the normal News Ltd bias”.
The open declaration of war on the Greens, relying on gross distortion of facts and one-sided commentary, is also an attack on the desire for positive change that arose during the election campaign.
More than 1.3 million voters chose the Greens as a progressive alternative to the politics-as-usual of the two major parties. There was a swing to the Greens in 146 of the 150 House of Representatives seats.
Importantly, most people troubled by the increasing need for emergency action on climate change chose to express their concern by voting Greens.
Adam Bandt, Greens MP-elect in Melbourne, said in his election victory speech that first on his agenda was action on climate change and the fight to win equal marriage rights.
He said that mainstream politics and selfish governments had meant that: “The need to respond to the climate emergency [had been] pushed into the too hard basket [and] political leaders denigrate the love between two people just because of their gender”.
These were among the first pounced on by The Australian. It claimed the Greens were “anti-worker” for discussing a price on carbon or a tax on mining companies. Media Watch said — on day after the Greens-Labor deal was struck — the paper “led the front page with one of seven news stories about the Greens of which six were clearly negative”.
The paper said the deal “sent a shockwave through the mining heartland” and warned that the Greens would “use their alliance with Labor to prosecute their push for same-sex marriage and liberalising the treatment of refugees”.
This is precisely what the social justice movements expect, along with the battle for workers' rights, and ending the unjust war on Afghanistan.
What upsets the Murdoch media is the Greens' opposition to important parts of the neoliberal agenda. The corporate elite have succeeded in forcing through neoliberal reforms over more than two decades that have shifted wealth to the rich. They wish to further these attacks on ordinary people.
The Murdoch media is responding hysterically to the Greens to the extent that the Greens, and the votes for them, represent opposition to this ongoing corporate offensive.
The Green’s opposition to many neoliberal policies won them support from some in the union movement, such as the Electrical Trades Union in Victoria, supported the Greens because of its promise to abolish the anti-worker Australian Building and Construction Commission.
The Greens also oppose neoliberal attacks on schools and hospitals. They have also opposed the NT intervention — a policy that punishes the most vulnerable Aboriginal people in Australia with a rations system in place of welfare.
The new minority Labor government, meanwhile has indicated its support for business as usual. New climate change minister Greg Combet told the September 13 Australian that phasing out the coal industry to build clean renewable energy sources, was “not part of my job at all”.
It has no intention of introducing humane changes to Australia's treatment of refugees. Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the ABC on September 12 that she appointed her predecessor Kevin Rudd to foreign affairs minister to “lead negotiations on setting up an asylum seeker processing centre in East Timor”.
This entrenches Australia’s policy of bribing Third World nations into taking over Australia’s responsibilities.
The equal marriage rights movement remains optimistic that it can force change. Bandt has promised to introduce a private member’s bill to abolish the homophobic and discriminatory provisions in the Marriage Act when parliament opens next year.
The Greens are the primary target, and must be defended by left and progressive movements. But it is the political sentiment behind the party's success that drives newspapers like The Australian to attack the Greens.
In response to claims of bias, its September 14 editorial said it was a victim of conspiracy and there was “no joint approach to the election”.
It said of News Ltd’s many newspapers: “The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald-Sun and the Courier Mail backed the Coalition; while the Advertiser, The Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Herald-Sun endorsed Labor.”
As Crikey.com’s Jeremy Sear pointed out on September 16, this means that News Ltd claims that it wasn’t biased because all its national dailies supported the Coalition, whereas the ALP had the support of two Sunday papers and the Adelaide Advertiser.
Moreover, this doesn’t say anything about bias against the Greens; it merely does a bad job of disproving News Ltd’s bias against the ALP.
This exposes the corporate media as a mouthpiece for either major party, depending on which serves corporate interests best. It tried to use its powers of disinformation to swing the election result its way.
When this failed, and more people voted for alternatives to the two-party system, it now wants to destroy that outbreak and bring politics back to business-as-usual.
The success of the Greens shows that rejection of this business-as-usual system has grown. In the face of government failures and corporate media manipulation, it shows a glimpse of the power possessed by the majority of ordinary people to create real change.
This is what the Australian, and other corporate media outlets, want most to bury — the idea that the world could be something other than profits before planet. It isn’t just the Greens under attack, it’s anyone that thinks that a better world is possible.
The Australian has declared war such people. It’s up to progressive alternative news sources, like Green Left Weekly, to oppose such an attack on democracy and campaign for a better world.