Clive Palmer, a bufoon with a purpose?

Barry Tucker                    21 May, 2014

After playing in the wings, millionaire miner Clive Palmer swaggered into centre stage in 2013 — threatening to win the federal election and become Australia’s next Prime Minister.

He often makes outrageous statements. Our parliamentary system is rotten. So is the news media. It’s hard to determine where he really stands on anything.


Jane Gilmore, editor of on-line magazine The King’s Tribune, recently produced this part profile, part analysis of the man who might determine the fate of the Conservative’s (they’re not Liberals) first Budget.

Follow on Twitter @JaneTribune  @CliveFPalmer

Life and death as a female editor

Amanda Wilson served as the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, the first and only woman to fill that role in the newspaper’s 180-year history.

In an article in The Guardian’s Australian on-line edition, Wilson writes about the perils of being a female editor, the decline of print and the difficulties of finding cash flow for on-line editions.





What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?


By Barry Tucker                    7 April, 2014

Something strange is going on in the world of Andrew Bolt. The federal government, commercial media and the tax-payer funded ABC (which he loathes) are going out of their way to promote him.

It’s strange because Bolt has been convicted under Section 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act for remarks he made about fair-skinned persons who he claimed were describing themselves as Indigenous in order to claim financial benefit and kudos. It’s strange because the word “controversial” usually accompanies any mention of him. It’s strange because while he says he’s a climate change doubter he pushes the lines of the climate change deniers, those who have framed the “doubt over reason” campaign.

It’s strange because Bolt generally pushes “Liberal” party policies, which are increasingly like those of the USA’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. And it’s strange because Bolt, with radio, TV and newspaper column spots, hardly needs any additional publicity.

Or does he? After all, his friend Attorney-General Senator George Brandis is attempting to rewrite the Sections 18C and 18D that Bolt fell foul of. In addition to saying he believes in free speech (after trying to get a book banned), Brandis told the Senate “Everyone has the right to be a bigot.” Ouch! Everyone agrees that he is right, in principle, but wouldn’t it be best for all if bigots kept their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves?

The judge who found Bolt guilty of racial discrimination really nailed him for sloppy journalism and failing to check his facts. In his TV show, The Bolt Report, Bolt tries to give the impression he is impartial and merely searching for the truth, with neither fear nor favour. You have to watch the show to see what a joke that is. Bolt’s technique is to throw his Liberal guests a cue, like “people say your education policy stinks”, and sit back while they go to town plugging the policy line. He allows his Leftie guests to have a say, then contradicts everything they have said. Fair dinkum, no favour at all.

During last year’s federal election campaign a row developed over a claimed lack of Conservative presenters on the ABC’s news and current affairs programs. I cannot recall that any names, facts or data were produced to support the claims. That affair was part of Murdoch’s campaign to tear down the ABC. Towards the end of it, Bolt suggested that he should be the next presenter of the ABC’s Media Watch. I hope he was joking.

Channel Ten, party owned by Bolt’s employer, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, through his son Lachlan, and Gina Rinehart, has this year dropped Meet the Press (a counter to the ABC’s Insiders) and extended Bolt’s report to one hour. The new format includes a media watch segment. News Corp paid for the production of both shows. Why would News Corp do that? Maybe because Ten’s going broke, maybe because Murdoch thinks Bolt is more effective, more focused on the party line.

The first guest commentator on Bolt’s media watch segment was Gerard Henderson, creator of The Sydney Institute, a current affairs forum that is overwhelmingly a platform for Conservative views. Henderson’s institute publishes a quarterly media watch review. His newspaper column (which moved from The Sydney Morning Herald to The Australian last December) includes Media Watch Dog, news media criticism written from the point of view of Lucy, a Blue Heeler canine. A Conservative, Henderson was a director of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in South Australia and NSW before he resigned and formed The Sydney Institute. He served as Chief of Staff to former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard.

For some reason I probably will never understand, the ABC’s One Plus One recently interviewed Bolt. Jane Hutcheon is an excellent interviewer. She manages to draw her guests out with her relaxed and gentle style. The Bolt interview was a waste of taxpayer’s money. It came at a time when Bolt was in the news again (talk of repeal of 18C), but the interview gave us little, apart from the fact that Bolt had parents and a childhood.

He was questioned on climate change. Actually, the subject was mentioned. He said he was a doubter, he believed in doubt and was worried about those who didn’t. He’s not a doubter on climate change. As I wrote above, he pushes the campaign of “doubt over reason” — a dangerously deluded campaign. It’s not actually deluded. It cherry-picks facts, focuses on errors and flogs them far and wide. It is dangerous.

I hit the roof! I asked Hutcheon why she had wasted oxygen on Bolt. “I’d hate to think our program was predictable,” she said. That’s not a serious attempt to answer what was a serious question. The interview is on the record, people can judge for themselves. The Right wing generally loves Bolt, the Left generally disregards his work.

This was going to be about something else, about Labor identity Mark Latham and what he’s up to. I’ve been itching to write something about Bolt, and got carried away.

Mark Latham recently got carried away too. He’s doing a series of articles on figures in Australian politics and he met You Know Who for lunch. It was supposed to be a profile of Bolt, but it reads more like a restaurant review. There’s practically nothing in it. It’s so bland I can’t recall what was in it. Which begs the question of why Latham bothered in the first place. Which brings me back to my first point: What’s with all the Andrew Bolt?

Why is this clown being promoted all over the place? I wouldn’t describe him as a respectable opinion maker, but it’s pretty obvious that someone is opening doors for Bolt in an effort to present a clean-cut image and attract a wider audience for his views. I’m sure it’s also part of the Murdoch/IPA/Liberal party push against the ABC, to have it cut up and sold off, or at least to have its budget slashed.

Bolt is especially critical of the ABC’s taxpayer-funded status. He also pushes the absolutely absurd line that the ABC is infested with Left-wing loonies who never say anything nice about the Liberal party. It’s all part of the campaign to denigrate the ABC in the eyes and ears of the public, preparing them for its flogging off. If the Liberal party attempts that it will get a sudden shock from a wide section of the community that loves the ABC to death.

The next item on Mark Latham’s menu was Michael Smith. And this is where my weird story gets weirder. Michael Smith is another not very nice character who insists that he is. In his latest profile Latham takes him apart. Why Latham found Bolt’s views less interesting than his sirloin steak and coffee beats me, but what he has to say about Smith is almost unrepeatable. Now that is a good read.

Latham is known as a colourful character. After the Labor party fell apart, wandering around in a confused state, it appointed Latham as its federal Opposition Leader. Those were fun times as the loose cannon rocked the House. He did punch a cabbie’s lights out once and nearly scared Prime Minister John Howard to death with an aggressive handshake, but that was nothing compared to the violence of Tony Abbott. Latham has even written about himself, in The Latham Diaries, which kicked off another fuss. When I discussed Latham’s Bolt story with a colleague he said Latham had “mellowed”. He might have mellowed, but has he found his direction yet?

Latham Howard

Latham Diaries

For more on Mark Latham

Update, 3 May, 2014

Having lunch with Bolt must be trending. Fairfax journalist Gay Alcorn had lunch with him recently. She had to dig deep to get Bolt to go along with it and she dug deeper than Latham. Bolt expounded on what he was trying to achieve with his articles on racial identity.

His claim that it is divisive of people to identify themselves as a certain race is idiotic. It is a fact that there are different races, different cultures. This diversity is natural and it is a good thing. I suspect Bolt wants to continue writing about race because he knows it is an issue that appeals to his rather red-necked audience.






Shareholders move against Murdoch

By Barry Tucker

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch is under siege from a block of USA shareholders who want a say in how the company is run. At present, the only voting shares are held by Murdoch family members.

Murdoch is also embattled in the UK, where former staff members of defunct newspaper News of the World are appearing in court following revelations of a phone hacking scandal. Murdoch has never won the acceptance of the UK Establishment, which he once craved. The phone hacking business disgusted Britons and continues to do so. Some of his media and entertainment mud sticks, but this time it is sticking to the one seen as the mud thrower. See: The Murdoch tape for a shocking revelation of Murdoch’s attitude towards a UK parliamentary inquiry into the scandal. He appeared in that inquiry and has been called back to explain himself. Another UK parliamentary committee found Murdoch, and his son James, to be not “fit” to run a large corporation.

In Australia, however, Murdoch has been allowed to own a huge majority of around 67 percent of newspapers throughout the country, in addition to interests in free-to-air and paid TV. See: Murdoch’s media monster to get an idea of his vast empire.

Rodney E. Lever was a senior Murdoch executive and knows how his business is organised and re-organised. He writes about the latest push to remove Murdoch or reduce his influence on the board. See also another story by Lever, linked from this blog: Is Rupert Murdoch planning a home coming?

It is interesting to note that the jury is still out when it comes to determining if the news media has any measurable effect on people’s attitudes about which party’s policies they should support. See: Canberra Press Gallery named, probably not shamed and Bias in the Canberra Press Gallery.

I have read several reports on news media influence before and since the 7 September, 2013, Australian federal election. None provided reasonable proof that people are influenced by the news media. I have not seen one that compares news media content with opinion poll results. My gut feeling is that there is a connection. See also: Can news media influence election outcome? and Claims emerge of opinion poll rigging.

It’s payback time in the Press Gallery


By Barry Tucker                    27 September, 2013

There’s a new extreme Right wing government in power in Canberra and many would say a biased news media in general put it there.

Observers will now be watching closely to see who in the Parliamentary Press Gallery is rewarded for their services.’s media journalist Matthew Knott has been asking around and has put together an interesting and insightful piece on who’s who in the Press Gallery and who’s likely to get what.

If the link doesn’t give you access, you can subscribe to a free monthly subscription to, including its daily email digest. This is not a free ad or a contra deal. I am a paid up subscriber.

Murdoch’s media monster

By Barry Tucker          7 January, 2013

Rupert Murdoch controls 130 newspapers, owns 50% of 16 others, has digital media sites for most of them and publishes some 30 magazine titles throughout Australia.

He also has interests in the news agency Australian Associated Press (AAP), FoxTel, Newspoll, Festival Records, film production and distribution, DVD production and a large piece of the Brisbane Broncos rugby team.

In Australia, control is exercised through News Corp Australia, wholly owned by News Corporation Limited, an international media giant completely dominated by Murdoch. His son Lachlan is a non-executive chairman of Ten Network Holdings Limited, with TV stations in five State capital cities.

Numerous reports say that in the 1972 federal elections Murdoch used his newspapers to support Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party. By 1975 he had turned against Whitlam over concessions for a mining operation and his request to be appointed High Commissioner to the UK. He also supported current Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd between 2007 and 2009.

Murdoch’s newspapers and other Australian media became hostile towards Labor around the time of its parliamentary Caucus voting Julia Gillard into the role of leader and Prime Minister in 2010. Gillard introduced a carbon price as a first step towards a carbon trading scheme.

Murdoch advocates investment in non-renewable energy sources and is a climate change denier. His newspapers became more biased against Labor once the election date was announced months ahead of time early in 2013. Tabloid front pages ridiculed Labor MPs as cartoon characters once the election date was altered to 7 September and the five-week election campaign began.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

In the UK, News Corp’s newspaper and satellite TV interests have been damaged by revelations of a phone hacking scandal, with sackings, arrests and inquiries affecting and compromising key executives, senior police, a Prime Ministerial adviser and the Prime Minister himself. There have been 32 arrests associated with the scandal.

In the USA, it was recently revealed that Murdoch had attempted, through a senior director of his Fox News, to recruit former US Army general David Petraeus to run as a candidate in the 2012 Presidential election. Petraeus declined, accepted the position as head of the CIA and, a year later, resigned when details of a sex scandal were revealed.

Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said a taped conversation of the attempt to recruit Petraeus was “… a testament to the willingness of Murdoch to run roughshod over the American civic and political landscape”.

In Australia, prominent News Corp newspaper journalists have been openly supporting federal Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in a relentless campaign to bring down the national Labor government. On Channel Ten, the Sunday morning show The Bolt Report is clearly unbalanced and biased towards the Liberal Party. Ten’s Meet the Press (hosted by journalist and economist Kathryn Robinson), rarely manages to offset the bias of The Bolt Report. [addendum, 12/04/2014. Meet the Press was dropped in 2014 and The Bolt Report extended to one hour, including a Media Watch segment.]

Some News Corp newspapers, notably Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and the Hobart Mercury, occasionally run an article that is critical of the federal Liberal Opposition. While Murdoch claims he does not direct editorial policy, some of his former and current editors have publicly said he manages to give a clear message on the kind of story or angle that he prefers, usually adding a comment, to the effect, “you ignore these messages at your peril”.


A recent TV documentary made it clear that Murdoch offered and gave his news media support to former UK Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Australian Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, and New York Mayor Ed Koch. He has also attempted to force policy changes on two British Prime Ministers, including withdrawing from the European Union.

Rupert Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship in September 1985 so that he could buy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, which culminated in the development of Fox Inc, a controversial TV news broadcaster. He is now 82 and reported to be suffering from prostate cancer.

Early in May this year a UK Parliamentary Committee investigated the phone hacking scandal involving Murdoch (and other) newspapers and found Murdoch not a “fit” person to run a major international company. The use of the word “fit” could have implications for Murdoch’s plans to renew his bid to completely take over BSkyB — Britain’s biggest TV and ‘phone company. Murdoch told a committee hearing his appearance before it was “the most humble day of my life”. Some months later he was recorded at a London newspaper staff meeting, heaping scorn on Parliament, its inquiry and the police force investigators. He has been called before the committee again to explain himself.

The committee report (which divided along party lines) was also critical of Murdoch’s son James, whom it described as “wilfully ignorant” regarding the size of payouts to phone hacking victims. Three other executives may be called before Parliament to apologise for misleading a Parliamentary hearing.

The question for Australia in 2013 is how much political influence should be allowed to the US citizen Rupert Murdoch through his extensive ownership of communication outlets. It should be recognised that a casual comment in a motoring magazine, a home-maker magazine, a news bulletin, a one-on-one interview or a panel discussion can influence someone’s political thinking.

The UK Guardian has a story on the committee’s findings, a video on the chairman’s statement and a link to the committee’s report.

The results of a Google search on the story:

Follow this link to see the enormity of the Murdoch empire:

Inside Story is an online publication dealing with current affairs and culture in Australia and beyond. On April 8, 2014, Inside Story ran an in-depth report on Murdoch’s media empire dealing with succession, which he has handed to eldest son Lachlan.

The story backgrounds the successes and failures of Lachlan and his brother James, details hostility between senior executives and Lachlan and refers to rivalry between Lachlan and James. Hovering in the background are the two sisters, Elisabeth and Prudence.

The overall impression is that Murdoch’s empire will pass into shaky hands when he finally decides to stand down.

I learnt today (12/04/2014) that while Murdoch’s Fox news may leak broadcasts across the USA/Canada border, or via rebroadcasts by Canadian TV stations, it has not been able to migrate into Canada as a registered broadcaster. The reason is that Canada has a law that prohibits and punishes lies in broadcast news bulletins. In February 2011, the Canadian legislature blocked a bid by the Right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal the law.

In mid-2014 Murdoch made a takeover bid for Time Warner. In an 18 July, 2014 article in The New Yorker, Ken Auletta revealed the fundamental flaw that caused the bid to fail.