Turnbull to take over News Corp royal commission campaign

Former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will take over from ex-Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd as the head of the campaign for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media empire.

The man who was Liberal leader less than five years ago has urged Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to distance his party from Sky News to boost its electability, saying the party he once led had been in “coalition” with News Corp.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will head the campaign for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media empire.

Alex Ellinghausen

Turnbull, who will co-chair Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission alongside trade unionist Sharan Burrow, said he would continue to donate to the movement and attempt to influence the behaviour of advertisers in a bid to diminish the media empire’s power.

In an opinion piece for and , Turnbull and Burrow argue that revelations in the Dominion Voting Systems case of Fox News’ on-air talent indulging former president Donald Trump’s “stolen election” lies “justify the rigorous inquiry that only a royal commission can bring”.

“The Foxification of Australia won’t be halted by piecemeal media reforms that can’t pass parliament unless they are signed off by Rupert,” he said.

Anthony Albanese ruled out a royal commission during the 2022 election campaign and his communications minister Michelle Rowland last July said such an inquiry was not warranted.

In an interview with this masthead, Turnbull said Labor could still be convinced to establish a royal commission if it lost its majority after the next election and relied on the support of progressive crossbenchers, some of whom support the idea.

Turnbull says News Corp “were part of the Coalition, they were part of the government. I was an exception in this respect, [Scott Morrison] was in coalition [with News Corp] … and [Tony] Abbott was the same”.

Asked if the Coalition needed to address this relationship in order to win government again, Turnbull agreed.

In his 2020 memoir , Turnbull claimed fellow media mogul Kerry Stokes told him Murdoch plotted to get rid of him as Coalition leader, a claim rejected by spokespeople for News Corp, Seven and the Stokes family.

In their column, Turnbull and Burrow argue that “the burgeoning Sky-aligned faction is driving moderate voters away from the Liberal and National parties, or encouraging self-radicalisation in order to fit in. And that poses a major problem for our democracy”.

“For the Coalition parties, this is a crucial moment.”

Peter Dutton’s office declined to comment. News Corp was contacted for comment.

The Murdoch royal commission campaign was created in 2020 after Rudd uploaded a video to his social media channels calling the Australian-born media mogul an “arrogant cancer on our democracy” and inviting Australians to sign a petition for a probe into media diversity. It gathered more than 500,000 signatures, including that of Turnbull, and led to Labor and Greens senators recommending a judicial inquiry into media concentration.

In a February 2021 appearance before the parliamentary inquiry, sparked by Rudd’s push, News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller rejected his opponents’ key claim about the extent of News Corp’s ownership of media outlets, arguing the industry was a “picture of diversity, not monopoly”.

“A former prime minister’s objections to News Corp, who then mobilised his social media followers, is in a large part why we’re here,” he said.

Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission was initially created with funding from the Victorian Trades Hall Council but relies on micro-donations from the public. In August, the organisation said it had 43,000 members based on email signups.

Rudd announced on Sunday he was stepping away from the organisation he helped found to take on his new role as Australia’s ambassador to the United States. “I am immensely pleased with the appointment you will be announcing this week,” Rudd wrote in his resignation letter.

“You are building a seriously formidable team, and it is reassuring to know the campaign will be well-led in its next phase. The most important campaigns are never won easily.”

Turnbull said he believes public figures were fearful of raising questions about defence and national security matters such as AUKUS because they worried about being labelled unpatriotic by the Murdoch press.

“There is a remarkably arid debate and I think that’s because people are intimidated by the right-wing media,” he said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has led the Greens’ advocacy for the probe, said she hoped Turnbull’s appointment would foster bipartisan support for the campaign whose support would stem largely from progressive voters rather than Liberals.

“Parliament cannot continue to ignore the calls across the country for a royal commission into the Murdoch media mafia,” she said.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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