And now Australia’s lawmakers decide to get tough on Murdoch

Australia's Parliamentarians are looking at setting up a Senate inquiry into media practice and ownership in the wake of phone hacking scandal.

Following Britain and America’s lead, Australia’s Parliamentarians have decided enough is enough and are looking at setting up a Senate inquiry into media practice and ownership in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Australian prime minister Julia Gillard is considering whether to open a full inquiry, though Attorney-General Robert McClelland has ruled out new laws to regulate the media.

The full extent of Murdoch’s stranglehold over Australian media is frightening to behold:

• He owns seven of the 11 metropolitan and national dailies;

• He owns 77 per cent of the Sunday newspapers;

• He owns around two thirds of suburban news sheets;

• He owns a big slice of the magazines in Australia;

• He has many TV interests; and

• In Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide you can only pick up a newspaper that’s been printed by Murdoch.

Leader of Australia’s Green Party, Senator Bob Brown, is leading the campaign for reform of the media – and has been attacked by the Murdoch-owned The Australian for so doing. In an editorial in today’s paper, the Australian insists its titles “have nothing to fear from any inquiry into media behaviour”, yet deride Brown’s calls for an inquiry as a “tilt at windmills”.

Brown told Five Live Breakfast this morning:

“I have to declare here that the greens cop it, you only have to pick up today’s editorial in The Australian newspaper to see them getting into me, but I’ve got broad shoulders, I’m used to that, but we don’t have the plurality even of Fleet Street, which enables you to pick up something else. Fairfax owns the other four newspapers so we’ve really effectively got a duopoly and it wouldn’t be legal in the United States but we’ve got it here…

“In a properly funcioning democracy it is the role of elected representatives to take this on, to have a proper review and if there’s changes to be made then that will be good for the media as well as the general public.”

Listen to it:

Senator Bob Brown on Rupert Murdoch (mp3)

As Brown says, as well as insisting they have nothing to hide, Murdoch’s Australian have accused a rival publication, The Age, of phone hacking – yet are still opposed to an inquiry. The Murdochs may be facing the UK Parliament next Tuesday, but you can bet they’ll fight like Hell to avoid having to face Australia’s legislators anytime soon.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.