Tuesday 13 March 2007


The Murdoch press's Australian flagship is in election mode

The Weekend Australian has assumed its non-too subtle election posture during the past fortnight. A similar position was assumed prior to the last election. The paper’s opinion writers are not only almost unanimously supportive of the coalition. They seem to be strategic campaign partners.

And so we’re off again.

Perhaps the most outrageous piece was a front page leader on March 3. It ran “Hicks ‘al Qaeda’s 24 carat golden boy”. The message was clear. And the millions of people who read the headline that Saturday but never even purchased the paper let alone read the story, carry it with them. Problem was that the story leader and the story content were profoundly different. The piece went on to tell of how Feroz Habbasi, a former Al Qaeda operative and Guantanamo Bay inmate had retracted all of his statement about Hicks including the ’24 carat claim’.

Just imagine your own name or perhaps that of Mr Murdoch or Chris Mitchell (Editor in Chief of the Oz) in a front page leader in The Australian - Mr ‘select name’ serial 'select crime' only to read the article to discover an untested and since retracted claim was the basis for the leader. And then you have a sense of editorial standards Murdoch / Mitchell style.

So was this just sloppy leader writing or something more sinister? Read the Australian for a few weeks and judge for yourself.

David Hicks is clearly an issue of deep concern to the Government. You don’t ignore an issue for five years only to champion it with vigour unless the electoral alarm bells are ringing. And who benefits from the airing of untested claims about Hicks and his Al Qaeda activities?

Whatever Hicks’s crimes, he deserves a proper trial.

Not all of the Australian’s opinion writers are in the conservative camp of course. Philip Adams clearly is not. Matt Price would seem to have progressive sympathies but is more cynical than anything else. Paul Kelly can come down on either side. Noel Pearson’s views fall in and outside both camps.

What distinguishes Shanahan, Sheridan, Albrechtsen, Pearson (Christopher) et. al. from those listed above is their ubiquity in column inches, the rabidity of their views and their almost totally dependable political partisanship.

Philip Adams may be the most “liberal” of The Australian’s commentators but he can’t be depended on by Labor or anybody else to sing to the prevailing ALP chorus. Same for the rest.

The Conservative chorus joins Howard in perfect pitch – almost without exception. How dreary. Don’t listen to me. Read them and judge for yourself.

Gerard Henderson and others frequently lament the failure of conservative commentary to penetrate in Australia. Of course the shock jocks penetrate but it's difficult to find penetrating conservative opinion writing. If conservative writers could decouple from the Howard government and stand up for conservative issues, we’d all be better off.

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