Turnbull tells Senate inquiry that Rupert Murdoch admitted to ‘crazy agenda’ to restore Abbott to helm | Malcolm Turnbull

Rupert Murdoch has “acknowledged” his media was running a “crazy agenda” against the Malcolm Turnbull-led government so they could reinstall Tony Abbott as leader, Turnbull told a Senate inquiry.

The former prime minister said that during his time as leader of the Liberal Party he regularly asked Rupert why his stable, including Sky News Australia and the Australian, were campaigning against him. Turnbull claims News Corporation executive chairman admitted there was a plan backed by Lachlan Murdoch to damage his leadership, so he lost the 2019 election to sack Abbott as the helm of a future election win of 2022.

“There was this crazy program that Rupert recognized me, it was the push by [News Corp editor] Paul Whittaker, and apparently with the support of Lachlan, which was that my leadership had to be overthrown or damaged so that we lost the 2019 election and Tony Abbott could return as Leader of the Opposition and then lead us back to a victory glorious in 2022,” Turnbull told the Media Diversity Survey.

“Now it seems completely unbalanced, and it could well be, but there was no doubt that it was being undertaken and I had a direct conversation with Rupert about it which [former editor of the Australian] Clive Mathieson, my chief of staff, witnessed [to] and took very good notes.

Turnbull, who first met Rupert in 1974, said the media mogul “tends to avoid conversations” that are difficult, such as climate change denial, but has discussed the campaign with him.

Turnbull said he asked Rupert, “Why are you allowing this campaign against me and my government to continue? The only winner will be our adversaries, the Labor Party. »

Turnbull was reportedly warned in a phone call from media mogul Kerry Stokes that Murdoch and company intended to remove him from power, although Stokes denied this.

News Corp dismissed Turnbull’s interference allegations as “speculation and conspiracy” when he made them in his memoir, A Bigger Picture, last year.

“I know what he said to Stokes,” Turnbull said. “And of course we saw what they were doing [in the papers]. There’s some crazy stuff here but, also, look at the United States – could you really have imagined a major cable news network crediting the proposition that Joe Biden stole the election?

Turnbull told the committee that News Corp had gone from a reasonable media organization to a highly partisan organization that poses a danger to democracy. “The most powerful political player in Australia is not the Liberal Party, nor the National Party, nor the Labor Party, it’s News Corporation,” he said.

“And that’s totally inexplicable. It’s controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with ours.

Turnbull said the company is so powerful it can force a government minister to say he was not backed by News Corp when he backtracked on a decision after a media campaign. He claimed last week that NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean had been swayed by a ‘concerted and ferocious’ campaign by News Corp after he overturned his appointment as head of a new climate change body .

“It’s like someone being taken to the police station, beaten on the head until they finally sign a false confession, the last line of which says, ‘I confirm that I did this on my own. voluntarily.'”

Kean denied that claim, saying it “isn’t based in reality.” “I made the decision to nominate him, and I made the decision to withdraw or rescind the nomination,” Kean told Sky News.

News Corporation’s share of metropolitan and regional print readership is 59%, up from 25% in 1984, according to a new media diversity report commissioned by GetUp. Nine Entertainment ranks second with a combined readership share of 23%.

News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller previously told the inquiry that diversity “isn’t just about ownership.”

“It’s about diversity of perspective and diversity of sources,” Miller said in February. “And above all, the incredible diversity in how people now access news and information.”

Facebook executives told the inquiry they were focused on finalizing deals with Australian news publishers under the news media code and would soon announce a media plan regional information as well.

While they didn’t disclose the amount paid to the six media organizations that have already signed the Facebook News business deals, it was “tens of millions” for three-year deals.

The company denied trying to influence the Australian parliament by removing the information from Facebook and downplayed the information’s importance to the platform.

“Only about 4% of the News Feed is news,” said Vice President of Policy Simon Milne. “A very small proportion is news. We’re not paying for news in the News Feed, we’re creating a new product. »

Turnbull has been highly critical of the Google and Facebook deals, saying it’s actually a ‘reshuffle’ of Google and Facebook, and that media organizations would be better supported by a digital platform tax .

Former Murdoch editor Bruce Guthrie, who now runs the New Daily, told the inquiry that News Corp’s power had grown and it was ‘ridiculous’ that an American millionaire could own 60% of the printing market.

Guthrie said News Corp and Nine Entertainment regularly criticized the New Daily for being owned by superfunds in what was an attack on media diversity.

News Corp was approached to comment on Turnbull’s claims.

Norman D. Briggs