By MICHELLE GRATTAN
It’s hard to imagine Rupert Murdoch sitting on Twitter, isn’t it? But tweet he does and today Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his deputy Anthony Albanese tweeted back. For “tweet” and “tweeted” in that sentence, substitute “punch” and “punched”.
The brawl started with Murdoch’s: “Oz politics! We all like ideal of NBN, especially perfect for Foxtel. But first how can it be financed in present situation?”
This prompted Albanese, now in charge of NBN, to tweet “Our #NBN plan will deliver affordable high speed broadband to every home and business and produce a solid rate of return”.
This had Rudd (who incidentally has 1,309,250 followers to Rupert’s 456,452), chiming in: “100% agree @AlboMP. That might be Mr Murdoch’s view in New York. Here in Oz I want high speed NBN for all, not just some.”
Murdoch and his News Corporation and Rudd are at war in this campaign.
As he tries, against the odds, to survive this election, Rudd has every reason to be worried about the potential impact of the Murdoch press, especially the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, where the ALP is desperately attempting to hang on to seats and the Courier Mail in Queensland, where Labor needs to win them.
The Telegraph’s headline after the election was called – Finally, you now have the chance to … KICK THIS MOB OUT – spurred an enormous amount of debate. But there have been plenty of other in-your-face headlines in the tabloids.
The Australian has been relentlessly critical of the returned Rudd.
This is despite the once-close personal friendship between him and Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell.
(Rudd has hired as his adviser on media strategy the well-respected former chief political correspondent of The Australian, Matthew Franklin, who must find the drop-in on the News stable somewhat character-forming as he does his press gallery rounds.)
Media watchers predicted that Rudd was in for extra tabloid fire when Col Allan, Murdoch hard hitter who is editor-in-chief of the New York Post, returned recently to help out editorially. (Allan was the one who took Rudd, then opposition leader, for a drunken evening to the Scores nightclub in New York.)
Conservative commentator Paul Sheehan wrote in Fairfax Media a couple of days ago that there were not just political but commercial motives afoot. News Corp viewed the NBN “as a threat to the business model of its most important Australian asset, Foxtel, jointly owned with Telstra. The company much prefers the Coalition’s less costly but also less ambitious national broadband strategy”.
“I think he’s made it fairly clear … that he doesn’t really like us and would like to give us the heave ho and would like to get rid of us and get his mate Mr Abbott in.