November 1, 2013
Rupert Murdoch rolls into town to deliver the Lowy Institute lecture in Sydney. It is entitled "The Global Australian". Most of it is pretty run of the mill rhetoric about global capitalism and a global, competitive Australia seen from the perspective of Murdoch's "unique insight and strategic vision".
What caught my eye is the passage where Murdoch talked about the three factors (a toolkit) that he says will make the global Australian even more competitive in the world ahead. These are Australian values, immigration and disruption. On the latter Murdoch says:
One of the few certainties we can have is that the 21st century will be a century of disruption. Australia must be the economy that thrives on disruption. Primarily we will do this through the key drivers of prosperity: trade, technology, and free markets.If we do these things, I promise you this: Australia will do more than prosper. Australia will lead.
Latter in the lecture he expands on this by referencing Joseph Schumpeter idea of the process of "creative destruction" as essential to capitalism and says that the current fashionable word to capture that sense of creative chaos is "disruption". He then gives News Corp and newspaper industry as an example of the status quo being disrupted by the growth of mobile communications.
This is where Murdoch is two faced. His newspapers have furiously defended the status quo against the disruption caused by renewable energy and broadband: defended old Australia against the shift to a low carbon, digital economy that is premised on being smart and clever. Murdoch's newspapers and columnists furiously campaigned for a conservative Abbott Government deeply opposed to this kind of Australia as a disruptive economy; to an Australia that values people and knowledge.
For these conservatives carbon pricing (the carbon tax) was socialism masquerading as environmentalism even though it was an emissions trading scheme, based on free market principles of pricing carbon. In doing so they hark back to the anti-communism of the Cold War. The conservative's conception of Australia's future in a global world is to lead us back to the past. So we have a strange sort of innovation and creativity.
Murdoch is still posing as "Murdoch the populist revolutionary" berating decadent elites. It's him and his guys against The New York Times, the B.B.C., the ABC and the establishment. As expected, there was no mention of the criminal trial at Old Bailey, London, where several former Murdoch employees in his tabloid press are facing charges over the phone-hacking scandal.
The theme of his Lowy lecture should have been "We won". Murdoch's commercial interest is to ensure that consumers are only able to get News Ltd's programmes through an aerial by paying Foxtel upfront first. He'll fight any regulation by the political class that stands in the way of Foxtel's growth into a monopoly.
What then is Murdoch's pound of flesh for supporting Abbott'? It could well be the abolition of anti-siphoning laws restricting the ability of pay-television operator Foxtel to exclusively broadcast first-run premier sports events. It is the restrictions on sport coverage. that stunt the growth of Foxtel.
Murdoch speaks on behalf of a class which has, in effect, seceded from the nation state. It is a class that:
floats free of tax and the usual bonds of citizenship, jetting from one jurisdiction to another as it seeks the most favourable havens for its wealth. It removes itself so thoroughly from the life of the nation that it scarcely uses even the roads. Yet, through privatisation and outsourcing, it is capturing the public services on which the rest of us depend.
This global class demands that the state stop regulating, stop protecting, stop intervening. When this abandonment causes financial crisis, the remaining taxpayers are forced to bail out the authors of the disaster, who then stash their bonuses offshore.
The Climate Change Authority’s recent draft report on caps and targets report says Australia cannot afford to delay climate action, and if it does so, then it risks becoming a “backwater’ in a global economy. Murdoch's opposition to decarbonisation of the economy means that Australia becomes a backwater.