We need to talk about Tom Switzer’s spin about News Limited

Australia was hit by horrendous bushfires in 2019. Picture: Pixabay

Tom Switzer is a right-wing writer in Melbourne, who is executive director at the Centre for Independent Studies and is a presenter on ABC Radio National.

He often writes in support of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, for the simple reason that if he were to lose his current gigs, then he could go back on the Murdoch teat.

Thus his defence of Murdoch against criticism by two former Australian prime ministers, Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd, is not surprising. Sucking up to power is a common game used by writers who have an avenue to vent. Switzer has the Nine newspapers open to his rantings.

One of the claims made by Rudd and Turnbull is that Murdoch publications publish stories that are full of incorrect information and slanted. This is correct. While there is nothing like objective journalism, there is indeed something called fact-based journalism.

Some publications may approach an issue from the left when they comment on it. Others may approach the same subject from a centrist or right perspective. There is nothing wrong with any of these occurrences.

Switzer cites the existence of a vast number of small publications to claim that there is media diversity in Australia. But how much reach do these publications have? And, more importantly, how much influence do they have?

As an example, let me cite the case of Arthur Sinodinos. The former adviser to ex-prime minister John Howard was under a cloud over some financial issues a few years back. Naturally, all newspapers that cover federal politics gave the story plenty of air, with many of them calling for him to step down.

But Sinodinos stayed put – until The Australian’s senior staffer Dennis Shanahan wrote a piece suggesting that he should go. He resigned that very day.

When the Murdoch press takes up an issue, one never knows the extent to which it will go, no matter whether the issue affects a group, company or a single individual. Yasmin Abdel-Meguid, a public figure, felt the effect after she issued a tweet that offended some nationalistic sentiments. There were more than 50 articles writen about her and it stopped when she left the country.

The Murdoch press generally backs the Liberal and other rightist parties in Australia. Occasionally, when it suits Murdoch’s business interests he tilts the other way.

Another of Turnbull’s accusations has been that The Australian spread incorrect information about the cause behind the bushires that Australian experienced in 2019, putting many of them down to arson.

The Murdoch defence was to say that only a small percentage of the total had mentioned arson. But what was forgotten is that if even one article had mentioned arson — when there was no evidence to back this up — then the paper was at fault. You cannot print 200 articles saying that a man was killed by his wife and justify the one article that said he took his own life.

It is true that Turnbull and Rudd have their own skeletons which they do not speak about in public. But that does not mean they cannot speak out about publications that operate in a way that only looks to further their proprietior’s interests.

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