Global media mogul Rupert Murdoch has waded into Australia’s election race, calling a key ruling party policy unaffordable and drawing accusations from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he was trying to oust the struggling government.
Murdoch, whose News Corp controls about 70 percent of Australia’s newspaper market, questioned in a Twitter message how an ambitious US$34 billion super broadband network being built by Rudd’s Labor Party was affordable in a slowing economy.
“Oz politics! We all like ideal of NBN [National Broadband Network], especially perfect for Foxtel. But first how can it be financed in present situation?” tweeted the Australian-born Murdoch, whose global media empire is now based in the US.
NBN is a plan to provide an Internet connection to every home, but the opposition has promised to spend less on the network and scale back its capability, reflecting tighter financial conditions, with economic growth forecast to slow to 2.5 percent this fiscal year.
Murdoch, who owns 50 percent of pay-TV operator Foxtel, was strongly criticized on the opening day of the election campaign on Monday when his best-selling Daily Telegraph ran a front-page headline “Kick This Mob Out” over a picture of Rudd.
Rudd, who has claimed underdog status ahead of a Sept. 7 general election, told reporters yesterday that there was no doubt Murdoch was determined to engineer an election defeat for the Labor Party after six years in power.
“I think he’s made it fairly clear ... that he doesn’t really like us and would like to give us the old heave-ho,” said Rudd, whose minority government trails the conservative opposition 48 percent to 52 percent in the latest opinion polls.
Rudd said Murdoch’s views on the election campaign largely mirrored those of conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has promised to downsize the planned broadband network.
“Does he sense it represents a commercial challenge to Foxtel, to the major cash-cow for his company, or not?” Rudd asked. “It’s a free country, he’s entitled to those views. I’m sure he sees it with crystal clear clarity all the way from the United States.”
However, Rudd denied his criticism hinted at plans to challenge Murdoch’s domination of Australia’s newspaper market should Labor be returned to power, by changing media laws.