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Feb 17, 2010

Abbott and Murdoch: breakfast but no skiing…

When Tony Abbott was attacking Kevin Rudd yesterday over the Government's despicable $500m handout to free-to-air television, suggesting "it looks like an election-year bribe", he negle

When Tony Abbott was attacking Kevin Rudd yesterday over the Government’s despicable $500m handout to free-to-air television, suggesting “it looks like an election-year bribe”, he neglected to mention his own recent dealings with media moguls.

Crikey understands that Abbott had a secret meeting with News Ltd supremo Rupert Murdoch on Sunday morning and had breakfast with him.  Murdoch was in Australia to celebrate his mother Elisabeth’s 101st birthday last week.

“I think there’s nothing wrong with ministers and moguls having meetings,” Abbott told talkback radio this morning.  “That is probably a natural part of life and it’s probably a good thing that they meet from time to time and I don’t think it’s necessary that there be a tape recorder going that we all get access to, but I guess it’s not a great look when it looks more like a social encounter than a business meeting.”

When pressed by Neil Mitchell to say whether he would reveal details of his discussions with media proprietors, Abbott refused to be drawn, only insisting “it’s not a good look when ministers and magnates have what look to be cosy friendships.”

While Murdoch professes to “give the planet the benefit of the doubt” on climate change, News Ltd outlets in Australia have consistently and enthusiastically promoted climate denialism, now at the centre of Coalition policy since the right-wing putsch that dislodged Malcolm Turnbull and installed Abbott, under the aegis of arch-conservative Nick Minchin.

This week the company’s loss-making flagship publication The Australian has noticeably ramped up its attacks on the Government, today launching a dogged defence of the Opposition and savaging the Government over industrial relations.  The Opposition itself has also adopted an increasingly hostile line on the FTA handouts this week, although it has declined to commit to reversing them.

The mainstream media has belatedly picked up the FTA handout issue, but only after revelations in News Ltd tabloids that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy met Seven Network owner Kerry Stokes while on holiday in Colorado, leading to headlines about his “skiing tryst” with Stokes, a major beneficiary of the handouts.

There’s now a simple test for News Ltd – whether it covers Abbott’s meeting with its proprietor in the same way as it covered Conroy’s, and whether it demands the same details of Abbott as the Sunday Telegraph demanded of Conroy – what was discussed and what hospitality did Abbott enjoy from Murdoch?

And, most of all, was there a deal made between the two for favourable coverage?

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56 thoughts on “Abbott and Murdoch: breakfast but no skiing…

  1. Thomas Paine

    I am sure Abbott’s meeting with Murdoch was entirely harmless. Maybe just enquiring if the reciprocal fellatio agreement was still in place for the Liberal Party this year. Maybe the OO boys like Catholic kids like Tony.

  2. Venise Alstergren

    SONOFMOGH: I want to know why he missed?

  3. quantize

    More like BananaBrains than princess.

  4. RICK68

    Murdoch’s main reason here in the United States Of Australia, is to have media laws changed to suit his business requirements. This media baron had no such with Keating–who more or less told him to get lost. Murdoch who renounced his Aussie citizenship for the Yankee peso, may have better luck with Abbott.

  5. Sancho

    I think any of Howard’s leftovers will do. Turnbull was too educated and modern to be a suitable pawn, but Abbott will obey Murdoch nicely.

  6. geomac

    I guess the question is if Murdoch actually wants Abbott as PM or is using him to attack the Rudd government. After all as news corp half owns Foxtel the reduction in costs to free to air television would be seen as helping the opposition. Abbott cannot attack Conroy for doing what he himself has done and expect to be credible. He also cannot use the ploy of saying he is not in government. To do that means that he is saying he cannot be viewed as an alternative PM. A bit like his attack on solar panels really because that was started by the Howard government. You cant have your cake and eat it scenario.

  7. my say

    Cuppa problem is not a lot of people see it have you thought of reducing your sub
    say to a monthly deduction for pensioners.

  8. my say

    bianconieri it was on telelvision for all to see.

  9. my say

    can some one tell me did this get a run in the msm. I never saw it.
    also the q. a. programme, well i suppose the abc are not going to write about themselves but you would think the papers would especially fairfax

  10. Sancho

    Making up stories again I see.

    What did I make up? The bit where you claim not to mindlessly support Abbott, or the bit where you contradict yourself by refusing to link to any criticism you’ve made of him?

    That’s our MPM: a lockstep monothinker who supports the politician but not the policies. Looks like someone votes for Speedos instead of governance.

  11. surfer

    @ OBlizzrad, I ‘m not sure if your deliberately missing the point or not but, Conroy goes skiing with Stokes in the States, also Rudd holidays at Stokes’s mansion in Broome. Conroy comes home and announces a $250 million tax break (tax payer handout) to these guys with no restrictions on what they should do with that money, all in the lead up to an election. Are you seriously trying to say that this doesn’t look a little strange? Your comment about the Leader of the Opposition being given a free pass for having B/fast with Murdoch is correct, simply because there is no story in it. Abbott isn’t giving Murdoch a tax payer handout. If Abbott announced he was going to give Murdoch some sort of handout or tax break after meeting him, the media would be all over it.

  12. twobob

    that the Australian can not be counted on to present an unbiased, non partisan and objective view of events is a fact.

    Perhaps if they could they would not be loosing money.

    And does anyone remember the outrageous government advertising that was conducted under howard? The bill was (I think) about a billions dollars.

    All to tell us about a supposedly fairer?????????!!!!! IR system. In effect this also was giving away money to TV stations.
    Although I don’t condone tid for tat waste of taxpayer money at least I can see that the media is being bought off by both sides.
    They appear to lobotomise certain voting blocks though because only one side of their brains appear to work and they continually critisise Labor for something that the coalition wrote the handbook for.

  13. snooky

    That’s right Abbott should not be allowed to meet up with media people. That should be left up to the government who can give the media money so we can all benefit. Without crikey there would be noone to keep the politicians honest, thanks for highlighting Abbott awful tricks. He is full of smear and fear and should resign so Rudd can Conroy can be free to build and reform.

  14. OBlizzard

    MPM @ #2

    Its called hypocrisy, and if the national broadsheet wants to truly be seen as a an unbiased source of news it should avoid it. Chastising the minister for meeting with industry stakeholders (even if they are shmoozie meetings) while giving the leader of the opposition a free pass for having breakfast with Rupert Murdock pretty clearly illustrates that the Australian can not be counted on to present an unbiased, non partisan and objective view of events. Thus the Aus looses serious credibility as a place for proper journalism ala Fox News.

    I agree $250 million in tax brakes needs to be justified, but if the Murdock media is going to insinuate that meetings with industry figures are unethical or even corrupt thing for a minister to do (a “bribe” for an election year) then they had better report on schmoozie meetings between the head of the opposition and their boss.

    I swear if it wasn’t for Jack The Insider I wouldn’t even bother checking the place




    Always was, always will be.

  16. BananaPrincess

    Wow, Rudd gives the Tv people 250 million for nothing, pretends it is to do with local content, that is revealed to be not true- I don’t think having a coffee with Rupert Murdoch really compares somehow. If Tony Abbott was so stupid as to turn down a chance to talk to one of the worlds most sucessful people, who owns a lot of media in Australia, well, he would be a lot dumber than he is. Mr Abbott is sexy and smart- Rudd is in trouble ;>

  17. Phil


    That’s a fair call…

  18. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…Proof here…”

    Making up stories again I see.

    Why are you so desperate for my attention?

  19. Tomboy

    Bernard may be on to something, but I haven’t seen this news replicated in the other media (News Limited notwithstanding). The only thing about Tony Abbott being reported is how he was missed by a truck! Sorry, I may be missing something because I’m in regional NSW this week and getting most of my news through the Internet. In any case, it seems to me that Tony Abbott is getting similar media treatment to what Kevin Rudd received in the lead-up to the 2007 election…and that worries me, because this is the Right of the LNP that’s being pushed, not the moderates…and a question to the rusted-on “core constituency”: where do you all stand on Gun Control Legislation…do you want it changed under an Abbott-Joyce Government?

  20. surfer

    It was $250 million not $500 milion, Abbott wasn’t giving Murdoch a handout of tax payers dollars. Fair suck of the sauce bottle, your making a fool of yourself BK. Desperate times.

  21. blister

    Sour grapes for breakfast

  22. quantize

    please…it’s insulting for anyone here to pretend previous (recent) governments did not do things that might have were perceived to be currying favor from media proprietors.

    Its just Abbot slinging mud he’s already covered in.

    You rusted in coaltion cheerleaders need to smell the coffee.

  23. geomac

    After seeing the truck thing on the news it struck me how the tv crew were there to record it. Reminded me of Howard being bundled off the plane yet the cameraman was off first. This was different of course but obviously they were waiting for Abbott which brings me to why there ? It was a dangerous spot to be making a turn with just the white lines , no turn off lines. A publicity op that could have had disastrous consequences yet this is the man attacking Garrett on safety. Surely a safer spot could have been selected other than a single lane highway with plenty of traffic. Its a photo op not a reality show without the reality.

  24. Sancho

    Proof here:

    Unless, of course, you’d like to update that thread with links to some of the withering criticism of Abbott you’ve delivered. Somehow I suspect you won’t, but I will enjoy a serving of the red herrings you hand out when challenged to back a statement up.

  25. iorarua

    Flashback to the news footage of the Murdoch/Rudd meeting before the last election. The body language said it all. As the journalists all danced around the duo as they walked side by side for the camera, Murdoch could barely even look at Rudd. His physical bearing was turned away, stiff and rejecting, and his muttered comment about Rudd being OK as a future leader was begrudging at best.

    Murdoch has a proven track record of zero tolerance for any kind of government that is anywhere to the left of ultra-right. Every one of his worldwide hand-picked team of editors-in-chief would not have gotten where they – or would ever remain where they are – if they even looked sideways at a left-wing, small ‘l’ liberal or labour-based policy. Abbott will be our next Prime Minister.

    The coming wave of editorials, features, op eds and general media buzz will be educating us to that objective. Just you wait.

  26. timbo

    @Most Peculiar Mama

    I have been a member of Crikey now for almost a month. I have begun to notice that you are over represented in the comments section, particularly politics. I am beginning to wonder whether you have a lot of free time? Or, perhaps you are paid for your comments?

  27. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…You endorse the politician but not the policies?…”

    Where? Prove it.

    Put up or shut up.

  28. C J

    .. and speaking of self interest ..

    Channel 7 News tonight tried to equate the $250m handed out for one year by Labor to the $260m in rebates given to regional TV over 13 years by the Liberals.

    .. bit of a stretch!!!

  29. jenauthor

    S’ok Phil — I have little interest in state politics … naive or not, I reckon state govts should be abolished altogether.

  30. Phil


    Thanks for that. I’ll look into who’s be running Victo…oh wait don’t tell me- the farce that is Vic Labor?

  31. jenauthor

    MPM @ [My OWN “policies”…fancy that]

    You endorse the politician but not the policies? Hmmm … must be the contents of the budgie smuggler then.

  32. jenauthor

    @jenauthor you need to remember who pays for what in the federation…maybe the neglect you speak of is due in large part to the farce that is NSW Labor.

    Twas just outside of Melbourne Phil.

  33. Frank Campbell

    “I think there’s nothing wrong with ministers and moguls having meetings,”

    I think Born to Rule Tony’s getting ahead of himself…

  34. Frank Campbell

    Braking news: Heard that the truckdriver was arrested for missing Abbott in Geelong today…

  35. Kevin Rennie

    Heaven knows where Tony Abbott will be when the next generation are living with the consequences of opportunistic skepticism and climate change minimalism. Only a Papal encyclical could save us!

  36. SonofMogh

    MPM, Whatever your paying him it ain’t enough.

  37. Most Peculiar Mama


    “… how many years of neglect of infrastructure under the Howard Govt? If that road is unsafe he, and you, should look a little closer at your own politics/policies….”

    Dog-whistle still works I see. [My OWN “policies”…fancy that]

    You really should do something about that rust problem Jen.

  38. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…Caught up with your ironing today?…”

    My houseboy takes care of that.

  39. C J

    “.. the increasingly-pro Liberal ABC.”

    Do you think that, if you keep saying it, that other stupid people will think it is true?

  40. Phil

    @jenauthor you need to remember who pays for what in the federation…maybe the neglect you speak of is due in large part to the farce that is NSW Labor.

    That said, politicians getting overly friendly with business is very sketchy territory.

    They say the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and so, I guess the price of freedom of speech in the media is eternally keeping the moguls and politicians as far apart as possilbe!

  41. jenauthor

    Not a chance Sancho — letters selected obviously must follow the publication’s sentiments to rate publication. If you read them regularly and used the for/against ratio as a guide, you’d be convinced that at the next election the Libs would win all bar one o two seats! Same with the Telegraph.

    No wonder they keep saying the govt. is in trouble, no doubt they use those published letters as a guide to general voter sentiment also.

  42. Venise Alstergren

    BernardK: I thought he had actually denied the meeting took place. I was wrong about the words said but the tone of his voice was a dead give away. I was driving at the time.

  43. Venise Alstergren

    MPM: If only you could get your ears out from between your legs you may have heard Neil Mitchell interviewing Tony Abbott. That Abbott was lying when he said words to the effect that no such meeting had taken place was obvious.

    Some people are intrinsically bad at lying. Tony Abbott just happens to be one of them. Which, given what sort of person he is, is just as well.

    Caught up with your ironing today?

  44. Pete

    Wait. Our Tony’s a minister?

  45. SonofMogh

    MPM, If it had been a Union driver he/she wouldn’t have missed.

  46. Sancho

    Here’s a challenge to readers of this article: go the letters blog at The Australian sometime this week and submit a comment about the Abbott/Murdoch meeting and see if it actually makes it to publication. I’m sceptical.

  47. jenauthor

    BREAKING: Abbott narrowly escapes death after attempted murder plot by union truck driver

    Ha! MPM you’ve outdone yourself — how many years of neglect of infrastructure under the Howard Govt? If that road is unsafe he, and you, should look a little closer at your own politics/policies.

  48. jenauthor

    @ MPM
    Did Murdoch gift Abbott $250 MILLION without any caveats as Rudd/Conroy have done?

    Who knows what happened at that meeting … that’s the whole point MPM. It’s just like the tabloids and their celebrity stories … Jen and Brad are seen talking in the street and immediately they’re having an affair and Brad and Ange are getting a divorce. Obvious nonsense to sell mags to social voyeurs.

    You and those like you make assumptions about the govt. but don’t apply the same rules to the opposition. One-eyed political voyeurs.

    Heaven forbid any honesty from either the press or the politicians.

    On another issue: just saw Eric Abetz on Agenda … for the first time ever I saw him smile … no make that attempt to smile — twice– looked very painful indeed. Doubtless the Liberal image-wardens have told him to improve his image. Sorry Eric, the undertaker look works better.

  49. Most Peculiar Mama

    Your headline should read:

    BREAKING: Abbott narrowly escapes death after attempted murder plot by union truck driver

  50. Tim Dunlop

    Was there a deal made for more favourable coverage? Short of renaming the Oz The Prime Minister Abbott, what could they do?

  51. jenauthor

    Good pick-up Bernard, and timely considering the allegations that have been flying around the place.

    As I posted on another thread:

    I’ve been mulling over the reason for such hostility against the govt. from the mainstream press. Someone might have said this already, but it dawned on me that when Kevin Rudd actually went through with the idea of NOT spending heaps on govt. advertising he’d put a bit of a hole in the budgets of the media organistions.

    I mean, how dare the government force the news organisations to report the news for free?

    While the millions are a drop in the bucket to some of those organisations, the principle would have irked at the very least.

    I’d love for somone to put the media heads on the spot and ask them — because blind freddy can see that the ‘interpretation’ of the news, where the govt. is concerned, differs greatly from the facts.

  52. BH

    Bernard – I thought the deal was $250 mill. Is it now $500mill.

    And, yes, keep asking questions of Abbott’s meeting in the same way you have Conroys. Is Murdoch still looking for the handout for his newspapers that he was flagging last year. Talk about hypocrisy!!

  53. Cuppa

    Without Crikey and, to a lesser extent Fairfax, all we’d have would be the pro-Liberal News Ltd and the increasingly-pro Liberal ABC. Keep up the good work, Bernard and crew!

  54. Most Peculiar Mama

    You’re really reaching now.

    Did Murdoch gift Abbott $250 MILLION without any caveats as Rudd/Conroy have done?

    I must’ve missed that bit in your essay.

    Oh and you forgot Kevin and Therese’s trip who last year took full advantage of Stoke’s hospitality on a trip to Derby, eschewing a hotel with the plebs in favour of Kerry’s more luxurious digs.

    Besides, Abbott is a former News Limited journalist, maybe his former boss wanted to congratulate him personally.

    Move on, nothing left to see here.

  55. Dave Gaukroger

    When pressed by Neil Mitchell to say whether he would reveal details of his discussions with media proprietors, Abbott refused to be drawn

    This is eerily reminiscent of Tony’s “So what” moment when he was quizzed on Lateline about whether he’d been to speak with George Pell during the last campaign. It seems Tony’s not a big fan of disclosure when it comes to his own activities.

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