dirty little secrets ....
The illegal eavesdropping on famous people by the News of the World is said to be Rupert Murdoch's Watergate. But is it the crime by which Murdoch ought to be known? In his native land, Australia, Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press. Australia is the world's first murdochracy, in which smear by media is power.
The most enduring and insidious Murdoch campaign has been against the Aboriginal people, who were dispossessed by the arrival of the British in the late 18th century and have never been allowed to recover. "Nigger hunts" continued into the 1960s and beyond. The officially-inspired theft of children from Aboriginal families, justified by the racist theories of the eugenics movement, produced those known as the Stolen Generation and in 1997 was identified as genocide.
Today, the first Australians have the shortest life expectancy of any of the world's 90 indigenous peoples. Australia imprisons Aborigines at five times the rate South Africa during the apartheid years. In the state of Western Australia, the figure is eight times the apartheid rate.
Political power in Australia often rests in the control of resource-rich land. Most of the uranium, iron ore, gold, oil and natural gas is in Western Australia and Northern Territory - on Aboriginal land. Indeed, Aboriginal "progress" is all but defined by the mining industry and its political guardians in both Labor and coalition (conservative) governments. Their faithful, strident voice is the Murdoch press. The exceptional, reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam in the 1970s set up a royal commission that made clear that social justice for Australia's first people would only be achieved with universal land rights and a share the national wealth with dignity. In 1975, Whitlam was sacked by the governor-general in a "constitutional coup". The Murdoch press had turned on Whitlam with such venom that rebellious journalists on The Australian burned their newspaper in the street.
In 1984, the Labor Party "solemnly pledged" to finish what Whitlam had begun and legislate Aboriginal land rights. This was opposed by the then Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, a "mate" of Rupert Murdoch. Hawke blamed the public for being "less compassionate"; but a secret 64-page report to the party revealed that most Australians supported land rights. This was leaked to The Australian, whose front page declared, "Few support Aboriginal land rights", the opposite of the truth, thus feeding an atmosphere of self-fulfilling distrust, "backlash" and rejection of rights that would distinguish Australia from South Africa. In 1988, an editorial in Murdoch's London tabloid, the Sun, described "the Abos" as "treacherous and brutal". This was condemned by the UK Press Council as "unacceptably racist".
The Australian publishes long articles that present Aboriginal people not unsympathetically but as perennial victims of each other, "an entire culture committing suicide", or as noble primitives requiring firm direction: the eugenicist's view. It promotes Aboriginal "leaders" who, by blaming their own people for their poverty, tell the white elite what it wants to hear. The writer Michael Brull parodied this: "Oh White man, please save us. Take away our rights because we are so backward."