U.K. Politician: Australian Parties Should Fight Rupert Murdoch's 'Dangerous' Influence

News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch

Tom Watson compares former New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, who recently moved to the country to work with News Corp's papers, to a "hitman" sent to do the mogul's bidding.

LONDON – Australia's main parties should team up to fight the "dangerous" influence of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in the country, a British politician, who has developed a reputation for challenging the media mogul, said on Monday.

Tom Watson, a member of parliament here for the opposition Labor Party, during the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media standards and ethics, repeatedly criticized Murdoch. He is also the co-author of the book "Dial M for Murdoch" about the mogul's empire, said that News Corp's Australian papers have criticized the Labor Party government of prime minister Kevin Rudd during the current election campaign simply to further Murdoch's business interests.

"He's got his own ideology, but for him it's about business," Watson told Australian TV network ABC on Monday, the Guardian reported. "That's the dangerous thing."

He also said that the recent move of former New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan to advise News Corp's papers in Australia, which include the Daily Telegraph in Sydney and the Herald Sun in Melbourne, was akin to a "hitman" being sent to "enforce the editorial line."

Added Watson: "Politicians should know that they are commodities to Murdoch. He moves them around. They should think again if they think they will enjoy his loyalty forever."

According to the Guardian, the politician concluded: "The parties should come together and say "enough is enough" and not allow this to besmirch democracy."

Rudd and Murdoch have engaged in a war of words during the federal election campaign. Earlier this month, the Telegraph ran a dramatic headline urging voters to “Kick This Mob Out” in a clear anti-Rudd message.

Then Murdoch, in a tweet, questioned the effectiveness of the multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network, which is currently being rolled out in Australia. “Oz politics! We all like ideal of NBN, especially perfect for Foxtel. But first how can it be financed in present situation?” the mogul said on Twitter, drawing a sharply worded response from the government.

When Allan returned to Australia this summer, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said he would "provide extra editorial leadership" for the company’s Australian papers, "which are in the midst of an important period of transition in our key markets."

A News Corp Australia spokesman on Monday reacted to Watson's criticism. “Our newspapers, like others in Australia -- including The Australian Financial Review and The Age, who both recently editorialized on their front pages -- have a history of forming a view about which politicians will best serve their readers’ and the country’s interests and reporting in a robust, irreverent and pragmatic way ," the Australian Financial Review quoted him as saying. "Our newspapers are not aligned to one side of politics or another, but have a long record of supporting candidates who are in tune with the electorate’s own mood."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai