News Corp Paper Says Australian Government Tried to 'Muzzle the Media'

The paper says about Labour Party prime minister Kevin Rudd that voters in an upcoming election can "kick this mob out," drawing a sharp response about Rupert Murdoch's influence.

SYDNEY – It's just one day into the official 34-day Australian general election campaign and incumbent Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has gone on the front foot after the country’s biggest selling daily tabloid, News Corp’s Daily Telegraph, on Monday ran a full front page photo of the PM with the headline, “Kick This Mob Out.”

The News Corp owned print media, which holds a 70 percent market share down under, has long been critical of the center-left Labor government since it formed a minority government in 2010, and despite urging its readers in 2007 to vote in the then Rudd-led opposition.

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The paper’s accompanying editorial accused the Labor government of trying to “muzzle the media and to intimidate a free people into docile, compliant silence.” That editorializing referred to Labor’s attempts under then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard to unsuccessfully introduce media reforms, following the News Of The World phone hacking scandal.

At the time News Corp Australia CEO Kim Williams labeled the government as "the first government outside of wartime that is contemplating government-sanctioned journalism.”

Williams slammed communications minister Stephen Conroy's plan to create a government-appointed bureaucrat, known as the Public Interest Media Advocate, to have oversight of professional media groups and their handling of complaints against the media and press standards.

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Asked about the Daily Telegraph headline on ABC Radio’s A.M. program on Monday, Rudd said: “Mr. Murdoch controls 70 percent of the print media in this country. It is plain from what Mr. Murdoch has said through his public statements that he wants to see the government removed, and he wants Mr. Abbott as prime minister … in terms of basic fairness and balance of reporting the Australian people will make up their mind.”

Rudd’s deputy, Anthony Albanese, called the front page, “an extraordinary intervention on day one of an election campaign.”

The none-too-subtle cover came just one week after controversial New York Post editor Col Allen returned home to Sydney to take a temporary post at News Corp Australia designed to “provide extra editorial leadership” for the company’s papers here, “which are in the midst of an important period of transition in our key markets,” News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said in a note to staff.

Allen addressed the editors of News’ papers last week, delivering a speech to them about relying on their instincts, which several reported as "empowering" and "exactly what we wanted to hear," according to reports in Mondays News broadsheet, The Australian.