From the Age: Liberal leadership spill coup sparks News Corp ‘civil war’

Appeared on my twitter feed. You can read the article here.

The low-down: News Corp owns The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. Bolt, who writes for the Daily Telegraph claims that The Australian is probably making a loss of $20m a year, which is being subsidised by other News Corp papers such as the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Telegraph has always supported Abbott, and Bolt says that The Australian ‘should be slower to now insist others fall in dutifully and loyally behind Turnbull’.


Mr Mitchell told The Australian in response that the readers of Bolt’s blog were different from The Australian’s core demographic.

“Bolt’s audience includes many conservative retirees whereas The Australian’s readership is younger, rich, better educated and working in legal, political or the business community,” he said. “These people don’t read the Tele or Bolt.”

This makes The Australian’s political leaning even less clear, but I think most papers don’t have a clear political allegiance even though it is generally accepted that Fairfax is more left and News Corp is more right.

The University of the Sunshine Coast conducted a survey of journalists a few years back. It found that most reporters were left-of-centre, whereas senior editors tend to be more right-leaning. It also found:

others have accused News Limited – and particularly its flagship newspaper The Australian – of being overly conservative in its political views.

At first glance, the findings do not support this assumption, with no significant differences in the way journalists from the ABC and News rate their political views on a scale of 0 (left) to 10 (right).

However, 41.2% of the 34 ABC journalists who declared a voting intention said they would vote for the Greens, followed by 32.4% for Labor and 14.7% for the Coalition. In contrast, 46.5% of 86 News Limited journalists who answered this question said they would vote for Labor, 26.7% for the Coalition, and only 19.8% for the Greens…

Among the 86 Fairfax Media journalists who responded, Labor was by far the most popular party at 54.7% support, followed by the Coalition and the Greens, both on 19.8%.

For ease of comparison, that’s:

Greens Labour Liberal Coalition
ABC (n = 34) 41.2% 32.4% 14.7%
News Corp (n = 86) 19.8% 46.5% 26.7%
Fairfax (n = 86) 19.8% 54.7% 19.8%

A gentle criticism of The Australian

I’m trying to be more discerning about my news sources and have been monitoring The Australian for any political bias after two op-eds I read in a row that were very explicitly right-leaning. One strongly advocated for religious screening of asylum seekers, arguing that Islam is fundamentally less tolerant than Christianity. In the words of Bill Shorten from last night’s Q and A – ‘Remember where you came from, intolerance demeans us all’. The other re-imagined Tony Abbott’s failures as consequences of his greatest attribute – loyalty; loyalty to the monarchy, loyalty to Bronwyn Bishop, loyalty to Peta Credlin.

Crikey’s bias-o-meter puts The Australian to the far right, although it clarifies that

The market is too small to support newspapers that don’t play to the centre ground, so the Crikey bias-o-meter has had to be finely calibrated. In a marketplace full of bland centrist publications and carefully mixed stables of commentators, small deviations can look extreme. A cultural warrior here or an aging Whitlamite there can throw the thing way out.

It then went on to give a more detailed review of The Australian’s bias:

Reputably John Howard’s favourite newspaper. He has been profuse in his praise – which should make journalists worth their salt ashamed. You need to worry when the politicians praise you. Redeemed itself with its work on The Australian Wheat Board, which had some Government figures protesting that the paper had a “split personality” or even was “betraying us”. The Oz is also the paper that first ran doubts about the truth of the Government’s line on the children overboard story.

Today The Australian gently highlighted Leigh Sales’ gentle interview with Malcolm Turnbull on 7:30 last night. It talks about the inconsistencies in her interview techniques but doesn’t exactly accuse her of being partial towards certain politicians. Personally, I found her interview with Tony Abbott excessively confrontational and lacking in any substance – mainly due to the fact that he wasn’t given much of a chance to answer any of her questions properly, and when he did, he became too defensive to say anything meaningful because Leigh was always on the attack. Is The Australian criticising Leigh for her gentle handling of the Liberal Party’s new leader? In terms of identifying The Australian’s political bias, this is a bit inconsistent – maybe it doesn’t like Malcolm Turnbull because he’s only a small ‘l’ Liberal or maybe the paper is politically confused; maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

My thoughts on ‘Rich Dude becomes PM’, backstabbing and Gillard

An article on The Daily Life appeared which alleged that Australia will forgive Turnbull for backstabbing Abbott in a way Gillard never was, because Turnbull is male and did it second. I disagree, although this is just my personal view on the matter. While I believe that Gillard was, in many instances, criticised differently because she was a female prime minister, I think that the way I (at least) perceived the Labor spill had less to do with gender biases and just more to do with the political context.

Maybe I paid less attention to politics during the Labor leadership spill, but I remember being very surprised when Gillard challenged Rudd. Perhaps I wasn’t following the polls, if I had, I would’ve known that Rudd was trailing. Interestingly, I don’t follow the polls now either, but I don’t have to follow them to know that Abbott is very much disliked by the nation. I put it down to the fact that on camera, Rudd looked and sounded like a much more able politician and legitimate leader than Abbott. So, first and foremost, it felt like Gillard had deposed someone whom I thought was capable. On the other hand, Turnbull has just deposed someone whom I always thought was incompetent.

Secondly, besides trailing in the polls, Rudd had lost the support of his party because of his authoritarian working style. I never realised this until after the spill. While party members might feel this keenly, the rest of the electorate doesn’t have this insight. In this sense, I felt a bit blindsided by the spill. On the other hand, Abbott had clearly failed the people, and his party openly gave him six months to turn things around before his leadership would be challenged. It’s probably easier to forgive something you can foresee.

Thirdly, this is not Turnbull’s first leadership challenge. His intention to be the Liberal party leader has therefore always been present (and I imagine this is where most of the ‘it always meant to be you’ comments are coming from). This is probably why some people have called this a ‘frontstab’ rather than a backstab. On the other hand, Labor worked really hard to market Rudd and Gillard as the dream team in the 2007 election, for this reason, I always thought they supported each other, which makes Gillard’s leadership challenge hard to reconcile.

Naturally, this is the second leadership spill and Liberal is in the lucky position of being able to learn from Labor’s mistakes. I also think however, that part of the reason why Australia sees Gillard as a backtabber is because the Liberal Party did such a good (and relentless) job of selling that notion. Labor Party, take heed.

Distributing migrants in the EU

This is a great article from the NY Times summarising the economic position of different countries, their past intake of refugees and whether or not they are currently approving applications at a rate higher than or lower than the quota offered by the European Commission. It is generally accepted that countries with a better economy are more able to absorb the influx of refugees.

‘Economic migrants’

One of the more ‘breaking’ pieces of news over the last 24 hrs, besides the Liberal leadership spill, is Hungary completing its border fence a day earlier than expected. I read this piece from the Australian which also gave a good rundown of destination vs transit European countries and key economic indicators of each country.

One of the comments on the article expressed distaste at what he thought were economic migrants country-shopping.

Of course, the issue is a lot murkier than that.

It is unanimously accepted by EU countries that asylum seekers from Syria are given priority when their claims for asylum are processed. In general, claims for asylum from Syrians are much more likely than not to be accepted; it is assumed that these people are genuinely fleeing war and persecution and are not economic migrants.

However, there are a number of complicating factors.

Firstly, many asylum seekers from countries like Syria and Libya have spent time (sometimes even a couple of years) in transit countries such as Turkey. Their subsequent decision to migrate to countries like Germany and Sweden raise arguments from naysayers that they are doing so for better economic opportunities. After all, they have already spent a substantial period in a country where their safety is not threatened. An argument against this is that although Turkey gives temporary protection status as a matter of course for asylum seekers from Syria, access to certain rights such as working rights as well as the ability to enrol in public schools is restricted. Such restrictions raises the issue of whether Syrian refugees will be better integrated in countries like Turkey compared to countries like Germany which offer more generous welfare provisions to refugees, therefore giving them equal opportunities to participate in social and civic life. Germany has also pledged to take in more refugees; for an asylum seeker it means that they will have a better chance of having asylum granted in Germany, than say, Poland which has only promised to take in 150 Christian Syrian refugees.

Another complicating factor is that many people lose their identity documents whilst fleeing from their country. This makes it hard for the EU to verify an asylum seeker’s nationality and therefore whether they should be afforded refugee status. There are also black markets emerging for fake Syrian identity papers for asylum seekers who are not genuinely fleeing persecution.

A BBC article highlights the general exodus of people, not just through, but from the Balkans. In the first seven months of 2015, a substantial number of asylum applications in Germany were made by people from Albania and Kosovo. The only country with more applicants was Syria. These are perhaps the economic migrants that the commenter was concerned with. These people are generally ordered to go back, but it can take up to a year for this to happen, and even after that the authorities often fail to physically expel many of these people.