Rupert Murdoch has a frightening influence over politics in Australia as he owns much of the media through radio, newspapers and television. The Murdoch press has recently been described by Kevin Rudd as ‘hyper-partisan and ideologically driven, blending editorial opinion with news reporting’.
Lukas Coch from AAP has published a paper in Feminist Media Studies which compares the way in which Julia Gillard, Australia’s only female prime minister, was treated in the media compared with Helen Clark, a recent New Zealand prime minister. While both leaders were treated with a sexist focus on some aspects of their lives, Julia Gillard came under much greater harsh and intense scrutiny due to the reporting in Murdoch papers.
Murdoch does not have a dominating influence of the media in New Zealand.
Gillard appeared to attract particularly intense hatred from Murdoch. She presented as a child-free, unmarried, atheist woman from the ALP left, thus threatening Murdoch’s conservative ideology.
In the ten years since Julia Gillard left parliament sadly nothing much has changed.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Labor premier, has come under attack from the Murdoch press, calling her dealings with Liberal NSW leader Gladys Berejiklian ‘school behaviour’ over border decisions.
Berejiklian, a Liberal, has endured harsh reporting over her romance with NSW MP Daryl Maguire, but nothing compared with the reporting Gillard’s sexist coverage received during the AWU Affair which followed her throughout her career while prime minister. The story of Berejiklian’s romance was treated sympathetically by the Murdoch papers, unlike those of Labor Party leaders.
Even Julie Bishop, the Coalition’s former foreign affairs minister, was compared to a power-hungry ‘Lady Macbeth’ when she considered standing for leader of the party. When she called out the Liberal Party’s sexist bullying culture, she was soundly ridiculed by the Murdoch press.
Even though Murdoch’s influence does not reach to New Zealand it did not stop Greg Sheridan, conservative journalist with the Murdoch papers, from labelling Jacinda Ardern’s government response to COVID-19 as a ‘progressive, inherently authoritarian style’. In fact it became the blueprint for other governments around the world to marvel at, and attempt to emulate, with varying degrees of success.
When Ardern won the 2020 election in a landslide The Australian newspaper responded by describing her ‘grossly incompetent’ and ‘the worst person to lead New Zealand through these challenging times’. The Australian has been made to eat its words several times as Ardern has moved from strength to strength in her country, as COVID-19 numbers remain extremely low.
Very recently, in August, Johannes Leak in the Australian depicted Kamala Harris in a cartoon which received ‘international condemnation for its misogynistic and racist depiction of the vice-president nominee’.
This constant criticism and vilification of women in politics undermines the importance that women play in representing half the population of this country in parliament. Murdoch represents the ‘old white male’ view of the world and their right to rule. It is important that we continue to support women in their quest to join parliament, and equally important that we support the journalists who continue to highlight the misogynist views of the Murdoch press.
Ref: Blair Williams, Assoc. Lecturer, School of Political Science and International Relations, ANU.
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