SYDNEY: The man tipped to become Australia’s next prime minister pilloried the country’s right-wing media yesterday after an attack on his late mother.
Decrying a “new low” in Australia’s bare-knuckle politics, the usually phlegmatic Labor leader Bill Shorten became emotional as he lashed out at “bloody lazy” journalism and “gotcha s***” ahead of the closely fought May 18 election.
Like Britain and the US, Australia’s stridently right-wing media plays a prominent role in political life.
But some experts, such as Mr Tony Walker, a communications professor at La Trobe University, have accused titles owned by mogul Rupert Murdoch of taking a “battering-ram approach” during this febrile campaign season.
They “have stepped up the war against the Labor Party since the election was called”, he wrote in a recent commentary.
The group’s front pages and TV commentaries have echoed and amplified ruling Liberal Party campaign messaging that targets Mr Shorten – a former union leader whose party is a few percentage points ahead in the polls.
The confrontation reached a peak yesterday when Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph accused Mr Shorten of misleading voters about his deceased mother’s life, in a front-page splash that carried the block-caps headline “MOTHER OF INVENTION”.
Mr Shorten had told the story of how his mother had been forced to defer her dream of being a lawyer to help her family, which the Daily Telegraph suggested was misleading because she did eventually attend the bar in her 50s.
“Who do some people in News Corp – and it is not all the journalists I make that very clear – who do some of these lazy people think they are?” Mr Shorten railed after being asked about the piece, his voice cracking with emotion.
“They play gotcha s*** about your life story and more importantly my mum’s.”
The tabloid is a News Corp Australia publication, part of Mr Murdoch’s global media empire, which also includes America’s influential Fox News and Britain’s The Sun.
Daily Telegraph writer Anna Caldwell defended the report, telling Mr Murdoch’s Sky News it “in no way, shape, or form was an attack on Bill Shorten’s mother”.
Few would doubt that Mr Shorten’s tears were real, but there is also little doubt that he seized a political moment.
“This is certainly not the first time a Labor leader has had a bash at the Murdoch media in a recent campaign,” said Ms Michelle Grattan of the University of Canberra.
“But it was probably one of the more effective.” – REUTERS
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