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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rupert’s fix won’t help his ailing Aussie subsidiary –

Rupert’s fix won’t help his ailing Aussie subsidiary –

Rupert’s fix won’t help his ailing Aussie subsidiary









Dumping Peta Credlin won’t fix the problems of the Abbott
government - and would simply reinforce the perception that the Abbott
government is run by News Corp.









Never one to let a News Corp subsidiary drift, Rupert
Murdoch plainly has strong views on the performance of senior executives
of his troubled Australian project, the Abbott government. A joint
venture with the Liberal Party, the Abbott government has performed well
below forecasts since its launch in September 2013 and Murdoch, kept
closely informed by his Australian staff, wants new blood brought in, a
view he has expressed first in private and, evidently disgruntled that
his JV partner is ignoring his views, now in public …



One could go on in such terms. Except that by demanding he
dismiss his chief of staff, Murdoch has placed Abbott in a no-win
situation, in which Abbott can’t let Peta Credlin go without appearing
to demonstrate that his government is indeed just another subsidiary of
the Murdoch empire, with executives hired and fired at the whim of the
executive chairman. On the other hand, if one were inclined to Byzantine
plotting, Abbott can’t retain Credlin without manifestly defying the
will of the man whose papers campaigned so aggressively for him,
creating the pretext for News Corp to move to openly backing Julie
Bishop, on whom Murdoch bestowed his blessing on the weekend.



It’s all as if Murdoch had decided to play the role of
efficiency expert and, having run the ruler over the Prime Minister’s
Office, had drawn up a list of underperformers who needed to be
removed — first Jane McMillan, Abbott’s communications director, who
according to the Financial Review today was removed after a
private demand by Murdoch late last year, and now Peta Credlin, targeted
in the most public and humiliating manner, via the very “electronic
graffiti” of which Abbott had been so dismissive earlier in the week.



Alas, if only Rupert had been so interested in the
performance of his own executives while they were overseeing
industrial-scale phone hacking and bribery in the UK.



And, by the way, what do McMillan and Credlin have in
common, apart from their gender? McMillan was media adviser for Helen
Coonan, under Credlin as her chief of staff, when Coonan was
communications minister in the Howard government. It was Credlin, with
McMillan among her staff, who oversaw the successful passage of media
ownership reforms in 2006. Those reforms were a huge win for the TV
networks and particularly James Packer, who sold Nine to foreign private
equity virtually the moment the bill was carried in the Senate. They
were not a win of any kind for News Ltd, as it then was — all News got
was a commitment to “use it or lose it” anti-siphoning rules, while it
lost the crucial battle to keep the ban on free-to-air TV
multichannelling.



Perhaps there are some long memories at News Corp.


Credlin, Credlin, Credlin … how did a chief of staff ever
get to be a trending topic on the electronic graffiti and the dominant
political topic in the country? She’s become the target for ever more
bizarre complaints and demands. She’s too controlling and Abbott relies
too much on her was the complaint for most of 2014, except now she’s not
controlling enough because she failed to stop Abbott from
inflicting the Prince Philip disaster on himself (and funny how that
“have it both ways” thing crops up when women are being criticised).
Although she has barely said a word publicly as chief of staff, there
are now calls for her head because she’s become too high profile — the
ultimate in the media getting to play judge, jury and executioner. Most
ridiculous of all is the argument, ventured by News Corp attack shih tzu
Miranda Devine, that Credlin needs to be dispatched as a kind of ritual
sacrifice to demonstrate Abbott’s good faith to his colleagues,
bringing to mind nothing so much as the Beyond The Fringe sketch in which a WW II officer is told to make a “futile gesture” to “raise the whole tone of the war.”



That the PMO — like any PMO — shares responsibility for the government’s failures is naturally undeniable. But as Crikey noted in December,
a close look at the government’s failings shows that it is ministers
who are chiefly responsible. If Credlin should go, surely Joe Hockey
should go for a long series of gaffes that derailed the selling of the
budget; Peter Dutton should go — well, he sort of has already — for
miserably failing to sell a Medicare co-payment. Christopher Pyne should
go for botching the higher education reform package. But then, that
would involve ministers actually taking some responsibility for their
own portfolios.



And most of all there’s Tony Abbott himself. As even News
Corp commentators are increasingly saying, Abbott isn’t up to the job of
prime minister and shows no signs of growing into it. How many more
times will Abbott make a disastrous “captain’s pick” and promise to
consult more? For all their faults, Kevin Rudd led Australia safely
through the financial crisis, and Julia Gillard made a legislative
success out of minority government and managed the unprecedented feat of
landing a mining investment boom without an inflationary explosion. And
they did so in the face of remorseless, bitter hatred from Murdoch and
his spear carriers. Abbott has had virtually a free hand to do what he
likes with the support of the dominant media company in the country, and
he has constantly stumbled.



The problem isn’t in the PMO, it’s in the head of Tony
Abbott, and in the heads of lazy, inept ministers who have failed to do
the basics in their own portfolios. Ceremonially executing staffers
isn’t going to change that, no matter what ukazes are issued from
Murdoch’s One Madison penthouse in New York.


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