The Australian editor Mitchell fires back at Minister Turnbull after News Corp jibes

Chris MitchellEditor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell has fired back at Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull accusing him of courting the “enemies” of the Liberal Party by launching Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper.

On Friday night Turnbull  gave a speech in which made several jokes at the expense of the national broadsheet The Australian, including mocking them by saying there was “nothing too small its terms of the deficiencies of the nation for them to focus on”.

Mitchell told Mumbrella this morning: “Malcolm can not resist seeking approval from his party’s enemies at events such as Friday night’s.”

Turnbull’s decision speak at the function has drawn commentary from the right with conservative columnists such as Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson also criticising the Communications Minister’s decision to launch what they describe as “a left wing newspaper”. Today’s edition of The Australian also compares The Saturday Paper with The Green Left Weekly.

At the time of posting the minister’s office had not responded to requests for comment, but Turnbull was yesterday forced to defend his decision to launch the newspaper arguing that as Minister for Communications he supported media diversity regardless of the political persuasion of the publication’s proprietor.

“As the Minister for Communications I welcome new publications, whether in print or digital or, like The Saturday Paper, in both,” wrote in a blog on his website.

“Our democracy flourishes with a vibrant and diverse media and there has been a lot of concern in recent years that the declining business model of traditional newspapers and the consequent diminution in their journalistic resources will in turn diminish our democracy. Those concerns are real as I noted in my speech.”

Turnbull’s launch speech has also raised eyebrows across the media sector for an ad-libbed line in which he paid tribute to Saturday Paper publisher Schwartz noting that: “You are not some demented plutocrat pouring more and more money into a loss making venture that is just going to peddle your opinions.”

The remark, coming at the end of a speech which jibed News Corp and The Australian multiple times, was largely interpreted as an attack on Rupert Murdoch and The Australian, which last week revealed that it had lost $30m dollars last financial year.

In the wake of social media and blog commentary Turnbull clarified the quip, arguing that he had been misinterpreted and that the line was in fact about William Randolph Hearst, who died in 1951 and who had been briefly referenced earlier in the speech.

“Given that earlier in my speech I had referred to William Randolph Hearst (immortalised by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane) I was surprised that some people have inferred I was referring to Rupert Murdoch,” Turnbull wrote in his blog.

Neither the reference to Hearst or the News Corp jokes were republished in the official version of Turnbull’s speech. 

Nic Christensen


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