x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Australia's Abbott hits back over Murdoch link claims

Mr Abbott spoke after Mr Rudd went on national television to accuse his rival of conspiring with the Australian-born media magnate, who has made clear he wants Mr Abbott's conservative coalition to win national elections on September 7.

The front page of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph, which depicts Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (right) as the bumbling Nazi TV character Colonel Klink from the hugely popular 1960s US television comedy series Hogan's Heroes.
The front page of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph, which depicts Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (right) as the bumbling Nazi TV character Colonel Klink from the hugely popular 1960s US television comedy series Hogan's Heroes.

SYDNEY // Kevin Rudd's election rival, Tony Abbott, played down links to Rupert Murdoch yesterday as the mogul's key tabloid depicted the Australian leader as a bumbling Nazi TV character, Colonel Klink.

Mr Abbott spoke after Mr Rudd went on national television late on Wednesday to accuse his rival of conspiring with the Australian-born media magnate, who has made clear he wants Mr Abbott's conservative coalition to win national elections on September 7.

Mr Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph also took aim at Mr Rudd on Tuesday, with a picture of the prime minister under the headline "Kick this mob out".

Mr Rudd escalated the feud by suggesting Mr Murdoch was using his newspapers to attack the Labor Party because he sees the party's multibillion dollar plan for a national broadband network (NBN) as a threat to the business model of his part-owned Foxtel cable TV company.

He accused his rival of colluding with the tycoon, who has said "through his own direct statements that he wants Mr Abbott to replace me as prime minister".

Mr Rudd added on ABC television: "The question I posed through this is simple as follows: What is underneath all this?

"Is it to do with the NBN representing a commercial threat to Foxtel?

"I've seen some commentary on that and I've only just been looking back on the files today and discovered that in fact Mr Abbott's NBN policy was launched at the Fox Studios here in Sydney.

"I would like to hear some answers as to what discussions Mr Abbott may have had with Mr Murdoch on the future of Australia's NBN."

Mr Abbott, who opinion polls show is on track to narrowly win the election, admitted yesterday: "I do from time to time talk to Rupert Murdoch."

"Have I ever spoken to Rupert Murdoch about the NBN? No, I haven't," he added, with the conservatives pledging to connect fibre only to local hubs rather than individual premises to save money.

The multibillion-dollar project is set to provide high-speed broadband to all Australian homes and businesses, with 93 per cent to have access through optic fibre.

The argument is that consumers could opt to use fast NBN speeds to download their own visual entertainment rather than pay for a Foxtel subscription.

An opposition broadband spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, accused Mr Rudd of acting "more and more like a jilted lover".

"Once the darling of the News Limited tabloids ... Now his years of sycophancy editors with juicy leaks about his colleagues count for nothing. No wonder he's bitter," he said.

He said Mr Murdoch was simply stating what others in the business community felt - that the NBN was too expensive and taking to long to roll out.

"Rupert Murdoch's views on the NBN are very mundane," said Mr Turnbull, who acknowledged he had known the ageing media baron "very well" for close to 40 years.

The Murdoch press showed no let-up yesterday in attacking Labor, with the Telegraph depicting a dour-faced Mr Rudd as Colonel Klink from the hugely popular 1960s comedy Hogan's Heroes, wearing a Nazi uniform and a monocle.

It accompanied a story about the deputy prime minister, Anthony Albanese, dressed as Klink's inept sidekick, Sergeant Schultz, being caught drinking beer in a German-themed Sydney bar this week with a disgraced former Labor MP, Craig Thomson.

The Telegraph said it made a mockery of Labor's campaign slogan "A New Way", with Mr Thomson, portrayed as wily American POW leader Colonel Hogan, facing more than 100 fraud charges related to when he was the Health Services Union general secretary between 2002 and 2007.

Mr Thomson, who denies the allegations, was suspended from Labor and is now standing as an independent, with the opposition suggesting the meeting was about Labor securing his support in the event of a hung parliament.