Having finished his duties in Sydney with yesterday’s presentation to analysts and fund managers, Rupert Murdoch has returned to the city of his birth, Melbourne, to catch up with his mother, sisters, loyal Herald Sun workers and maybe a politician or two.

When he visits Dame Elisabeth at Cruden Farm in Narre Warren, the topic could well turn to the forthcoming Victorian election and that very old money Melbourne family that goes so far back with the Murdochs – the Baillieus.

Ronald Younger’s Keith Murdoch: Founder of a Media Empire mentions the Baillieu family on 26 different pages including the following about the late 1800s in Melbourne:

By chance, at the same time as Patrick Murdoch (Rupert’s grandfather) began ministering to Prospect Hill parishioners, the Camberwell area was receiving attention from William Lawrence Baillieu, a dynamic land salesman who had recently arrived in Melbourne after successful business ventures in the colony’s gold-mining centre of Castlemaine … Baillieu established his residence, Heathfield, on the crest of Prospect Hill Road half a dozen blocks from where the Murdoch family lived.

During the Prospect Hill years Baillieu and the Reverend Murdoch found common ground in something of an obsession with the game of golf. Clive Baillieu, eldest of the Baillieu children, and three years younger than Keith, joined the Fairholme boys in 1895. He was a natural leader and later became captain of the school; the friendship that developed between the son of the business tycoon and the son of the clergyman was to endure in coming years as each made his way to notable success in the world.

All of this begs the question as to how close the two families are today and whether close family histories will count for anything in the forthcoming Victorian election campaign. Don’t be surprised if Rupert catches up with both Premier Steve Bracks and new opposition Ted Baillieu while visiting Melbourne, as he usually likes to personally size up the talent before an election.

Rupert’s family are certainly up to their ears in Liberal politics and in a position to influence Victorian politics in a major way through the world’s highest penetration newspaper, the Herald Sun, and more than 100 local and regional papers across the state. Dame Elisabeth traditionally displays Liberal posters on Cruden Farm during elections, her daughter Janet Calvert-Jones chairs the Herald & Weekly Times board and, most importantly, Rupert’s brother-in-law John Calvert-Jones is Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party.

So here we have the most powerful media outlet in Victoria chaired by the sister of the man responsible for funding the Liberal campaign and led by someone who is an old family friend of the Murdochs. The Bracks Government will almost certainly win comfortably, but don’t be surprised if the Herald Sun gets right behind Ted Baillieu, provided he scrubs up as a credible alternative premier.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey