Those turning to the editorial page in this morning’s Australian could be excused for wondering if they’d picked up The Age or SMH by mistake. The tone is quite different from the usual fare.

First there’s a discussion of the native title claim by the Noongar people of south-western Western Australia. The editorial praises the federal court, criticises the “scare campaign” against it and endorses “a pragmatic path to native title recognition.” It’s easily the most sensible thing I’ve read on the decision: much more measured than the ALP’s response, and less alarmist even than the paper’s own legal editor, Chris Merritt.

Then there’s a section on the Victorian police brutality investigation, which is unequivocal in its condemnation: “The Australian disagrees with [police union chief] Mr Mullett in the strongest terms.” Pity the paper didn’t show the same regard for the rights of terrorism suspects as it now does for armed robbery suspects, but the sentiment can hardly be faulted.

Both these could perhaps be explained as directed against state Labor governments, although in fact they are criticised only mildly in the second case and not at all in the first. But the third piece is about the New South Wales Liberal Party, calling on its newly endorsed candidate Greg Smith to step down from his post as deputy DPP. No more than common sense, but its implicit criticism of the NSW Liberal right is unusual for the Oz, where state correspondent Imre Saluszinsky usually gives them a clear run.

There’s been a good deal of comment lately, in Crikey and elsewhere, on Rupert Murdoch’s apparent repositioning on global warming. But if today’s Australian is any guide, maybe that’s just one aspect of a general editorial swing to the left. Or maybe the regular editorialists are just having a day off.

Peter Fray

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