The ongoing war between the Murdoch and Packer camps shows no signs of abating with The Australian today producing a tough feature exploring what a Scientologist wedding would be like for Australia’s richest man.

Maybe News Ltd is still dirty that they were completely scooped by Fairfax on December 27 with this page one story about James proposing to his long-time girlfriend Erica Baxter on Christmas Day.

James has certainly had an action packed summer period, including a halting speech at the MCG on Boxing Day marking the anniversary of his father’s death and announcing a $10 million fund for washed up former test cricketers.

The news reports that night showed Treasurer Peter Costello leaping to his feet and delivering James a heartfelt cuddle even before he returned to his seat in front of a powerful Melbourne audience.

Does anyone else think this is entirely inappropriate? The Federal Government’s new media ownership laws have just delivered James Packer a huge private equity pay day and one of the architects of the move is then seen hugging him in public.

Would wannabe British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rush to publicly hug James Murdoch, the CEO of BSkyB, in such a public way?

Then again, the PM also thought it was fine to invite James Packer to his Christmas drinks at Kirribilli, where he reportedly had an expletive-laden exchange with Seven Network CEO David Leckie.

Whilst Kerry Packer’s devotion to cricket is well known, James is clearly not dropping the ball on this score. The Ashes whitewash produced great ratings and about $60 million in advertising for Channel Nine and James obligingly hosted the big 5-0 victory on his boat. However, only Shane Warne and his former wife Simone Callahan were allowed to stay the night, and the picture of their cosy breakfast were obligingly splashed across the Murdoch press.

It is certainly showing that Warnie is now being managed by a professional, former IMG Australia chief James Erskine, rather than his brother Jason.

The spin king has played the PR beautifully and tonight’s Murdoch-sponsored Parkinson interview attracted more front page stories this morning. Both the Murdoch and Packer media interests are falling over themselves to fete Warnie, but for some reason they don’t seem to be able to get along with each other at the moment.

The C7 court case and associated failure to reach a deal over Foxtel on the AFL rights appear the most likely reasons behind the ongoing hostility and the slanging match at Kirribilli.

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW