In some parts of the Australian media, ignorance and populist clap-trap aren’t crimes: just take The Daily Telegraph’s continuing attacks on Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens.

In Saturday’s splash he was Australia’s “most useless man”. On Monday he was excoriated by editor David Penberthy who took 1500 words to admit this was little more than a circulation booster aimed at the paper’s western Sydney heartland.

This morning, long-time Reserve Bank backer Terry McCrann stepped in to defend the Guv in the Murdoch tabloids.

However, it didn’t count for much in Sydney given The Tele ’s accompanying page one lead re-hashing The Australian’s Monday splash on Myer chairman Bill Wavish’s comments, plus associated ill-informed pieces by Malcolm Farr and Piers Akerman , along with a feisty editorial.

Given that no Australian business journalist has named and shamed more fellow hacks than McCrann, the bearded burbler rather pathetically pulled his punches today. The journalists behind the “eruption of abuse”, which was “disgraceful and just plain stupid” – Penberthy, Glenn Milne and various other fellow Murdoch attack dogs – weren’t named in The Tele or the Herald Sun.

As Crikey has revealed previously, McCrann has long been on a scoops drip from the RBA but the deal is that he must always defend the bank and promote insiders for top jobs. His uselessness in stopping this latest round of tabloid attacks will raise questions about the value of the arrangement.

This whole episode highlights the national governance problem of giving one colourful media proprietor control over a majority of Australia’s daily newspapers. What should be a sensible debate quickly degenerates into bone-headed personal attacks with the likes of Milne even bringing Stevens’ religion into the equation. And News Ltd chairman John Hartigan is chairing the governance stream at the 2020 Summit!

McCrann has been the sole daily business commentator for the Murdoch tabloids for 18 years, saving Rupert heaps by syndicating his Melbourne-centric copy throughout the country. However, this means The Daily Telegraph doesn’t have an economically literate person in the office who can stop the likes of Penberthy taking the paper’s credibility over the cliff.

Given that Australia has close to the highest interest rates in the developed world whilst households are saddled with more than $1 trillion in debt, we should be having a vigorous debate about interest rates.

However, it shouldn’t be led by Murdoch attack dogs, or even the massively conflicted executive chairman of Myer, Bill Wavish, whose letter to Stevens was leaked to Glenn Milne for his column and The Australian’s splash on Monday.

The Australian’s Michael Sainsbury hopped into the Wavish conflicts today, but should have gone further in pointing out that in addition to representing highly geared Texan private equiteers at Myer, he was previously a senior executive at New Zealand property group Chase Corp which collapsed in a $1 billion bust back in 1989 as Paul Keating cranked up interest rates to 17%.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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