“The Treasury Secretary under went an eight-hour grilling yesterday at Senate estimates…”

“Dr Henry entered dangerous waters when he declined to answer questions…”

Those two quotes appeared on the front page of The Australian today without the slightest hint of an irony given the performance of the paper’s proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, at News Corp’s annual meeting in New York last Friday.

After twice promising to take general questions following his formal address, when the time came Rupert Murdoch promptly shut down the meeting without explanation. This still this hasn’t been reported in any News Corp newspaper throughout the world.

Have a listen to the broken promise in this account of the annual meeting, which includes the questions that Rupert dodged. And check out this video.

But it gets worse. After promising to return to Adelaide each year to brief his loyal Australian shareholder base following the 2004 move to Delaware, Rupert has now reneged.

News Ltd Australian spin doctor Greg Baxter, who has his own court battles at the moment over that “fully funded” line in his infamous James Hardie press release, responded by email to requests about the Australian meeting with the following: “There isn’t an informal shareholder info meeting in Adelaide this year.”

When fleeing to America, Rupert promised to return each year. Now the American citizen running the American company won’t even return to Sir Keith Murdoch house in Adelaide to honour his pledge.

How an earth can Rupert’s Australian journalists have any credibility practising accountability journalism when their own company is so appallingly governed?

If Macquarie Bank can disclose its management agreements, AWB can rip up its gerrymander and Asciano chief executive Mark Rowsthorn can surrender $750,000 of his bonus, surely it is time for News Corp to get with the program.

There will be a wave of governance improvements across the world after the global financial crisis and Rupert should start by promising to cut his $US28 million salary package and ending the gerrymander that sees 70% of News Corp shareholders denied the vote.

Rupert hasn’t totally abandoned Australia as he’ll be back for his mother’s 100th birthday next February. However, two trips Down Under in three months was clearly considered excessive.

The decision also means Rupert will miss the annual News Awards for journalistic excellence, which were held in Parliament’s Great Hall last year.

Given his own behaviour, Rupert doesn’t deserve an invite to such an evening which is designed to celebrate the best in accountability journalism.

*Listen to AWB chairman Brendan Stewart break down in tears at the end of yesterday’s historic EGM ushering in a new era of good corporate governance at the company.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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