Hearing the voice of Rupert at The Oz? There’s probably no businessman in the world who understands better than Rupert Murdoch the difficulty of doing business with the Chinese communist regime. He’s been trying for years to build a lucrative relationship in their country with very limited success. And it’s not as if the great media pragmatist has been unprepared to make a few concessions to the Chinese. His willingness to drop the BBC News from his Asian pay television network all those years ago showed that he was prepared to support a policy of the people’s right not to know.

I have no idea to what extent cracking the Chinese market remains a Murdoch priority but I do notice this morning that his local mouthpiece The Australian has made a dramatic change in the way it is covering the case of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. A glance at the two front pages tells the story.

Monday was all gung ho. China shuts the door on diplomats — screamed the page one headline as the story explained China has rebuffed the Rudd government and may force Australian officials to wait a further month for a second visit to detained Rio Tinto iron ore executive Stern Hu. Inside an editorial proclaimed “China has undermined its claim to be a modern industrialised nation and a safe place to do business”. Greg Sheridan the Foreign Editor declared “if Hu is not released, our relationship with China is shattered” and speculated that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade might have to “issue a travel warning pointing out to Australian businessmen that they face the danger of arbitrary arrest and lengthy detention in China if they, their company or even the Australian government displease the Chinese.”

This morning such editorial anger has disappeared at least from page one with the coverage more moderate as would befit the premier publication of a media company whose international aspirations still included China. The very straight story at the bottom of page one “Who’s on Hu?” was taking a side swipe at the Australian Government and its lack of action rather than continuing to bore it up the Chinese commos.

Methinks the word had finally filtered through from New York that there is more at stake in dealing with China than Australia and its iron ore.

Little time in his new home land. For a naturalised Australian citizen, Stern Hu seems to have spent very little time actually living in his new home land. Mr Hu is a native of Tianjin who has worked for Rio Tinto in Beijing and Shanghai since the mid 1990s. And if he thought that carrying an Australian passport would save him from arbitrary action by a communist regime he was clearly well and truly mistaken.

In fact I hear suggestions that the Australian document is a real hindrance rather than a help with the authoritarians of Beijing believing that overseas citizenship is one of the major benefits given to Chinese providers of help and information. Slightly lower down the list of common rewards apparently is free tuition in Australia for children.

Surely not a third sacrifice. In a Liberal Party not over flowing with leadership talent it would surely be complete stupidity to sacrifice a third potential Prime Minister is as many years during a first term in opposition. Already Malcolm Turnbull must be regretting his impetuosity in not letting Dr Brendan Nelson carry on to what was always almost certainly going to be a second victory for the Kevin Rudd Labor Party. Now he too finds himself confronted by the same kind of extreme pessimism as the good doctor with the cry going up from nervous backbenchers to give Joe Hockey a go.

True it is that the opinion polls make depressing reading for Liberals but giving Joe the job would just knock off the one remaining, obvious future leader.