AFR backs Gina after newsroom visit. Wayne Swan has “literally lost the plot”, The Australian Financial Review under editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury declared on its leader page today. Swan’s controversial Monthly essay on the hold Rich Listers — those “helping drive the national income to unprecedented heights” — have on public debate was “belligerent and almost incoherent”. The paper writes anonymously:

“… with his rant against mining magnates Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest, wealth creation appears to have become, at least in Mr Swan’s eyes, a vice that runs against the grain of Australian society and which must therefore be fought against at all costs …

“Trapped by Labor’s fealty to its trade union backers, Mr Swan has reverted to the politics of envy and resentment and a form of class warfare more reminiscent of the 1950s. Among other things, this job market re-regulation is lifting the economy’s ‘natural’ unemployment rate and hurting the very low-skilled workers he professes to champion …

“Contrary to Mr Swan’s silly claims, Australia’s middle class is not being hollowed out or exploited by a 1 per cent of the super-rich. Middle Australia is more prosperous than it has ever been, in part because of the entrepreneurial efforts of Ms Rinehart, Mr Palmer and Mr Forrest who, along the way, have broken into the iron ore duopoly of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.”

That line from a business publication — including a splash from star commentator Jennifer Hewett on page two — is perhaps not surprising. But the timing has certainly raised eyebrows, given what the paper’s Andrew White reported on page six:

“Mrs Rinehart met with Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett and chief executive Greg Hywood and later visited the newsroom of The Australian Financial Review.”

It seems highly unlikely Rinehart managed to exert editorial influence during a brief visit yesterday — we asked Stutchbury via email but didn’t hear back before deadline — but it shows the potentially awkward path Fairfax journalists now tread in reporting on the mining magnate. At least White put his name to his story; The Sydney Morning Herald used the “staff reporters” byline to report Rinehart was wandering around its newsroom at Fairfax’s Pyrmont HQ.

The Fin, in fact, scooped rivals with White’s online update this morning confirming Rinehart has asked for a seat on the Fairfax board now she is the beleaguered company’s largest shareholder: “It is believed Mrs Rinehart asked for the board seat when meeting Mr Corbett. The Fairfax board is believed to be considering its options.” Fairfax journos may be hoping it never happens. — Jason Whittaker

Contagion role inspired by Crikey founder? We are almost certain that today’s edition of the Townsville Eye is taking the mickey, but we would do our readers a great disservice if we were to not point out that in its “DVD Armchair Critic” column, penned by Shari Tagliabue, the following review of apocalyptic-pandemic-drama Contagion was published:

We spoke to Eye journo Tagliabue who told us that the Jude Law as Stephen Mayne connection was “the first thing I thought when I saw the movie”. Therefore, we redesigned the poster for Contagion to give it more of a Crikey feel …

Front page of the day. Its Super Tuesday in the US as all the Republican candidates line up:

The Department of Corrections. Canada? Australia? What is the difference really? From The New York Times:

Murdoch journalists ‘tried to take own lives’

“Two senior journalist at The Sun newspaper have reportedly tried to take their own lives following their arrests as part of police investigations into bribery of public officials.” — The Sydney Morning Herald

Leveson inquiry: concern over police evidence

“The attorney general is examining whether the head of Scotland Yard’s investigation into illegal news gathering has prejudiced fair trials for any journalists involved through her evidence to the Leveson inquiry.” — The Guardian

News Corp may face fresh inquiry for bribery

“As News Corporation seeks to contain a widening investigation into illegal information gathering at its British publishing unit, the company may face fresh allegations at another problematic subsidiary.” — The New York Times

Why Anonymous and Hacktivism will go on after Sabu

“Earlier today, authorities descended on a hacker called Sabu and five of his cohorts. The reports claim that Sabu (real name, Hector Xavier Monsegur) had been an informant for months over the group’s hacking, distributed denial of service, and other attacks used to bring down websites against which they were protesting.” — Tech Crunch

Foxtel and Austar merger to be approved today

“The merger between pay television providers Foxtel and Austar is expected to be approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today.” — Media Spy

Twitter now available in right-to-left languages

“Thanks to the efforts of 13,000 volunteers worldwide, Twitter is now available in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu, according to a company blog post. Twitter had been working on translating and localising these right-to-left languages since January 25.” — Mashable

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey