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Apr 27, 2012

Rundle: if only News was run by Rupert...

"Some day there will be billions of smart telephones" -- thus spake Yoda of the tribunal, R. Murdoch, on the second day of his testimony to the Leveson inquiry.


“Some day there will be billions of smart telephones” — thus spake Yoda of the tribunal, R. Murdoch, on the second day of his testimony to the Leveson inquiry. Some on teh Twitter said the wrinkled billionaire had come to resemble his own “spitting image” puppet. I thought he looked like an enormous foreskin in designer eye wear, but there you go. Murdoch senior spoke slowly, even ponderously throughout much of his second session, almost as if he was trying to run the clock out. But he also resorted to claiming levels of ignorance of his own organisation that beggar belief.

Having claimed that his editors were free to make their own decisions, Murdoch was challenged with comments by former Sun editor David Yelland, who claimed that he had come to see the world “through Murdoch’s eyes” as part of the job. Murdoch replied by noting that Yelland had said he was drunk through much of his time editing the Hun, “which we never knew about”.

Whaaat? The editor of his flagship UK tabloid was pissed on the job — out of the extreme stress, Yelland says — and no one higher up knew about it? Flatly ridiculous. The information would have come up the tree some way. Yelland was dropped in it.

He was not alone. James was next, with Murdoch noting, as regards the News of the World scandal:

“I don’t remember any conversation to be honest with you. I am assuming he kept me up to date to some extent. I delegated the situation to him. He had a lot on his plate, did not report perhaps as often … but we did talk of course.”

Murdoch then claimed he was “misinformed and shielded” from the scandal at News of the World, and that there was a cover-up … from him:

“I do blame one or two people for that who perhaps I shouldn’t name … for all I know they may be arrested. There is no question in my mind maybe even the editor, but certainly beyond that someone, took charge of a cover-up which we were victim to and I regret.”

Later, he said of the original Gordon Taylor settlement that made visible the exposure of News Ltd

“The size seemed incredible. It still does seem incredible … He [James] said I was given a short time, he was given two boxes; which one do you tick? One relatively low, and one infinitely bigger. His advice was to tick the lower one. That’s what happened, he was pretty inexperienced at the time, he had only been there a few months, Mr Myler and Mr [Tom] Crone put it to him.”

He also blamed his law firm, Harbottle and Lewis:

“They were appointed and given a file. It’s argued that they were only given a very specific brief. I’ve got to say that I have not gone through that whole file of emails they were given but I have tasted them and I cannot understand a law firm reading that and not ringing a chief executive of a company and saying, hey, you’ve got some big problems.”

However, there was someone he was willing to protect — Rebekah Brooks. When Brooks was under pressure early in the whole scandal, Murdoch was asked what his priorities were in the whole affair. “This one,” he said pointing to Brooks, a statement he refused to back off from in evidence today. That created one of the funnier moments of the hearing, when Murdoch claimed that he had made the remark after being flustered by the attentions of the paparazzi (the other was when he claimed that his papers didn’t do cross-promotion, and that “I don’t have other business interests”. More sinister was his imperious disdain — veering into befuddlement at times — when he was challenged over News Corp coverage of the Max Mosley case (the formula one supremo caught having a thing with five hookers, falsely labelled as a “Nazi o-gy”). Lead counsel put it to him that News reporters had effectively blackmailed one of the prostitutes in question. Murdoch gave the strong impression that hookers get what they deserve, and it was only when Leveson himself intervened to say that it sounded like blackmail to him, and was an extremely serious allegation, that Murdoch mumbled something about promising to read the Eady report on the matter. He had been too busy earlier, he said. He had been “out of town” when it occurred.

Yet at other times he seemed to imply that the only thing that had let the scandal run on was the non-involvement of one R. Murdoch, noting that:

“I should have gone there and thrown all the damn lawyers out of the place and seen Mr Goodman [royal reporter, the original hacker, subsequently labelled as a ‘rogue reporter’] one on one. He’d been an employee for a long time [I] should have cross-examined him myself … If I’d have found he was telling the truth I would have torn the place apart and we wouldn’t be here today, and that was 2007.”

Yes, a tragedy really. If only News Corp were run by Rupert Murdoch, none of this would have happened.

After the lunch break, Murdoch was given a chance to go into a long frolic about the future of technology and newspapers, whence the “smart telephones” comment came from.

It was only after this long canter, and a bit of chest-thumping from Murdoch as to how his union-busting at Wapping saved UK papers, and how BSkyB satellite service offered people 600 channels, that he encountered anything resembling a challenge. This came from John Hendy, the lawyer for the NUJ who pointed out that News International employees had no protection from a culture of bullying — bullying that was essential to getting the illegally gained stories from phone hacks that kept the paper going.

With this challenge Murdoch became hostile and grumpy, his face setting hard. If people were being bullied, he asked, “why didn’t they just resign?” which gained the riposte from Leveson “perhaps because [they] needed a job”.

Hendy’s questioning revealed much of the substructure beneath the unique corruption and nihilism of News Corp — the evisceration of independent unions in News Corp workplaces at the time of Wapping, and their replacement with Soviet-style “staff associations”, which News ran. Murdoch lamely tried to defend the “staff associations”, which left him trapped, when Hendy pointed out that these associations had been refused certification as independent authorities. Would Murdoch support the idea of a “conscience clause” in journalistic contracts which would ensure that unrepresented journalists would not be sacked for refusing unethical duties? Murdoch prevaricated and then said, “yes, he would support such a clause” — which on the face of it, commits News Corp to an enormous change in business practice.

Did anyone land a killing blow on the old bastard during the two days of evidence? He has denied so much knowledge of everyday management of his empire — including the signing off on the Gordon Taylor settlement, and another settlement with former News journalist Mark Driscoll, for £800,000 for workplace bullying — that it would only take two witnesses to a meeting, another rogue email, to leave him in serious trouble. His pious pitch that he, and senior management were “betrayed” by out-of-control News staff gets him off the hook, but further turns past and present staff against him. Even genuine memory lapse would leave him in a sticky situation.

People often wonder how those engaged in cover-ups can make such stupid errors. One reason is this: evidence giving is itself, by its very structure, a form of magical thinking for those accustomed to power. For many of us, the whole legal process serves to impress on us the serious consequences of falsehood; for the powerful it is a chance to silence the pygmies once and for all. Thus, terrible hubris can be entered into — without the perpetrator being fully aware they have done so. We shall see in weeks to come whether Rupert has put matters to rest, or whether, even now, his next headache is echoing down the smart telephones.


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46 thoughts on “Rundle: if only News was run by Rupert…

  1. Suzanne Blake

    Hi Guy

    Are you ar lunch?

    by Guy Rundle

    “Some on teh Twitter said”

    “said he was drunk through much of his time editing the Hun, “which we never knew about”.”

    Who is drunk?

  2. Tom Jones

    It is unbelievable that Rupert wasn’t involved and as he has hung so many out to dry after dropping them in it there is likely to be at least one person who will have other evidence of him being involved. The real problem for bullies is that once power starts to crumble people will look to protect themselves as clearly they won’t get help from Rupertp; unless they are Rebekah Brooks who must have so much information on what went on that he needs to ensure that she is kept sweet.

  3. Anto

    Hi Suzanne
    Are you “ar” lunch?
    by Suzanne Blake.

    Epic fail. You idiot.

  4. Suzanne Blake


    Hi Suzanne
    Are you “ar” lunch?

    did that on purpose… You idiot.

  5. Michael de Angelos

    Not a credible excuse SB and you are confusing the role of a newspaper editor with a sub-editor’s role.

    Considering the number of mistakes that now slip through into both News Ltd and Fairfax newspapers, sub editing seems to have vanished. On Sunday I counted over 40 mistakes in a popular tabloid.

    Watching RP and his plausible deniabilty act is fascinating and Rundle is correct to point out the power of having power and how it exerts it’s influence. I was taught in my very first job at 17 by a powerful, rich man with integrity that when the top is corrupt it seeps down and infuses the whole body of a corporation.

    We are witnessing that power being exerted in Australia with news Ltd’s endless campaign against the Gillard government with state dailies and a national newspaper all in tune and in tune with Opposition leader Tony Abbott.

    A perfect example : Tony Abbott’s new found respect for the role of The Speaker despite the News Ltd tabloids not long ago running front page mock-ups of The Speaker pictured as a rat with whiskers etc. Nary a peep then from Tony on the blatant disrespect for the highest ranking person in Parliament.

  6. Gail

    You are, perhaps, a little out of touch on Twitter and, indeed, internet norms and memes, Suzanne Blake.

    Teh Twitter would be immediately understood by millions of users of teh internetz. It is a meme, a norm, the vernacular of typing based communication.

  7. Suzanne Blake

    Thanks Gail

    I get it now, which would explain why Schnappi Tom is indeed ex Army Signals

  8. Meski

    Be glad 1337 never made it into Crikey much, Suzanne.

    @Gail: Sometimes I think memes are an invention of teh interwebz.

    And Guy? Don’t know about spitting image, but this is close. But Rupert doesn’t havve the blue eye yet.


  9. Pete from Sydney

    good to know you’re hip to the lingo Gail…..very cool

  10. Godotcab

    Who would trust any News Ltd output as a news source?

    They are revealed as either crooks or fools, again.

    Either way, any reports from them cannot be taken seriously.

    Remember, this is the mob whose Australian management didn’t know that the football team they owned, in the competition they owned half of, were cheating the salary cap.

    Either they lie about what they knew, or they are useless at news. No other possibility.

  11. zut alors

    Having sat through evidence over the past two nights it’s clear where Junior got the I Don’t Know I Can’t Recall gene. It’s remarkable how little father and son knew about their newspaper empire – not to mention the scant information they exchanged.

    Over the decades Senior has boasted about being ‘hands on’ with his newspapers, printing ink being in his veins etc.

    Senior was so involved being hands-on that he did not know what was actually going on. Apparently.

  12. Godotcab

    Has anyone else noticed how his statement – “If any politician wanted to know what I think, they only had to read the editorials” clashes with his insistence that he does not do editorial interference?

  13. floorer

    Seeing as how 9/10’s of the comments have been frivolous or at least very little to do with the article; Godotcab,is your name a play on waiting for a taxi?

  14. Steve777

    When front-line managers and middle management blame their staff, customers or suppliers for their failures, they are rightly labelled as useless and incompetent. If they are hoodwinked by staff acting unethically or illegally and they deny responsibility, they are rightly regarded as pathetic losers, evidence for the Peter Principle.

    Rupert is the head of a vast global organisation riddled with corruption. He derives his vast wealth and power from that organisation. He should not cannot be allowed to say it was all someone else’s fault.

  15. Godotcab

    I drive a taxi. Therefore, all over town, people are waiting for me.

  16. floorer

    Godotcab,ha ha excellent.

  17. Gail

    @PETE FROM SYDNEY – Not cool, just a big internet user who has been on line since the olden days of 300 baud modems, IRC and BBSs. It’s quite difficult to speak to humans the way you can communicate on line. 🙂

    What I would like to know, is how someone so willing to appear out of touch and even incompetent, manages to run a multi-billion dollar media empire and employ a series of people who have apparently quite recently become corrupt and stupid without anyone noticing until there was an unkillable scandal. Hopefully the pressure will continue. Hopefully some of this will be noticed in Australia sometime soon.

  18. shepherdmarilyn

    So the great scandal is about 13 cabcharges where the machine failed. But not good enough for Steve Lewis to believe them, he has to invent some lame conspiracy about two sets of writing on them according to some lame voodoo science.

    All cab charges are filled in by two people. The driver fills in the destination and charge, the client signs them.

    Jesus wept.

    And every other moron outlet goes along with this crap.

  19. Schnappi

    Sorry SB never been in signals corp,just another of your delusions.
    In a previous article you said I was in signal corp ,not me,but to humour you I said you could not interpret my smoke signals.Seems sb you also have murdoch disease.

  20. Suzanne Blake

    @ shepherdmarilyn

    Perhaps the news travels slowly to Anguston SA. Cab charges are over “three drivers, sequential numbers” avoiding the electronic system which tracks use by day and time and location. Appear the person signing the forms has a book of cabcharge manual vouchers and handed them out instead of using the electronic system. Wonder why? More interesting is the disclosure by one drivers today of which Club he took him to in East Sydney.

    No not Kens of Kensington, but a much more interesting venue, where discipline is strict.

    These pollies must think they are teflon coated

  21. Meski

    @Marilyn: Looks like some people haven’t used them before. That’s ok, but they should shut up on inventing conspiracy theories on how they work…

  22. Schnappi


    Wonder if you are aware that steve lewis was the first to break the godwin gretch utegate affair ,which gave him egg all over his face.
    Seems he may have done it again with gaygate,which is why his attempts to smear slipper at all costs ,even though it appears slipper has been wronged.

    People like hadley,speers and lewis should watch out as slipper is a lawyer and barrister,and appears a better one than sleaze brandis.

  23. Godotcab

    SheperdMarylin, is Lewis part of News Ltd?

    You’re right about how the Cabcharge dockets work. With the blue printed ones, and the green ones as backup if the CC terminal doesn’t work, both driver and passenger will have their handwriting on it, and Reg Kermode takes 11% on top of the fare.

  24. DF

    His appearance didn’t strike me as much as his voice, Guy. Close your eyes and he sounded like Barry Humphries – must be some sort of ageing Australian ex-pat thing. Anyone heard Clive James lately?

    What I also noticed as I listened to Murdoch describing his apparent lack of interest in getting to the bottom of things when the rogue reporter thing first popped up, was his apparent lack of concern for his company’s, and by extension his, reputation. I’d have thought he’d have been mortified to discover such shenanigans in an organisation run by him when, by his own admission several times over the last two nights, he placed such high priority on ethical behaviour. Listening to KRM’s testimony, I kept wondering why Jay hadn’t put it to him that, for a global businessman of high standing, he seemed remarkably unconcerned by the threat to his reputation, regardless of the legality of his employees’ behaviour. For a man with a reputation of having a nose for the zeitgeist, it is strange that he was apparently so willing to let this one go through to the keeper.
    Of all people, KRM would also be familiar with the principle of a “fit and proper” person, and the desirability of keeping his (and News’) nose clean, particularly given the sensitivity of his desire to buy out BSkyB. Popular unease about centralised media ownership has been around for a while so you’d think he’d want to avoid giving his enemies any excuse or ammunition to oppose his corporate expansion, yet he seems to be quite relaxed about his reputation. A conspiratorial person might, of course, argue that he wasn’t worried about his enemies because a) he was confident he could destroy them at any time and b) he was confident he either had the people he needed already in his pocket or could put them there whenever he wanted.

  25. WB Sydney

    Just goes to show how you can listen to the same evidence and get different impressions. Having listened to all the Murdoch evidence though, I think there are some points to be made here. First, this is a truism: Murdoch’s daring move to Wapping saved Fleet Street. Even Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian admits that. And that was down to crushing the unions, including the NUJ. So, don’t let us get too nostalgic about some union love when the NUJ was nearly as bad as the printers prior to the Times sale –printers strike for 12 months and then a journalists strike for 3 months! No wonder Fleet Street was terminal under that system. The Wapping bitterness has left the NUJ out of News Ltd papers obviously, but even the anonymous journalist who didn’t dare to complain about the bullying has to be taken for what it is: ‘what do you do IF there is this bullying?’, not that this was a proven case of bullying (as common over newspapers this might be in Britain, including, probably, NUJ papers) I worry about the anonymity leaving this unable to be tested (surely they could have given evidence anonymously, known only to Leveson people?).

    The writer doesn’t seem to have been following parts of the Leveson inquiry , as the “bullying that was essential to getting the illegally gained stories from phone hacks that kept the paper going” would equally apply to all the papers which were fighting tooth and nail for the stories. No? Did he watch the evidence of Paul Dacre and the Mail? The Mirror people? If bullying was “essential”, then bullying was widespread, NUJ or no NUJ.

    We shall see what comes from this evidence of Rupert’s but the Times takeover is already a non-starter and I look forward to the rest of it with interest. However, for those who don’t take ALL their news from a handful of sources, I recommend looking at the Leveson website for the actual evidence given by all so far. That will weaken the Murdoch-centric focus, but it is well worth the effort.


  26. Son of foro

    Rupert was very good at remembering what not to remember.

    Never mind, the old fella can still pick and choose governments in Australia.

  27. Sausage Maker

    Murdoch’s panache in making himself look stupid and incompetent as an excuse for the corrupt behaviour of News Int. is quite amusing. He doesn’t pause or show any sign of embarrassment when saying “we’re not bad … just stupid so everything is ok”.

  28. robinw


    Those Cabcharges must have been old because these days everyone who travels a lot within the govt. gets a Cabcharge card and this has been around for at least 5 years. Dockets are a thing of the past. Makes the administration of them far easier as well so I hear.

    I would expect that among the first to have got the cards would have been our honourable representatives. Makes you wonder about the quality of ‘investigative journalism’ being conducted by our mates at the Oz.

  29. Karen

    @ SB 1:32pm Is that the best you can do? Attack Guy Rundle, rather than address what the Leveson inquiry has exposed about Murdoch and his connection to the sheer bullying, criminal ,phone hacking bastardry of his criminal enterprise at the NOTW? All so the greedy old scrot can make even more money at our expense? How much money is enough, SB? Have any idea?

    You also think its ok for that horrible old man to use his tabloids to support and depose leaders at his dirty whim? Just like the Sun in Britain and the Daily Tele and the Courier are about to do here? Democratic, hey?

    Why haven’t you applied your self righteous “lying incompetent” blow torch to Murdoch ? Heh? I’m waiting for it? Plenty of material to work with here. But, no, its typical that you would support that “old bastard” as Guy so aptly describes him, simply because you share his vile , selfish, right-wing world view. The words “appalling hypocrite” come to mind.

  30. Suzanne Blake

    @ robinw

    Its possible he has his own book he kept in his briefcase. There are around 100 to a booklet. I use taxi’s a lot and since the electronic EFT pads were installed 8 years or more ago, and made compulsory to use around 5 years ago, the use of manual forms it rare and only if the device or network is down.

    Drivers use to turn off the device and say it was broken, cause they preferred the manual ones as it was harder to track income for taxation pruposes.

    The ATO and Taxi industry did a crackdown around 5 years ago and now drivers with a high percentage of “manuals” get audited.

    With the manual ones, there is a fr uad issue, you could write an amount / destination etc on the voucher and a different amount / destination on the tear off receipt.

  31. Liamj

    On some sites they moderate threads for being on-topic, which may be why SBs taxi docket mania on a thread about Murdochs is so glaringly obvious. Its like asking Abbott or Hockey about sums – cue monologue about vision.

  32. Schnappi

    Seems SB has admitted she is a liberal staffer,we knowthe liberals abuse free use of transport and phones.

  33. floorer

    Actually LIAMJ I don’t believe Ms.Blake intoduced taxi dockets into this thread,that would be Ms. Shepherd.If you are going to bang a drum make sure it’s the right one or even one of your own and not the crowd favourite, you look less woolly that way.

  34. Suzanne Blake

    @ Schnappi Tom

    Never been a member of any political party, never worked for any party, never ever been to any political meeting / rally / event, so you will have to try harder Warrant Officer 2. Further, I have never been a public servant either.

  35. Schnappi

    why such profound use of taxi’s sb

  36. Suzanne Blake

    @ Schnappi

    Cause it cheaper than using your car and parking, when going to CBD’s, airports or certain other locations.

  37. Schnappi

    But you said you use a lot,so do not seemwhat you say adds up

  38. Suzanne Blake

    @ Schnappi

    I would use two cabs a week, not as much as Mr Slipper it seems, but I consider that a lot.

    I have not had a manual voucher for many years. I would say at least 4. I had one driver try and bung it on last year and told him his EFT machine was on, cause I saw the screen. He said OK, it must be working now.

    The system was flakey 10 years ago, but much more reliable these days.

  39. Schnappi

    If 2 is a lot 1 must be a little.

  40. Suzanne Blake

    no @ Schnappi

    1 a month would be a little

    1 in 6 months would be occassionally

    1 a year would be rarely

  41. AR

    We’ve had the Hubris, bring on Nemesis.

  42. Godotcab

    Yes it was Marylin who started the Slipper / Cabcharge dockets incursion here.

    And yes, Suzanne Blake is pretty much right about the use of manually processed dockets.

    What she doesn’t say is that many Taxi Drivers who prefer to use manual dockets do that so they can get them cashed by a non-Cabcharge outlet, one that gives a couple of percent to the driver.

    No, that’s not fraud on the part of the Taxi Driver. It is using a competitor to benefit themselves and stick it to Cabcharge at the same time.

    I prefer cash, but I am happy to take cards too, so long as the passenger knows what to expect – http://www.wallup.net/Wallup/Courtesy.html

  43. Spamhater

    Just to bring this strange conversation full circle –
    Are you the ar lunch mentioned in Suzanne Blake’s first post AR?

    By the way, I personally use cabs a little, but not a lot.

  44. Suzanne Blake

    @ Spamhater

    Not invited to pollies / journo lunches / dinners nor am I interested.

    Just watching ABC New 24 re hash, rehash and rehash the dishonest Gillard interview today. Look at her eyes, its rote learnt screen play.

  45. AR

    SpamH – puhleeez! That was just the usual poor typing from ORAC. Though, like others above, I’m intrigued by its (I do NOT believe it is a female typing) constantly changing persona (leaving aside, for a moment, the times when a/some slightly more literate & half intelligent, entity takes the nom de plume).
    Its been a foresnic auditor (nods to PO), a stay at home mum, an activist (gawd help us..), a non party, erstwhile/sometime labor voter, in other words, the ultimate astroturfer, B/S in every syllable.

  46. Spamhater

    Thanks for the heads up AR, I am new here, (joined today,) and am only just working this all out. You may be wrong about the not female bit though, as I distinctly see a map of Tasmania in her avatar!
    Got to go, Taxis at the door___________

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