It’s been almost three weeks since former prime minister Kevin Rudd launched his petition calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly. It has gained close to 400,000 signatures.
At the current rate of sign ups (about 5000 new signatures a day this week, after earlier amassing a huge 40,000 in its first 24 hours and 350,000 by day 10), it will soon become the country’s biggest e-petition to parliament, surpassing 2019’s petition to declare a state of climate emergency.
Rudd’s petition has almost four times the number of signatures of the third largest e-petition, which called for the removal of GST on sanitary items. That petition gained 104,441 signatures and was submitted to parliament just a few months before the tampon tax was axed after years of campaigning.
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But Rudd’s push against Murdoch still has a way to go to beat the top two all-time best petitions — one of which came on Rudd’s watch.
The petition with the greatest number of signatures concerned funding support for community pharmacies, which gained a staggering 1,210,471 signatures in 2014. That was backed by the powerful Pharmacy Guild of Australia and saw pharmacies across the country collect signatures in-store in response to the Rudd government’s move to bring forward reductions in the price of prescription medicines.
The Pharmacy Guild claimed the decision could force pharmacies to close or reduce services, and the record-breaking petition ended up being presented to the House in February 2014.
The second largest, with almost double the signatures of Rudd’s petition currently, was presented in 2000 and called on then prime minister John Howard to “honour his promise that beer prices will not rise by more than 1.9% as a result of the GST”. That racked up a huge 792,985 signatures.
Of course, even when Rudd’s petition for a Murdoch royal commission surpasses the current e-petition record, it does not necessarily mean the government will act on it. There is no requirement in Australia for a petition to be debated in parliament even if it reaches a certain number of signatures.
The petition is continuing to gain support, including most notably that of former PM Malcolm Turnbull at the weekend.
While the teaming up of two former Liberal and Labor prime ministers against Murdoch’s media power (who had that on their 2020 bingo card?) was enough to make headlines, Turnbull also said he “doubted” the petition would result in a royal commission, adding: “Murdoch’s print monopoly (since 1987) is only part of the problem.”
Turnbull joins a list of other notable names to have expressed support for the petition, including ACTU secretary Sally McManus, author John Birmingham, honorary president of the International Disability Alliance Colin Allen AM, and a number of former News Corp journalists including Tony Koch and Paul Syvret.
Whether Rudd’s petition tops the record for most signatures will probably be known soon. Whether the government responds to it awaits to be seen and, of course, whether any News Corp paper will ever report on it … well that’s a whole other question.
Will Kevin Rudd’s petition lead anywhere? How do we reckon with Murdoch’s media empire? Let us know your thoughts by writing to email@example.com. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.