In case you missed it, last night Rupert Murdoch delivered the annual Lowy Lecture.
I’ve been wondering what to say about this speech all day. It was so right in theory yet so wrong in practice that my powers of reason collapsed into the gulf. Crikey has saved me with a bit of worthwhile cheek:
While his tabloids may be famous for fanning conflict and stoking anxieties, this was Rupert the bridge builder, the optimist, the relentless dreamer. And a patriot too, despite ditching his Australian citizenship to buy up media assets in the US. “I’m glad he didn’t come back and pour shit on Australia,” one relieved confidant said. Not a word was uttered about the phone-hacking scandal engulfing his UK operations. At times, the contrast between the speech and the surroundings was simply surreal.
To truly prosper in the 21st century, Murdoch argued, Australia needs to focus on three areas. First: defending Australian values; rejecting elitism and snobbery — a message that went down well with the cashed-up high fliers in the crowd. Australia is well on the way, Murdoch argued, to becoming an “egalitarian meritocracy” where anyone who works hard can rise to the top. Self-made men James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Ryan Stokes no doubt raised a silent toast.
Second: expanding Australia’s immigration program so we become the most diverse nation on earth. And who could say Murdoch doesn’t lead by example — just look at the “table of power” including Daily Tele editor Whittaker, News Corp editorial director Campbell Reid, finance guru Alan Kohler, South Australian editorial boss Melvin Mansell, and columnists Piers Akerman and Terry McCrann. One couldn’t hope for a more diverse group of middle-aged, high-powered, well-off male media types. Some even opted for white over red.
Third: the need to embrace the disruption inherent in capitalism. One need only look at News Corp, Murdoch said — rather than a potentially fatal blow to its business model, the company sees the growth of the internet as a “shot of adrenaline”. If you listened closely enough you could hear the ghost of ousted CEO Kim Williams howling in protest.
One of the most fascinating parts of the speech was learning about the “jaw bone” Murdoch wears on his wrist: a bracelet tracking how he eats, moves and sleeps. This allows him to take personal responsibility for his health, rather than rushing to the doctor every time he feels sick. Tonight, the mogul is off to the in-house News Awards in Brisbane; then the future beckons. Anyone banking on this 82-year-old falling off the perch any time soon better think again.
That about covers it.