Malcolm Turnbull says News Corp has become an organisation for “pure propaganda” that has done enormous damage through its promotion of climate change denial.
In a heated exchange on Monday night’s Q+A, the former prime minister and the Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, clashed over the media organisation’s treatment of climate science.
Turnbull told the program that News Corp had gone from being an organisation that “tended to lean more right than left to become pure propaganda”.
“The campaign on climate denial is just staggering and has done enormous damage to the world, to the global need to address global warming,” he said.
“I mean, it is so horrifically biased and such propaganda that Rupert’s own son James can’t stomach it.”
Kelly responded, saying Australia had many other publications and news outlets that were dedicated to “promoting the cause of climate change and radical action on climate change”.
“It’s OK to be a propagandist for one side, but if one is a critic or sceptic about some of these issues, that’s not OK?”
Turnbull, who has backed an e-petition initiated by the former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd calling for a royal commission into the Murdoch media, said Kelly’s response highlighted the problem with News Corp’s coverage of the climate crisis.
He said the media giant had delayed global action to address climate change by turning scientific fact into an issue of “values or identity” and countries were “paying the price”.
“You know, we had 12m hectares of our country burnt last summer, and your newspapers were saying it was all the consequence of some arsonists,” Turnbull said. “And James Murdoch was so disgusted, he disassociated himself from the family business.
“How offensive, how biased, how destructive does it have to be, Paul, before you will say – one of our greatest writers and journalists – ‘It’s enough, I’m out of it’?”
Kelly responded by telling the former prime minister not to lecture him.
“Your problem was with the right wing of the Liberal party,” Kelly said. “At the end of the day, you failed to manage it properly.
“Now, I understand you being upset about our company. But essentially, what you’re doing is you’re transferring your own political failures and wishing to blame our company for them.”
Rudd’s petition was tabled in parliament on Monday with more than 500,000 signatures.