Contributed by Adam Carlton
Murdoch flagship the Australian has been waging a long running campaign against the construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU), and especially its Victorian leader John Setka.
The years of character assassination have been to try and destroy a union, which is seen as the leading edge of the movement, and in the way of the Murdoch empire’s dream of the de-unionisation of Australia.
Murdoch’s vendetta against the union and its leaders is part of a much wider agenda, to impose on a particularly vicious brand of politics on Australia, based on race hate, the denial of basic rights and concentration of power. With its collection of like minded writers, the media empire has been molded as the propaganda arm of this political ambition. Given the resources at its disposal, this is a dangerous organisation.
A month ago, the newspaper took the vendetta a step further, by publishing stories about Setka’s prior convictions, and used the by lines, “the only thing bigger than his biceps is his police rap sheet,” and that he had been “convicted or fined over 40 of those convictions, including for theft, assault by kicking, criminal damage and assaulting police.”
They are grossly misleading claims, which do not mention their connection with an ongoing political battle with Murdoch and the government, widely regarded to be political in nature, rather than about criminal behaviour. The Australian has never been reputed to be hugely accurate with its news.
Another article referred to claims by the prominent Turnbull minister Michaela Cash, about Setka not being fit to exert political influence, because of his “excessive criminal history.” It did not mention that the government is partisan, and has shown its desire to remove the union leader from office.
Warnings from the Office of Public Prosecutions over publishing material in these stories had been ignored.
In a pivotal case, Setka and the union’s president Shaun Reardon had been charged in December 2015, with blackmail over alleged threats made to executives of concrete company Boral two years earlier. The case collapsed in May this year.
Following this, the Director of Public Prosecutions launched proceedings against the Australian’s owners and Nick Cater, who is a former editor of the weekend edition of the newspaper and executive director of the Liberal Party associated Menzies Research Centre.
Cater was accused of having a “tendency to prejudice or interfere with the due administration of justice in the prosecution of John Setka.” In a story, published just a month before the collapse of the Setka Reardon trial, Cator wrote a story with the heading “Shorten’s just a puppet who’ll do what he is told,” in which he claimed, “Setka, on the other hand is a man with convictions, at least 40 of them at the last count.”
Given the poor prospect of waging a defence in the face of overwhelming evidence, the Australian agreed to plead guilty and struck a deal, where Cater would be removed from remove Cater from his position. They have until 28 August to make a submission about an appropriate penalty, which is due to be determined on 20 September.