Murdoch tabloid lampoons Australian prime minister as Nazi

Kevin Rudd accuses Murdoch of using papers to help opposition win power in order to protect his commercial interests

A Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid newspaper has angered Australia’s Labor government by portraying the prime minister and deputy prime minister as Nazis on its front page.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph yesterday lampooned Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd as Col Klink, the Nazi commander from 1960s comedy Hogan's Heroes, while deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese was portrayed as Sgt Schultz.

The caricature came after Mr Albanese was spotted in a German-themed bar in Sydney having a drink with Craig Thomson, a former Labor MP who is facing fraud charges. Mr Thomson is seen as the eponymous Hogan in the image.

The story not only took up the paper’s entire front page, it also featured as three separate stories on pages four and five and was the subject of its lead editorial.


Grainy photograph
A very grainy photograph of Mr Albanese and Mr Thomson in the Bavarian Bier Cafe, which seems to have been taken on a camera phone, accompanied the double-page spread.

In response, Mr Albanese – widely known as Albo – said: “Hold the front page: Albo likes a beer after work.”

Mr Rudd also sought to play down the story. “I do many things in life but supervising the drinking activities of my ministerial colleagues is not one of them,” he said.

The impact of the image may have been lessened by the paper having to go to great lengths to explain what Hogan's Heroes is – the programme's run on Australian television ended more than 40 years ago.

'Kick this mob out'
Mr Rudd announced last Sunday that Australia's federal election will be held on September 7th. Monday's Daily Telegraph front page invited its readers, in a huge, all-capitals font, to "KICK THIS MOB OUT".

On Wednesday, Mr Rudd accused Mr Murdoch of using his newspapers to help the opposition Liberal-National coalition win power in order to protect his commercial interests. News Limited controls 70 per cent of metropolitan daily newspapers sold in Australia.

The prime minister said Mr Murdoch had shown “through his own direct statements that he wants Mr Abbott to replace me as prime minister”.

Mr Rudd suggested that the national broadband network – which will deliver a high-speed fibre-optic internet connection to almost all Australian homes if Labor retains power – is seen by Mr Murdoch as a direct threat to his Foxtel cable television company.

In a statement, Foxtel and News Ltd’s parent company News Corporation said: “Any suggestion that the editorial position of our newspapers is based upon the commercial interests of Foxtel demonstrates a complete ignorance of both our business and of Foxtel.”

A poll on Monday in the Australian newspaper (also owned by Mr Murdoch) showed the Liberal-National coalition leading Labor 52-48 after preferences, though it found Mr Rudd still personally more popular than Liberal party leader Tony Abbott.

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins a contributor to The Irish Times based in Sydney