An Australian election is due sometime before January 2008 (the date is still to be announced by the PM) and Howard is heading towards a landslide defeat. Polls over the past six months have consistently shown Howard's right-wing Liberal Party trailing the Labor opposition by a huge margin. In spite of this, the News Ltd newspaper has greeted every new poll with rabidly pro-Howard commentary and analysis.
Aussie bloggers and electoral analysts have been increasingly critical of The Australian, which today used its editorial to launch a stinging attack on its critics:
"On almost every issue it is difficult not to conclude that most of the electronic offerings that feed off the work of The Australian to create their own content are a waste of time. They contribute only defamatory comments and politically coloured analysis."The Australian's editorial staff singled out a particular pollster, Peter "Mumble" Brent, for criticism. They even rang him the night before to warn him of the coming attack!
This intimidation was rightly criticized by one of News Ltd's own bloggers, Tim Dunlop, who wrote:
"I think the editorial is ill-conceived and way off the mark in singling out Peter Brent in the way that it does. His site largely confines itself to interpretation and in doing so, provides a great service. The idea that he can’t comment without the editor of The Australian ringing him up to say they are going to “go” him is disturbing."Perhaps keeping one eye on his pay-packet, however, Dunlop went on to provide some "fair and balanced" criticism of News Ltd's major Australian competitor:
I think it is fair to say that News Ltd, including The Australian, has opened itself to comment and criticism from its readership more so than Fairfax, the other major news organisation. They have embraced readers comments and “blogs” more fully, and this site alone is evidence of that. So while most News news stories and columns allow reader comment, the same is not true of Fairfax.Within hours, however, Dunlop's critical blog post had been unceremoniously dumped from the News Ltd site!
Dunlop is a popular Aussie middle-of-the-road blogger, who accepted an invitation to blog at News Ltd because (he thought) he could be more effective "inside the tent". His criticism of his employer to date has been very limited, constrained and carefully substantiated. Obviously, however, there is a limit to Uncle Rupert's patience!