SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Tuesday said it was clear media mogul Rupert Murdoch was against the Labor government but it was for others to question whether it was for commercial reasons.
As he campaigns for his political life ahead of a September 7 election, Labor leader Rudd has faced a concerted attack by the powerful Murdoch press, with Monday's Sydney Daily Telegraph calling for Australians to "kick this mob out".
"Mr Murdoch is entitled to his view, it's a democracy, a free press," Rudd told reporters, adding that the US-based billionaire owned 70 percent of newspapers in Australia.
"I think he's made it fairly clear... that he doesn't really like us and would like to give us the old heave ho and get his mate (opposition leader) Tony Abbott in. It's a free country, he can do that if that's what he wishes through a free media."
Rudd said that Melbourne-born Murdoch, who takes a keen interest in his Australian newspapers, had been blunt on Twitter that he was against Labor's plan for a National Broadband Network (NBN).
The ambitious multi-billion dollar project is set to provide high-speed broadband to all Australian homes and businesses, with 93 percent of these to have access to the network through optic fibre to premises.
Abbott has pledged to connect fibre only to local hubs rather than individual premises to save costs on a project designed to revolutionise workplaces and connect remote residents to doctors and online schools.
Rudd said there was a "strange coincidence of interests" between the views of Murdoch and the Abbott-led Liberal-National coalition.
His comment came after a report in a Fairfax newspaper, a rival of Murdoch's News Corporation Australia, said News believes the NBN poses a threat to the business model of its part-owned Foxtel cable TV company.
But in a tweet on Monday, Murdoch said: "Oz politics! We all like ideal of NBN, especially perfect for Foxtel. But first how can it be financed in present situation?"
Rudd said his government took a different view to Murdoch.
"The bottom line is, it is for others to ask the question why Mr. Murdoch really doesn't want the NBN to be connected to everyone's home, and everyone's small business premises," Rudd said.
"Does he sense that it represents a commercial challenge to Foxtel, which is a major cash cow for his company, or not?
"It's a free country, he is entitled to those views," Rudd added. "I am sure he sees it with crystal clear clarity all the way from the United States."