Limited News

How and Why News Limited decided the 2004 election

Why not phone the News Limited Press Gallery and tell them what you think about their complicity

An archive of internal News Limited documents from 2001 to 2004. This is a small part of the collection. Further documents will be made available.

This site is subject to Australian defamation laws — the documents are genuine.

News Limited forms part of the Murdoch media empire, and in Australia, is very influential, running the dominant newspaper in every capital city except Canberra and Perth.

News Limited sells over three quarters of metropolitan newspapers daily.

Click for an introduction by Bruce Page.

As featured on Media Watch and Margo's Webdiary

The Australian Gazette 6th April 2004 — How News Limited feared a federal Labor Government


The Australian Gazette is a daily news summary notionally written for Rupert himself (see the 11th May 2001 edition below). It is circulated to employees of News Limited in Australia.

The Australian Gazette serves to promulgate the corporate line throughout the corporation.

In this edition, the Gazette gives a clear indication of the corporate attitude to the Federal Labor Party. The fourth paragraph discusses the announced retirement of Communications Minister Daryl Williams "hopefully clearing the decks for a minister (or, gulp, shadow minister) with a better grasp of the portfolio after the election."

By April 2004, the course had already been set. News Limited clearly feared a Labor Government, but had the power to do something about it.


Page 1 with the "gulp" directive hilited (183k)

Page 1 plain (151k)




Corporate Opportunities in the Tertiary Education Export Market — 25th November 2003
— A Private Meeting to discuss outsourcing with Brendan Nelson's Minder


This is a draft memo from News Limited Canberra Manager WARWICK COSTIN to News Limited Director of Corporate Development MALCOLM COLLESS. It concerns a "private meeting" between Mr COSTIN and MARTIN RIORDAN, an adviser to BRENDAN NELSON.

The memo makes clear that News Limited has been offered an "early role" in some outsourcing set to happen in the Department of Education, Science and Training and its agencies.

Is this a clear-cut case of corruption? It is not known if the Government was to gain anything tangible from the arrangement, or even whether the opportunity was taken up. Although other documents in this collection indicate News Limited is on much better terms with the Government than with the Opposition.

The copy of the memo obtained was accidently printed on the reverse side of the corporate letterhead.


Memo (110k)

Letterhead on reverse side (66k)

Another copy on plain paper (93k)



News Limited 2004 Federal Election Marginal Seats Guide
— Guided democracy


The News Limited 2004 Marginal Seats Guide is an internal News Limited document giving statistical details on the 30 most marginal federal seats. It gives a small but significant insight into News Limited's strategy for manipulating public opinion so as to achieve a very specific outcome from the coming 2004 federal election.

The guide was prepared during March and April in Canberra by News Limited Canberra Business Manager WARWICK COSTIN and presented with an unexceptional but rather cringe-inducing speech to an audience of News Limited employees.

The guide consists of a page of demographic information for each of the 30 most marginal federal seats, together with a couple of pages with introductory notes implying that the document is for News Limited employees only and placing the contents in the context of the election.

The demographic information for each seat is "simply a collection of details from drawn from the Parliamentary Library's Information and Research Services Group." Ostensibly, the guide would be something useful to a News Limited journalist in covering the coming federal election, in that it enables quick analysis of how political events are likely to influence the most crucial seats in the coming election.

However the version of the guide obtained is a working version, and there is an additional page that takes the form of a "note to self". This page places the guide in a wider and more disturbing context, and importantly, the themes found in this note are reflected throughout the guide as a whole.

The page in question reads as follows:

Issues --- household debt

Interest rates pressure

Hip pocket nerve -- families in particular

Education -- schools

Catholic vote re schools, Latham attacks on church

Terrorism and national security -- Islam voters in marginals

Go through Marginal Seats Guide in detail, from breakdown of parties.

The note makes reference to the Guide, and the Guide itself reflects the same themes. The demographic summary of each seat features information pertinent to these issues. Notably, there are specific categories for the ranking of the electorate in terms of its Catholic and Muslim populations, but no other religion, reflecting the references to the religions in the note. There is no reference to Health in the Guide nor in the note, yet it is an issue of high importance to voters and to Labor. And there is the reference to "Latham attacks on church".

The note is undeniably partisan and its influence is reflected throughout the entire Guide.

A fair and reasonable interpretation of the guide is that, apart from its obvious journalistic uses, it is an aid to selecting and nuancing news coverage in News Limited's dominant daily newspapers so as to influence voters in marginal seats. If it is merely journalism, why has it been left to a senior Business Manager to prepare the document and present it to employees? There were almost certainly journalists in the audience, why not get one of them to do the tedious research?

The manner of News Limited's bias is not explicit. It is subtle and nuanced. It is smart, because it does not target political parties, it targets issues and individual politicians. Bias starts within the news coverage itself, in the choice of issues and their emphasis.

In a sense, this is not a surprise at all. News Limited's editorials make absolutely clear what News Limited considers are important issues. And these issues are bannered prominently on the front pages of its tabloids and national newspaper daily.

What is a bit surprising is that it would be so strategic — the corporation's pet issues are targeted to marginal seats in the lead up to an election. The issues in the note may have been selected by News Limited itself or in consultation with the Howard Government. There is no evidence that the issues were selected on a fair-minded assessment of what the issues ought to be in a fairly-covered election campaign. For instance the alternative Government can be expected to campaign on Health pretty strongly, yet it is absent. The note's list of issues is instead a fait accompli. News Limited's management has identified its election issues, and they probably will be the election issues, such is News Limited's influence. News Limited's "real-politik assessment" of what the election issues will be is a self-fulfilling prophesy. This political "realism" is most likely how News Limited's journalists would be persuaded to focus on these issues, in spite of many of them being Labor-sympathetic.

There is other documented evidence of News Limited's fear of a Federal Labor government. One such example is The Australian Gazette for Tuesday, April 6 2004 (see above). And the corporation's unhealthy interest in marginal seats is not new. There is this quote from the Canberra Operations 2001 Annual Report (see below): "Political notes and advice on marginal electorates were given to Malcolm Colless". Notably, this is under the "corporate" section of the report, not under the "parliamentary" section. Taken together with the marginal seats strategy, we see News Limited clearly campaigned on behalf of the Howard Government up to the federal election.

Notably, the Guide was prepared for release in time for the federal budget, and early enough to accommodate an early election. News Limited and the Howard Government may be working together closely.

Those who believe in Australian democracy must recognise News Limited as something akin to another political party, absolutely crucial to shaping public opinion, having skilled and motivated paid staff across the nation, and possibly having reader loyalty at comparable levels with the party-political loyalty voters have to a major party. The first step to taking back our democracy is a wide recognition within the polity of the reality of News Limited's central role in managing Australian democracy for the benefit of a select few.

Key pages

[TXT] Cover (33k)

[TXT] Introduction (93k)

Page 1 (61k)

Seat list (76k)

Speech page 1 (111k)

Speech page 2 (112k)

A typical seat profile: Eden-Monaro (90k)

Marginal seat issues (40k)

Other pages

(Even numbered pages are Australian Electoral Commission maps)

Page 11 (90k)

Page 13 (93k)

Page 15 (83k)

Page 17 (90k)

Page 19 (84k)

Page 21 (90k)

Page 23 (91k)

Page 25 (86k)

Page 27 (87k)

Page 29 (87k)

Page 31 (100k)

Page 33 (102k)

Page 35 (96k)

Page 37 (65k)

Page 39 (93k)

Page 41 (86k)

Page 43 (88k)

Page 45 (91k)

Page 47 (63k)

Page 49 (61k)

Page 51 (95k)

Page 53 (94k)

Page 55 (98k)

Page 57 (104k)

Page 59 (93k)

Page 61 (90k)

Page 63 (87k)

Page 65 (87k)

Page 67 (89k)

Alternate version of Banks profile (131k)

(Seat profile for Solomon is absent from the collection)


The Australian Gazette — other 2004 editions

26th March 2004

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

9th April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

See page 1 for an unambiguous editorial directive on the occupation of Iraq.

10th April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

12th April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

See page 2 for a particularly idiotic comment on the SMH and the occupation of Iraq.

13th April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

14th April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

23rd April 2004

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3



The Australian Gazette 11th May 2001 — addressed to Murdoch


This edition of The Australian Gazette shows that it is notionally written for Rupert himself.

It announces the upcoming wedding of Rupert and Wendi Deng, referring to Murdoch in the second person.

It was first published on Sydney IndyMedia.


Page 1 (223k)

Invitation to a National Party Fundraiser from the Director of Corporate Development MALCOLM COLLESS

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

News Limited Canberra Operations 2001 Annual Report

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3 vers 1

Page 3 vers 2

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7




Selling Knowledge Nation — 22nd October 2001
— Cash for Comment at half a million dollars


This is a draft of a Cash for Comment offer made to the ALP during the 2001 Federal Election. The offer is for an advertising supplement to spruik Knowledge Nation in News Limited's dominant Sunday newspapers. The asking price is half a million dollars.

It is Cash for Comment on a grand scale — as with the John Laws scandal, it is the advertiser making the offer. But this time, it is an offer to a political party during a federal election campaign.

The offer is in effect comment for cash because News Limited plays up its alleged credibility. In the document, News Limited suggests that its "high credibility" will "deliver this message effectively". On the contrary, the document shreds News Limited's credibility.

Unsurprisingly, it seems the ALP turned the offer down. This document was first published on Sydney IndyMedia.


Page 1

Page 2

Page 1 penultimate draft

Page 2 penultimate draft



The Australian Gazette — 7th April 2004
— Author of The Australian Gazette revealed


Most editions of The Australian Gazette so far published on this site were not written by its usual author.

This edition gives a clue to the identity of its long-standing author — on page 2 it notes it is his 75th birthday and gives his name — Arnold.

There is only one Arnold in the News House phone directory — ARNOLD EARNSHAW. Is he the shadowy conductor of News Limited's corporate choir?


Page 1

Page 2 featuring notice of Arnold's birthday

Page 3

This is a small part of the collection. Further documents will be made available.


A list of websites that link to Limited News