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Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, center, and former President Trump.

Photo by The White House

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has never publicly claimed to be a QAnon supporter; in fact, he recently slammed the far-right conspiracy cult as "dangerous." But journalist David Gilbert, in an article published by Vice, examines the connection between Morrison and someone who is: Tim Stewart, described by Gilbert as "Australia's foremost QAnon booster."

Gilbert notes that Four Corners, a television series on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was recently planning to air a report that addressed Morrison's connection to Stewart — who, according to Gilbert, he has known for 30 years — but said it decided to hold off on airing it because of editorial concerns. At a news conference in Canberra last week, Australia's capitol city, Morrison was vehemently critical of Four Corners — saying that it was "really poor form" for the program to delve into allegations that he has some type of connection to QAnon.

Morrison told reporters, "I find it deeply offensive there would be any suggestion I would have any involvement or support for such a dangerous organization. I clearly do not. It is just also disappointing that 'Four Corners,' in their inquiries, would seek to cast this aspersion — not just against me, but (on) members of my own family."

Gilbert notes that Stewart, who has 20,000 followers on Twitter, was a "vocal" supporter of QAnon "from the very beginning."

"Morrison and Stewart have been friends for 30 years because their wives, Jenny Morrison and Lynelle Stewart, are best friends," Gilbert explains. "The pair were bridesmaids at each other's weddings, and today, Lynelle Stewart works for her friend in the prime minister's residence in Sydney, where she holds a government security clearance."

Members of the QAnon cult believe that the government of the United States has been infiltrated by an international ring of child sex traffickers, pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals and that Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 to lead the fight against the cabal. In the U.S., some far-right Republicans have openly endorsed QAnon, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

Morrison, meanwhile, has never openly endorsed QAnon in Australia — and he expressed outright contempt for them recently. But as Gilbert explains in his Vice article, some QAnon extremists thought Morrison was giving them a coded signal of approval during an October 22, 2018 speech before the Australian Parliament in which he "apologized" for child abuse on behalf of the government.

Morrison said, "The crimes of ritual sexual abuse happened in schools, churches, youth groups, scout troops, orphanages, foster homes, sporting clubs, group homes, charities, and in family homes as well." And Gilbert notes that Morrison's use of the word "ritual" caught the attention of QAnon supporter Joe M., who tweeted, "Do my ears deceive me? The new Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison must be a rider in #TheStorm."

"The storm" is one of the terms used by QAnon, whose members have often spoke of "ritual" abuse. But a spokesperson for Morrison told the website Crikey that the prime minister's use of that word had nothing to do with QAnon.

According to that spokesperson, "The term 'ritual' is one that the prime minister heard directly from the abuse survivors and the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Reference Group he met with in the lead-up to the apology, and refers not just to the ritualized way or patterns in which so many crimes were committed, but also, to the frequency and repetition of them."

Morrison's supporters have maintained that his use of the word "ritual" during that 2018 speech is a non-story, and that the prime minister has nothing to do with QAnon. Nonetheless, Gilbert notes that the story has persisted.

Gilbert explains, "The link between Morrison and Stewart wasn't reported in the media until months later when the Guardian linked Morrison and Stewart…. The controversy has not gone away. And whether or not the 'Four Corners' episode was pulled or simply delayed due to editorial concerns…. it will be aired at some point, meaning Morrison will have a lot more questions to answer about his links to Stewart and to QAnon."

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Rupert Murdoch

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Imagine if the toxic nature of Rupert Murdoch media's lies and bullying became so overpowering in America that a bipartisan movement sprang up against it. Imagine if former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush came together to demand a Congressional inquiry into Fox News and the danger Murdoch poses to our democracy.

That's what recently happened in Australia, when former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull — occupying different parts of the political spectrum — joined forces to denounce the Murdoch media cancer that's eating the country. They're urging the government to take steps to diversify media ownership and to break up the dangerous coalition that now exists between right-wing politicians and the Murdoch press, which serves as an unaccountable, but extremely powerful, entity in Australian politics.

Parliament hearings were held after Rudd's petition to establish a royal commission into media diversity became Australia's largest-ever e-petition, and the country's third largest petition of any kind.

Rudd, a progressive, has labelled Murdoch's' empire a "cancer" on the country, while the center-right Turnbull branded it "an absolute threat to our democracy." Both men were targeted by the Murdoch media machine when they were in power. Turnbull actually pointed to the destruction Murdoch has done to Australia's "most important ally," the United States, and specifically the Fox News-backed January 6 insurrection, and warned Australia was headed for the same type of democratic calamity. (We'll never know how many thousands of people Fox News killed during the pandemic by spreading lies to its mostly elderly audience about the virus, and then the vaccine.)

In Australia, Murdoch media's relentless attack on climate change has already fed sweeping natural disasters, most notably the epic bushfires in 2019 and 2020, which killed dozens of people, more than a billion animals perished, and 2,000 homes were lost.

Murdoch's media concentration there is unmatched. His News Corp controls 60 percent of newspapers in Australia, the country where he was born. To get a sense of his pull Down Under, that would be as if he not only owned the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the U.S. but also the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, and used them all to pump out toxic, right-wing misinformation. In Australia, he does it for the counter-intuitively named Liberal Party. It's News Corp that effectively governs the country and makes policy by using its vast media properties to push politicians around.

News Corps also owns the country's second-biggest news website news.com.au and 24-hour channel Sky News Australia. (Murdoch might soon make Fox News available in Australia.) The country recently ranked third in the world for media concentration, behind only the state-owned media of China and Egypt.

"The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Labor Party, it is News Corporation," Rudd warned. "And it is utterly unaccountable. It is controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with our own." He added, "We are drowning in lies."

That feeling of disdain may be spreading. Last year, a News Corp finance manager sent a stinging, all-staff email as she resigned. "I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies," she wrote. She described the news reports that came out Murdoch's The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun as "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

All during Australia's Black Summer of 2019, as deadly bushfires spread, "News Corp's massive misinformation campaign defended fossil fuel interests, accused arsonists of being the major cause of the fires and repeatedly attacked individuals who advocated urgent action on climate change," Al-Jazeera reported.

Months after the Black Summer, State Environment Minister Matt Kean broke ranks with the conservative government when he delivered a speech calling for stronger action on climate change and criticized those that treat the issue as a "matter of religion" rather than science. He clearly stated that the unprecedented bushfires had been caused by climate change. Kean then became a prime Murdoch media target, especially from his largest Australian tabloid.

"The attack on him in the [Daily] Telegraph following that was bitter, vicious and personal," Turnbull testified last month. "And it was designed not only to punish him but it sends a message, and this is how it operates like a gang, like a mafia gang, it sends the message, 'If you step out of line you'll cop some of this, too.' That's the threat. So other politicians look at that and say, 'Oh gosh I don't want to go there.' That is the reality."

In the U.S., Fox News was first created to serve as an obedient megaphone for the Republican Party, loudly spreading its talking points. Over the last two decades, the network has taken a much more proactive position, often launching attack campaigns against liberals and Democrats, which the GOP eventually signed on to.

Now, as in Australia, we're seeing signs of Fox News and other Murdoch properties ascending to the role of party disciplinarian and punishing players who fall out of line. Look no further than the Murdoch media attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has emerged as a rare, intra-party Trump critic and who voted for his impeachment this year.

America and Australia remain uniquely plagued by the Murdoch cancer.