Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Rinehart battles for Fairfax board seats

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Mining magnate and Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart is continuing her fight for seats on the Fairfax board of directors. Rinehart represents one of the most right-wing sections of the Australian capitalist class and is seeking more influence over political and economic ideas in order to underpin her corporate interests.

Forbes magazine estimated that Rinehart has a personal wealth of $18 billion, with Citigroup predicting she is on course to become the world’s richest person. Rinehart’s staggering fortune has been amassed by exploiting both Australia’s natural resources and her workforce.

By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party

Noted for her role in the coup against former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, she is a fierce opponent of even modest taxes on big business. Rinehart is also active in funding climate change denying groups as well as lobbying the government for schemes to undermine workers rights and environmental protections.

Rinehart’s push to gain control of a number of seats on Fairfax’s board is aimed at securing editorial influence over the company’s holdings in radio and print media. By securing such a powerful ideological tool Rinehart hopes to further push ideas and policies that support her profit making interests.

So far the current board of directors, led by chairman and former Woolworths CEO Roger Corbett, have resisted her attempts. The failure to sign up to Fairfax’s ‘charter of editorial independence’ is the reason cited by Corbett for blocking Rinehart’s bid. But for Corbett and those he represents, the issue is not one of principled, balanced or accurate journalism.

Corbett comes from a wing of the capitalists who are not benefiting from the mining boom. He represents retail and manufacturing interests. While the capitalist class as a whole has shared interests in maintaining the profit first system, there are often sharp differences between them over how to best cut up the pie.

There are also often conflicts between them over policies which may suit one section of bosses but harm others. A debate has been raging between the mainly east coast retail and manufacturing capitalists who are demanding government assistance and the mining capitalists in the west who want less government intervention in their affairs.

In this sense Corbett’s opposition to Rinehart having board seats is more a reflection of the debates that are taking place within the capitalist class as opposed to being about journalistic principles.

Rinehart’s capture of Fairfax board seats would probably result in a rightward shift in the tone and content of Fairfax’s publications and outlets. However barracking for Corbett’s wing as an alternative is no solution. Corbett himself has just presided over the sacking of 1900 staff.

The control over production and distribution of ideas has to be taken out of the hands of a tiny self serving minority. We must support media being produced independently of big business interests. Only on the basis of a publicly owned and democratically controlled press could we ensure that journalism serves the interests of informing the majority rather than misinforming for the minority as it is today.


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