Call for News review in Australia after scandal

SYDNEY, July 9, 2011 (AFP) - Australia's influential Greens party on Saturday called for a government inquiry into the local operations of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp following the scandal which saw News of the World axed.

Murdoch's global News International empire had its humble beginnings in Australia and its local arm, News Limited, has a virtual monopoly on the newspaper market, along with significant television and other assets.

Greens leader Bob Brown lodged a notice in parliament late Thursday that he intended to call for an official inquiry into News Limited to satisfy the Australian public that its work practices did not echo those used in London.

When parliament resumes in mid-August following the winter recess, Brown said he would urge the communications minister to order a review of Murdoch's Australian group.

"The operations here come under the umbrella of News International and we've got greater newspaper ownership concentration than any other country, with eight of the (nation's) 12 metropolitan dailies owned by Rupert Murdoch," Brown told AFP.

"It's important that we establish beyond statements of News International itself that the methods that have been used and have outraged the world at News of the World haven't been and won't be part of newsgathering in Australia."

News Limited has distanced itself from the phone hacking scandal, which centres on claims the soon-to-be-defunct News of the World, Britain's biggest-selling Sunday paper, hacked the voicemails of a murdered girl and the families of dead soldiers.

John Hartigan, News Ltd's chief, issued a statement Friday strongly condemning the alleged hacking and expressing his confidence that "the practices that have been uncovered in the UK do not exist in Australia."

But Brown said management assurances were not enough, given the enormity of the scandal, and it was important "for the media itself that the air is cleared" so the public could be assured such methods had no future here.

It was also important to assess any flow-on effects or ramifications for Australia of the London tabloid scandal, he added.

"We have to, and I do assume that nothing untoward has happened in Australia," Brown said.

"But I think it is such a huge implosion of ethics in the biggest-selling newspaper in the UK that we just need to sensibly, for the public good and reassurance, make sure that Australia's been totally free of any such methods."

Brown's minority Greens party has an unprecedented amount of influence in Australian politics, holding deciding votes in both the lower and upper houses after taking a record share of the vote in last year's elections.

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