'Hard questions' for News Corp in Australia: PM

SYDNEY, July 20, 2011 (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday warned Rupert Murdoch's local holdings faced some "hard questions" as calls intensified for a media inquiry following the British hacking scandal.

Gillard declined to comment on Murdoch's grilling by British MPs over the outcry that saw him close tabloid News of the World and dump his bid for satellite broadcaster BSkyB but said the Australian public was concerned.

"I'm not going to engage in running commentary on testimony but I do believe Australians... are looking at News Limited here and are wanting to see News Limited answer some hard questions," the prime minister said.

The Australian operation of Murdoch's News Corp, News Limited, dominates the local media, with extensive newspaper, television, Internet and other holdings.

Its Australian chief John Hartigan has insisted there has been no similar wrongdoing at News Limited but has launched a review of all payments made over the past three years to ensure they were legitimate.

Hartigan has also vowed to cooperate with any Australian media inquiry after Greens party leader Bob Brown said he would call for a review of ownership and regulation -- a bid backed Wednesday by Australia's journalists' union.

Gillard indicated she was open to the idea, and said the scale of what had happened in Britain had prompted reflection in Australia.

"I'm certainly not making any conclusions, quite the reverse," she said.

"All I'm saying is when... people have seen telephones hacked into, when people have seen individuals grieving (who) have to deal with all of this, then I do think that causes them to ask some questions here in our country, some questions about News Limited here.

"And obviously News Limited's got a responsibility to answer those questions when they're asked."

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