The Labor party’s national president, former Treasurer Wayne Swan, drew on Labor anger at Murdoch to make a fundraising appeal to supporters on Thursday.
In a mass email headed “Tabloid gutter trash”, Mr Swan said that Murdoch’s media would “stop at nothing” to defeat Labor.
Asking supporters for $20 donations, Mr Swan said: “These newspapers try to tear down our leaders and tear down our ideas, every time. It’s a deliberate strategy to keep conservatives in power. We need to fight back to stop their plans to do here what they did to the US.”
Murdoch’s Sydney paper, The Daily Telegraph, splashed across its front page on Wednesday an allegation that Mr Shorten had manipulated the story of his mother’s life to suit his political campaigning. The headline: “Mother of invention”.
Mr Shorten denounced it as “a new low” and, on the brink of tears, explained that it was his mother’s life that drove him in politics: “I can’t change what happened to my Mum. But I can change things for other people. And that’s why I’m in politics. That’s why I’m asking to be your prime minister.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described The Daily Telegraph allegation as a “very upsetting story”. He extended his “best wishes” to Mr Shorten and said that the election was not about Mr Shorten’s mother, nor his own.
Other Murdoch papers carried the same Daily Telegraph article less prominently but Murdoch’s Melbourne paper, the Herald Sun, declined to run it at all.
Mr Shorten – who made headlines last year when he declined Rupert Murdoch’s invitations to private meetings – said that the Australian media needed more competition.
“I was against the concentration of media ownership and I think what that creates in some parts of Australia is monopoly media, and if that power gets abused then it’s a diminution of our democracy.”
In cities including Brisbane and Adelaide, the Murdoch group owns the only newspaper.