Job for Australian ex-PM fuels fears over direction of Murdoch media empire under son Lachlan

<span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Six years ago the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott argued global warming may benefit populations, noting that more people died from cold weather than heatwaves.

The speech in London, to climate-sceptic thinktank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is now under renewed scrutiny after it was announced on Friday that he had been nominated to join the board of the Fox Corporation, part of the Murdoch family’s global media empire.

Lachlan Murdoch announced the proposed new appointment in one of his first actions since he took over the running of the family business, following the decision by Rupert Murdoch to go into semi-retirement. The proposed board appointment faced criticism this weekend as an indication of the political complexion of the business under its new boss.

Chris Wallace, professor of political history at the University of Canberra, said the decision “shows Lachlan doubling down on News [Corp’s] rightwing crusading when the costly lessons of recent and ongoing litigation suggest that’s not smart”.

The Australian Greens communications and media spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, said it was a “shockingly bad decision” and proved the need for a royal commission into the Murdoch empire. “Putting Tony Abbott on the Fox board is a brazen attack on global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.

Abbott said in 2009 that the “so-called settled science of climate change” was “absolute crap”. He joined the board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation earlier this year. The Fox press release announced his proposed appointment along with former Microsoft executive Peggy Johnson. Lachlan Murdoch, executive chair and chief executive of Fox Corporation, said: “They bring skills, experience and perspectives that will contribute to the board and benefit Fox.”

Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott said in 2009 that the ‘so-called settled science of climate change’ was ‘absolute crap’. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The nomination will be considered by shareholders at the media giant’s annual meeting later this year.

The announcement last Thursday of Rupert Murdoch stepping down from Fox Corporation and News Corp has fuelled speculation over the direction of the media empire under its new regime. While some reports have claimed Lachlan Murdoch is more rightwing than his father, Paul Verna, an analyst at Insider Intelligence, told the Los Angeles Times: “There’s not a lot of daylight between the two men.”

Lachlan was born in London, but raised in New York. He graduated with a degree in philosophy from Princeton University, where he wrote a 55-page thesis on a “study of freedom and morality” in the practical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher.

He joined the family business on graduating, holding a series of roles in Australia and the US, including short stints on the Times and the Sun, according to The Successor, a biography by Paddy Manning.

While Lachlan is reported to have less interest in newspapers than his father, he gave a lecture in 2002 in which he spoke of his love of the world of trucks, loading docks and “stacks of papers”.

Like his father, his key driving force will be the pursuit of profit, with executives, assets and star presenters at risk of being jettisoned if they are not seen to be contributing to improved financial performance.

In an earnings call for Fox in May, Lachlan commented on the departure of Tucker Carlson, who was fired from Fox News in April after the channel settled a defamation action from the firm Dominion Voting Systems.

“We’re able to move forward with programming decisions that ultimately result in the long-term growth and profitability of the business,” he said. “So that’s number one.”