News Limited to have hard questions to answer after phone-hacking scandal: Australian PM

13:26, July 21, 2011      

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By Vienna Ma

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday said Australians had been disturbed by the phone-hacking scandal in Britain, and News Limited Australia will have some "hard questions" to answer in the wake of the scandal.

Gillard's remarks came after media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared before a British parliamentary committee in London on Tuesday to answer questions about phone hacking at its British operations, which led to the closure of his News of the World newspaper.

The News of the World was accused of being involved in hacking the mobile phones of dead victims of crime to access messages in the pursuit of information for stories.

"When people have seen telephones hacked into, when people have seen individuals grieving 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 Ltd. here," she told Australia Associated Press in New South Wales on Wednesday.

"Obviously News Limited has got a responsibility to answer those questions when they're asked."

Gillard did not say what those questions were.

News Limited Australia chairman and chief executive, John Hartigan said it would be happy to answer the prime minister's questions about its operations.

"The prime minister's comments seek to draw a link between News Corporation operations in the UK and those here in Australia," Hartigan said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"The comments were unjustified and regrettable."

Hartigan said there is no evidence that similar behavior has occurred at News Limited in Australia.

Meanwhile, federal coalition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said if Gillard had questions, she should put them to News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch.

Turnbull, himself a former journalist, also said he did not believe phone hacking by journalists had happened in Australia.

"There is no evidence of which I'm aware that that sort of phone hacking has been going on in Australia, whether by News Limited journalists or anybody else," he said.

"If there was evidence of that, then again that is something the police should deal with."

News Limited is an Australian subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corporation and owns eight of the 12 major daily newspapers in Australia, including the only national newspaper, The Australian.

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