Canberra: Rupert Murdoch`s eldest son denied
on Saturday that he was present when a former Australian senator
alleges a News Corp executive offered him favourable newspaper
coverage and "a special relationship" in return for voting
against government legislation.
Australian police are investigating former Senator Bill
O`Chee`s allegations that during a 1998 lunch, News Corp
executive Malcolm Colless offered him inducements in the form
of editorial favours to vote against the conservative
government`s legislation on the creation of digital TV in
News Corp stood to profit from the legislation failing.
O`Chee said yesterday that Murdoch`s son Lachlan, then a
senior News Corp executive, was at the restaurant table during
crucial parts of his discussion with Colless about digital TV.
Lachlan Murdoch, now an Australian television network
board member, dismissed O`Chee`s account as a "fabrication."
"I have never been involved in lobbying Mr O`Chee on any
issue," Murdoch said in a statement today.
O`Chee stood by his account. "Of course he would say
that," he said.
Murdoch accepts that he and O`Chee were at the same
upscale restaurant in the eastern city of Brisbane, although
he says he no longer has any recollection.
News Corp editor Chris Mitchell recalls going to lunch
with Murdoch that day and introducing him to O`Chee as they
passed his table on the way out.
"We did not sit down and spoke for a minute before we
left to return to work," Mitchell said in a statement. "There was
no discussion of any particular subject. Only polite hellos."
News Corp`s Australian subsidiary News Ltd has denied
allegations of improper conduct and said two guests who shared
the table with Colless and O`Chee did not hear any improper
Offering a senator a bribe or inducement to influence a
vote is an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison.