SYDNEY - Global press baron Rupert Murdoch has urged Australia to be open to immigrants and engage more deeply with Asia, as he celebrated 50 years of the national newspaper he founded, The Australian.
Murdoch, some of whose British and American media outlets often take a hard line on migrants, said Australia, with its entrepreneurial spirit and egalitarian way of life, had a comparative advantage in a world where not all are free.
"We should be a beacon, but that means holding ourselves to high standards and not simply finding fault with others," the Australian-born mogul said at a gala dinner in Sydney on Tuesday night attended by a who's who of politicians and business leaders.
"We must be open to immigrants, to their desire to improve themselves and to the resulting improvement in our country." Murdoch, whose operations in Britain have been embroiled in a phone hacking scandal, said stalled immigration reforms in the United States were a wasted opportunity.
"It is in the collective self-interest to welcome immigrants, those who cherish the values of the country, and who are sometimes willing to risk all in the quest for a better life," he said.
The tycoon made no mention of Canberra's harsh policy for asylum-seekers, under which those arriving on unauthorised boats are denied resettlement in Australia, but sent to camps on remote Pacific islands.
But he praised the conservative leadership of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saying his team was working to trim the expense of government.
He also urged Australia to take advantage of its "unprecedented opportunity to prosper from its fortunate geography" of being near to China, Japan, India, and Indonesia.
"Our prosperity will not come from simply exporting chunks of our terrain to those nations and beyond," he said, referring to Australia's mining industry.
"It will only come if we take the time to understand these countries, to speak their languages, to welcome their students and to build on the cultural and commercial links that have evolved over the past couple of decades." Murdoch, who was upbeat about the future of newspapers, said he was proud of The Australian, the paper he started in Canberra in July 1964.
"I can say with confidence that my father, who dreamed of creating a national paper, would approve of what we have built and how the paper has pursued principle and progress in our country," he said.
Abbott, who used to be a journalist at the paper before entering politics, spoke at the event in which he said the News Corp. papers were no "ciphers" for Murdoch.
"The Australian has borne his ideals but not his fingerprints; it has been his gift to our nation," Abbott said.
Among others at the gala dinner were former prime ministers Paul Keating and John Howard, central bank governor Glenn Stevens as well as sports personalities including cricketer Ricky Ponting.