SYDNEY Australia should throw open its doors to immigrants to make the country more competitive, media mogul Rupert Murdoch said on Thursday, in contrast to his backing for the new government's tough policy on asylum seekers.
Murdoch said the diversity created by immigration, and the ties it brings with other nations, particularly in Asia, would help give Australia a leg-up as it seeks trade relationships.
"Australia is on its way to becoming what may be the world's most diverse nation," Murdoch, head of News Corp , said in a speech to the Lowy Institute think tank in Sydney. "This is an incredible political advantage."
Murdoch contrasted Australia with the United States, which he said was being "racked by self-defeating debate over immigration policy".
The steady flow of refugee boats is a hot political issue in Australia, polarising voters, while stoking tension with neighbours like Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The new conservative Liberal-led coalition government came to power partly on the back of a tough campaign against asylum seekers, following a relaxation of border policies by the former Labor government that resulted in a rise in the number of boats. But its hardline border security policies have been criticised by the United Nations.
News Corp's media outlets in Australia were staunch supporters of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, with his best-selling Daily Telegraph tabloid urging readers to "Kick This Mob Out" over a photo of former Labor leader Kevin Rudd.
Murdoch's support for immigration did come with a caveat. Newcomers, he said, should abide by Australia's values, institutions and way of life.
"There is still a strand among some parts of Australian society who seem to value every culture except our own," he said.
Revelations about phone-hacking engulfed News Corp during the summer of 2011, forcing Murdoch to close the 168-year-old News of the World.
Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch's former British newspaper chief, and others went on trial in London this week accused of conspiring to illegally access voicemail messages on mobile phones.
News of the World ex-chief correspondent Neville Thurlbeck, former assistant news editor James Weatherup, and ex-news editor Greg Miskiw pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept communications at earlier hearings.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)