Jane Nethercote writes:

The Australian
announced its new environment reporter over the weekend:

Matthew Warren returns to The Australian as environment writer, having spent the past 12 years working in environmental policy and strategy, both in Australia and overseas. He has advised industry and governments on a range of technical and strategic environmental policy issues, from recycling to climate change, and will provide a fresh insight into this complex public debate. The Australian‘s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, and editor, Michael Stutchbury, said [the appointment was] proof the paper continued to attract the cream of the nation’s journalistic talent.

They’re right. Matthew Warren has indeed advised the government on environmental issues – in his capacity as Director External Affairs of the NSW Minerals Council, the state’s peak mining body. He’s leaving this position to take up the seat at The Oz. The paper says Warren will bring“fresh insight” insight to the issues, but will the insights of his recent employer still be fresh in his mind when he makes the switch? In June, Warren was the media contact for this release from the Minerals Council:

Activists resort to pointless media stunt in Newcastle as real environmentalists find solutions to climate change … “The publicity stunt by activists in Newcastle today is nothing more than a self-serving indulgence by a small section of the community who are blind to the fact that the world has moved on in recognising and addressing the threat of climate change,” [NSWMC Chief Executive Officer], Dr Williams said. “The coal industry has recently committed $300 million to progress low emission coal technologies. The real environmentalists are the researchers and scientists who are driving these solutions to the problem.”

It’s wrong to say that the NSWMC’s perspective is “where I come from”, Warren told Crikey this morning, as it represents only two years of a 20-year career and it “doesn’t define who I am or what I stand for”.

“My main bias is for the environment”, says Warren, “and to suggest anything else is silly”. Warren left journalism to work in the environmental field as an adviser – “out of passion” – and he’s taken up the appointment with The Oz “out of growing frustration about the quality of the public environment debate in the media”. It’s a “very important, very complex” issue, says Warren.

As for his new employer, The Australian also has some pretty strong views on this important, complex issue – like this one:

Want an even more archaic, ill-informed attitude than opposition to recycled water in a drought-stricken city? Try the old arguments against uranium mining, which have more to do with prejudice than policy. Thirty years ago, people were told that nuclear power was dangerous and that Australia was wrong to mine uranium. And plenty of people still believe it. Never mind that nuclear power is safe and clean – like recycled water. Or that the world is as short of energy as Toowoomba is of water. People who made up their minds on both issues decades ago are just not interested in all the evidence and so they stick with erroneous ideas for no better reason than they acquired them in the first (ahem) flush of youth. – Australian editorial, 29 July 2006

Australian editor in chief Chris Mitchell is on leave and his deputy Michael Stutchbury wasn’t able to get back to us before deadline.