When it comes to debating how Australia addresses the most significant economic challenge of the coming decades, the media has a responsibility to scrutinise the claims of all sides.

Despite efforts to paint acceptance of climate change as some form of religious fundamentalism, that scrutiny has usually been most intense when aimed at the argument that we need to curb our carbon emissions. And that’s how it has been since the 1980s, when concerns about the greenhouse effect first gained widespread currency.

It would be comforting to think that the Australian media would bring to the self-interested claims of business about emissions trading the same rigour. After all, that’s what they did in the 1980s when the Hawke Government was attacking protectionism. But the Business Council of Australia has since Thursday been given mostly uncritical coverage of a deeply-flawed report that allegedly demonstrates the need for more and greater handouts to our biggest carbon polluters – at the expense of more efficient businesses and households. Whether they are pushing a conservative agenda, or simply lack the editorial interest or resources to adequately analyse a detailed report, our media have, with only a couple of exceptions, failed to play their part. It says a lot about the shallowness of public debate in Australia – and doesn’t bode well for the development of a workable emissions trading scheme.