Having decided to break my usual habit and actually watch Insiders last week, I remain confused as ever about that program’s selection policy for its guests.  It was a poor and infuriating edition.

It appears that, despite the title Insiders, there are actually three types of guests — actual insiders — press gallery journos and senior political observers (such as the Kellys Paul and Fran); economists (usually the excellent George Megalogenis, but lately Michael Stutchbury — yes, don’t be fooled by his reflexive hatred of Labor — he’s actually supposed to be an economics journalist), and more generic commentators such as David Marr or Andrew Bolt.

Presumably the economists and commentators are there to make sure we don’t get too much gallery groupthink.

There’s also an apparent policy of balance, because a conservative gets put in the end chair, so I guess that’s a kind of fourth type of guest.

I’d have thought there would be benefit in having three actual gallery journalists on a program called Insiders.  Last week’s edition was effectively ruined by Andrew Bolt, who knows nothing about the practice of politics (after he predicted “it’s on” about a right-wing threat to Petro Georgiou some years ago, Glenn Milne accurately riposted “the only thing that’s ‘on’ is whatever Bolt is on”).

The ABC can surely do better with its selection of conservatives, unless it is engaged in some plot to make the Right look bad.  Gerard Henderson is the only conservative regular with intellectual credibility, and he has actually worked as a senior political adviser as well. The less said about the unfortunate Piers Akerman, the better.  But where’s John Roskam?  Or Gary Johns, who has been in the thick of it politically, or Mark Wooden, or Julian Leeser?  They’d make for a far more stimulating and watchable program than the current line-up.

The other thing Bolt did, of course, was instinctively turn the discussion back to denying climate change whenever he could, despite the clear interest of the audience in political analysis of the leadership crisis from Lenore Taylor and Phil Coorey.  Bolt has done that so regularly on the program that the ABC could be readily accused of giving a platform to climate denialism.

Perhaps this is evidence of the ABC’s commitment to balance.  In which case, it’s balance without judgement.

Climate denialism is on an intellectual par with 9/11 truthers, Holocaust denial and the ravings of the International Socialists.  That is what the ABC seems to promote by way of “balance”.  Genuine climate scepticism rarely gets a look-in.

We seem to never hear from climate scientists who question the predictive power of modelling, or who have different views about the balance between anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic warming, or who believe the effects of warming will be significantly less, or better for the world, than predicted. Instead, the ABC gives a run to the likes of Ian Plimer, a geologist who has no climate science credentials to speak of, or Bolt, a blogger, who repeatedly peddle the same false claims and conspiracy theories.

It’s time the ABC stopped treating “balance” as some sort of tick-a-box exercise where any old reactionary will do.  It can significantly improve the quality of debate by better reflecting the intellectual depth in conservative ranks.  And if it wants to bring balance to the climate-change debate, find some actual climate scientists to do it.

Peter Fray

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