“This is a fairly significant story. I wonder what the Prime Minister is going to say about this?” demanded 2GB shockjock Ray Hadley yesterday morning.

The “fairly significant story” was that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had ditched his plans for a carbon tax because of the likely impact on French companies, in the face of a “crushing electoral defeat” (Hadley read out great slabs of the story). “Glen from Cherrybrook” had drawn it to Hadley’s attention, sending him a link to the UK Telegraph.

There was only one tiny problem. The story was more than a year old. Sarkozy made the announcement in March 2010.

Another thing that Hadley conveniently missed out on is that France, of course, is part of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, which is now into its seventh year and next year will come to the end of Phase 2, after which it will expand. Under the scheme, France’s CO2 emissions are capped at 133m tonnes pa.

Still, basic fact checking is probably beyond a shockjock. No one else would make such an elementary mistake of getting the year wrong, surely? Although, by a strange coincidence, the same claim was made yesterday on a far-right blog. And that staunch defender of economic rigour, Sinclair Davidson, ran it as well at Catallaxy Files, although one of the commenters eventually pointed out it was “old news”. And Cory Bernardi’s right-wing, climate denialist outfit, Menzies House — chiefly famous for pulling down a savage attack on Joe Hockey — ran it as well. Someone posted it on an ABC site, suggesting a media conspiracy about it. None pointed out that the story was more than a year old and that France is part of the EU ETS.

Anyone else get taken in? Greg Hunt’s deep background on climate change issues, right from his time at university, accords him more substance in such matters than any other of his colleagues except Malcolm Turnbull. Surely Hunt was sufficiently across international developments in his portfolio to spot that it was a rehash? Alas, no. Early yesterday morning his office released a statement

French president Nicolas Sarkozy dumped a carbon tax for France, and so should Julia Gillard for Australia. The French government had planned to levy a carbon tax on households and businesses from July this year. Last week, M. Sarkozy shelved the tax.

Hunt at least woke up to the error. An hour later came a “correction” — albeit one of the more Pythonesque corrections you’ll ever see.

Australia’s government has serious questions to answer as France passes the first anniversary of the decision to shelve its controversial carbon tax. French president Nicolas Sarkozy had the good sense to dump a carbon tax for France, and there’s still time for Julia Gillard to follow suit for Australia. The French government had planned to levy a carbon tax on households and businesses, but M. Sarkozy shelved the tax.

Crikey asked Hunt’s office, which has steadfastly refused to deal with us since we published an unflattering piece last year, what the source of the mistake was, but they hadn’t responded by deadline.

Earlier this week, we reported how Tim Lambert and the crew at the Deltoid blog had sprung Julie Bishop doing the same thing, taking material from convenient climate denialist sources without checking its accuracy. Bishop ended up falsely attributing a statement to a climate scientist in her Fairfax blog.

All of us make howlers once in a while. But this is the problem with associating with and relying on climate change-denying extremists and shockjocks. Their intellectual standards are slipshod and they don’t just get science and economics wrong, they get the basics wrong, like dates and quotes, and the errors get cut and pasted across the internet without correction. And when politicians, including shadow ministers who are paid and staffed to be across issues, simply lift material without checking, they import the same standards into political debate and legitimise them.