May 27, 2011

PR outfit behind Monckton backers a company ‘beyond ideology’

Last week, it was duly noted by august journals like the Australian Conservative that something called the 'Galileo Movement' had launched a website to dispute the scientific consensus behind climate change.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Last week, it was duly noted by august journals like the Australian Conservative that something called the 'Galileo Movement' had launched a website to dispute the scientific consensus behind climate change. The two elderly Noosa-based founders -- John Smeed and Case Smit -- were spurred into action by the wildly-successful visit by climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton that they co-hosted last year with mining heiress Gina Rinehart. Their "patron" is Alan Jones, who gave the group some free publicity on 2GB, and there's also a panel of advisers headed by notables like Andrew Bolt, Ian Plimer, David Flint and Bob Carter. If the world is indeed warming, then according to Smeed and Smit, this is caused not by industrial capitalism but by anodyne occurrences like Indonesian volcanos, solar radiation and ocean-atmosphere oscillations. "Carbon dioxide is a consequence of temperature, not a cause," they say. Just like their hero Galileo, people like them have been persecuted for pursuing the true climate truth against the forces of darkness. But what has gone unreported has been the involvement of Sydney-based PR conglomerate Jackson Wells in the birth of Galileo, which has added the group to its roster alongside other shining lights like British American Tobacco, the Church of Scientology and The Exclusive Brethren. Jackson Wells' job is apparently to get Galileo into the mainstream media, a task that so far has proven difficult. Much of the Galileo guff  has been penned by former Helen Coonan and Joe Hockey staffer Bob Lawrence, considered one of the architects behind John Howard's 2004 election triumph. He became involved with the duo last year on the Monckton visit, managing to shoehorn the fake Lord into most of the nation's media outlets (the triumph is recounted in Jackson Wells' recent in-house newsletter here). But Galileo has been a much tougher sell. The PR giant's more controversial clients probably aren't overly concerned by their association with the group. But the same certainly can't be said of the lilywhite Sydney Peace Foundation, which last year awarded its $50,000 annual Peace Prize to enviro-socialist warrior Vandana Shiva. The relationship with the Foundation sprouted after Jackson Wells Chairman and proud NSW ALP Central Branch member Keith Jackson attended Shiva's acceptance speech at the Sydney Town Hall and was so enraptured he offered his services to the its three-person unit for free. According to Shiva, "the system that has created climate change is being protected even if the poor and the planet have to be sacrificed to maintain that system, and even if the laws of nature and of our common humanity have to be violated." By contrast, Smit and Smeed liken the United Nations to Hitler because it banned DDT in the 1970s causing the deaths of 30 million people. And the Kyoto protocol was forged by a triple headed bastard child of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. It seems Jackson Wells is more than happy being the broadest of broad churches. Jackson, who has repeatedly posted about the perils of climate change on his "Keith Jackson's PNG Attitude" blog and agrees that Monckton uses a fraudulent salutation, told Crikey there was "no conflict" between his firm's work for Galileo and the Peace Foundation, offering a helpful primer on the concepts of ethics and free speech. "A conflict of interest is where in terms of the project work and consultancy work that an agency does on a particular project are in direct conflict with the aims of a project that would be undertaken for another client...cutting across those aims as the project defines." "Let me tell you how I work. We've got a very comprehensive code of ethics on our website. I reckon it's the best code of ethics of any public relations outfit in this country. Go and have a look at it. On ideological grounds we don't always agree with each other. There's a sense that that kind of plurality actually brings strength to a business like this." "But ideology doesn't transmit itself to the company. The company should be beyond ideology." The broader issue, Jackson says, is that anyone should be assisted to say whatever they want in a democratic society. "Those views are allowed to be promoted and argued and proselytised and even propagandised. Because that's the kind of society we live in. People died for those principles Andrew." A spokesperson for the Sydney Peace Foundation, Melissa McCullough, said that the organisation wasn't perturbed by the Jackson Wells Galileo link and confirmed that Keith Jackson was a good bloke. "The Sydney Peace Foundation supports peace and justice in particular in the area of climate change and we would support anthropogenic climate change. We promote peace and justice and the ecological wellbeing for humanity. "[But Jackson Wells' role] is an advisory role as a PR company. We still make our own decisions, we're independent and we take on board advice they may give us and strategies that they may suggest. At the end of the day, we're an independent organisation, we're three free-thinking individuals and we'll make our own decisions." "The values of Keith Jackson and the staff at Jackson Wells with whom we work match our goals," she added.

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100 thoughts on “PR outfit behind Monckton backers a company ‘beyond ideology’

  1. Sancho

    It’s hard not to admire the chutzpah required to name a scientific denialist organisation after Galileo Galilei, who was persecuted and harassed for producing observable scientific data that threatened the dominance of the most wealthy and powerful organisation of his era.

    In 2011, who is Galileo? The climatologists producing observable scientific data, or the wealthy and powerful industry lobby?

  2. Rufus Marsh

    Every time one begins to believe that Crikey might be a citable source for at least something factual one comes across cheap sneers like “fake Lord” applied to Monckton. I presume this is hearsay upon hearsay evidencing only the company Andrew Crook keeps. Monckton can easily be ascertained to be indeed the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (I haven’t checked the spelling) because his father (or grandfather but I think father) was Sir Walter Monckton and elevated to the peerage for his Cabinet and other services. He hasn’t been one of the 92 hereditary peers elected to the House of Lords and, though sneer upon hearsay upon sneer may have it otherwise, he has never been so stupid as to claim that he is a current member of the House of Lords – unless someone misheard or someone heard him joking about the matter. That he can make ready contact with a lot of sitting peers goes without saying if you know London and the UK. Now if you want a fake Lord, and don’t want to linger on some of Lloyd George’s elevations, think what it would mean to be one of Tony Blair’s picks!

    But you refer also to Monckton’s “fraudulent salutation”. What’s that?

    Have you ever met the man BTW? Have you heard him handling a serious audience’s questions?

  3. Sancho

    Which serious audiences has Monckton fronted? To my knowledge he only speaks at assemblies of committed denialists.

  4. ronin8317

    This is how it works.

    1) Deny it is happening, and refute the data
    2) When the data becomes impossible to refute, attribute it to be caused by something else
    3) When the causation becomes impossible to refute, it’ll be someone else’s problem.

    This is how the tobacco industry managed to avoid the smoking -> cancer link for 100 years.

  5. gregb

    Rufus, he uses a portcullis as header on his presentations which is eerily similar to that used by “real” lords. He is quite happy to let people believe incorrectly that he sits in the House of Lords.

  6. Sancho

    I’m surprised that isn’t mentioned more often, Ronin.

    Up to around five years ago, the pattern was complete, outright denial. Then, overnight, without the slightest acknowledgement, the denialists reversed their position to recognise the scientific data and begin denying from a new position and now get very upset at being reminded of their recent conversion.

    Imagine Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens suddenly began arguing that god exists, but religions just have the wrong idea about it, and that they’d never actually denied the existence of god at all. That wouldn’t wash for a second, but the right is fine with an identical dance around climate change.

  7. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    But you refer also to Monckton’s “fraudulent salutation”. What’s that?

    Rufus, what is fraudulent is Monckton pretends to be a member of the House Of Lords, when in reality he is not.

    He only stopped when the House of Lords threatened him with legal action.

    he has never been so stupid as to claim that he is a current member of the House of Lords

    Yes he has, multiple times. He also claims to be a Nobel prize winner, and this “joke” is repeated straight-faced on the bio of his thinktank’s website.

    Monckton’s rap sheet can be read here, and a long rebuttal presentation of Monckton’s talk can be seen here.

  8. Rufus Marsh


    But he is a “real” lord!! He is a hereditary peer whom you will find in Debrett, Burke’s Peerage and all other authoritative reference works.

    As to “he is quite happy to let people believe …. etc.” what is your authority for that? And if you are only saying that he doesn’t go out of his way to correct people who erroneously say or appear to believe that he sits in the House of Lords, what’s wrong with that? Why should he? Apparently he does nothing about the largely erroneous Wikipedia entry about him which is the work of enemies. Again, why should he? What money and personal effort should he put into either correction? And why?

  9. Penelope

    @rufus and anyone else wishing to take a look at the facts about Monckton- his rap sheet is pretty extraordinary. He is a curious specimen of a man, as indeed are most of our home grown climate deniers.

  10. Mike

    Is it any wonder that mainstream the media think of Crikey as 21st Century Animal Farm?

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