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.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.