Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery has dismissed a Daily Telegraph story attacking his credibility on global warming as “laughable”.
The five-par “exclusive” appeared on page 10 of the nation’s second-biggest selling weekday tabloid today. In it, reporter Gemma Jones cited a recent Galaxy poll of 1051 Australians paid for by the Institute of Public Affairs.
However, the actual findings of the Galaxy Poll, taken two weeks ago and flicked to Crikey by the conservative think tank, show that a different interpretation would have produced a very different story.
“I don’t think it was an example of balanced reporting,” Flannery told Crikey. “You just have to accept these things after awhile. I don’t think it’s funny, I just think it’s laughable.”
Under the headline: “Tim Flannery’s like the weather: unreliable”, Jones pointed out that “a quarter” of Australians thought Flannery was unreliable. “Less than a third”, found him somewhat or very reliable, she said.
A strange angle, you’d think, given that more people found Flannery reliable (31%) than unreliable (24%). A killer quote from Melbourne University young Liberal warrior-turned IPA researcher James Paterson was included, criticising Flannery for “regularly making predictions that have turned out to be false”.
Flannery was permitted a short closing response on the need to focus on facts not opinion.
Galaxy also took a different view.
“Opinion on the reliability of Tim Flannery as a source of information about climate change is divided,” Galaxy explained in its “Main Findings” section.
The reason? More people actually found him reliable (31%) than unreliable (24%). A crucial additional fact from the survey went unreported. The greatest number, 45%, were uncommitted.
Galaxy explains: “A sizeable minority (45%) are uncommitted. This will include those not sure how reliable he is as a source of information as well as those who don’t know who he is.”
So, 76% of respondents had either a positive or neutral opinion of Flannery. But Jones’ lede took the minority perspective:
A QUARTER of Australians say Tim Flannery is an unreliable source of information about climate change, a new survey reveals.
And, what about the headline (albeit probably not written by Jones): “Tim Flannery’s like the weather: unreliable”. A more accurate summation might have emphasised an opposite or neutral view, perhaps employing Galaxy’s key word “divided”.
Galaxy research director Peter Matthew explained that the limited scope of the poll appeared to be the result of “…someone who’s just wanted to get a point or a headline inserted into an omnibus”.
There was a second question attached to the survey asking whether anthropogenic climate change was real, as previously reported here on the IPA website.
“Only a third of Australians think the world is warming and humans are to blame, according to a Galaxy poll commissioned by the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.”
An alternative reading of the data would show that, in fact, more respondents agreed with the statement saying humans were to blame (34%) than an alternative proposition that variations in global temperature are “just part of the natural cycle of nature” (29%). Thirty-six percent there was conflicting evidence and they did not know what the truth was.
The Daily Telegraph has been dining out on the IPA’s scoops in recent weeks.
On March 13, Jones was responsible for this story using a few quotes from an academic on university website The Conversation to question whether Flannery’s predictions of a “drying trend” chafed with instances of recent rainfall. Flannery’s Commission protested that the newspaper was getting confused between climate and weather.
On March 20, the Tele ran with this IPA-Galaxy survey reporting that New South Welshman were concerned about electricity prices ahead of the carbon tax, which according to ABC Drum favourite and Baillieu government election night partier Tim Wilson, would increase prices from July 1.
The IPA’s John Roskam told Crikey this morning “that he didn’t have a view one way or another” on the merits of Jones’ reporting.
“But I am sure you have a view on this Andrew and I’m sure I will read all about it at about 1pm today,” he said.
According to a Canberra colleague, Jones is now on “three weeks leave” and could not be contacted. Daily Telegraph editor Paul Whittaker did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.