Fairfax, AAP also accountable for Whitehaven:

Chris Virtue writes: Re. “Uncharted legal waters as coal hoaxer mulls jail, fines” (Friday). Would Jonathan Moylan be subject to prosecution if Fairfax had verified the authenticity of the hoax presser before reporting it as news? Shouldn’t Fairfax and AAP be the target of the ASIC investigation for misleading the market?

From the Bloomberg coverage of the hoax, we have this:

“The company’s shares plunged after the Australian Financial Review and the Australian Associated Press reported the fake statement as news. The hoax release, which mirrored the format of ANZ’s official statements, listed a phone number purportedly for Toby Kent, the head of corporate sustainability at ANZ. The number, identical to one on the green group’s website, was answered by a man who identified himself as Moylan when Bloomberg News phoned for comment.”

So how come Bloomberg’s journos are capable of using a telephone and Fairfax and AAP’s are not? It should also be noted that anyone with a stop loss on their Whitehaven holding would have sold their shares in the period between the story breaking and the trading halt being imposed. As far as I know (I read a Fairfax report, so I don’t really know for sure), those trades will stand. Is Fairfax going to be made accountable and compensate the investors who lost?

Climate science never final

Shaun Ratcliff writes: Chris Sanderson (comments, Friday) shows an alarming rush to totalitarianism in his comments published on Friday. The mistakes he makes provide the very rationale for why we should not censor speech. The climate change facts are not established and the global scientific consensus is not final. This is not because there is anything wrong with the theory of climate change. It is because facts are never established in science and nothing is ever final. To claim otherwise shows a distinct misunderstanding of the scientific method.

Real science, the kind Sanderson appears to be claiming (mistakenly) to have some understanding of, is always falsifiable. It can be replicated and tested by different people over and over again. This is the case with climate science, with independent measurements made and different theories tested against the data. Currently, according to the literature (as I understand it — this is not my area of expertise), the climate change models fit the data reasonably well, and most climate scientists accept there is a strong likelihood that anthropogenic climate change is a reality. However, future data may make the current theories less tenable and new theories about how our climate works may need to be developed.

This is why free speech is important. The only way new ideas and knowledge can be disseminated is if people have the ability to communicate freely Sometimes these writers will be wrong. Sometimes they will be offensive. This ability to be offensive and wrong should be celebrated, though. If we don’t provide the opportunity for fear of allowing ‘bad speech’, we will also block good speech. Any supporter of Crikey, which is one of the better platforms for interesting speech in Australia, should oppose these totalitarian impulses and welcome the contribution of all. If you think some commentators are wrong, don’t ask Crikey to ban them. Write in yourself and present the opposite case and trust your fellow readers to decide what is and is not worth their time reading.

David Hand writes: Chris Sanderson can chill out (to use an appropriate figure of speech) regarding his idea of getting climate deniers to the Hague charged with crimes against humanity or Tamas Calderwood charged with treason. Before any of them get their day in court, China, India and the USA will have put more than enough carbon into the atmosphere to bring about the disaster he fears. Alternatively, he can hope that Roxon’s new thought police bill becomes law. Then he can have Tamas put away by merely being offended.

Education

John Shailer writes: Julia Gillard has listed her top 2013 priority as “a giant leap forward in education”. Let’s hope she improves on her latest abysmal international rankings — Australia last in English speaking countries for year 4 reading etc, and the $16 billion Building the Education Revolution fiasco, largely wasted on “Julia Gillard” school halls etc, rather than improving teaching and curriculum standards. Don’t hold your breath!

Peter Fray

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