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Apr 15, 2014

The Dirty Dozen: Australia’s biggest climate foes, part 1

Who are the 12 people doing the most to block action on climate change in Australia? With a new government in place, and Australia's emissions stubbornly high, we name and shame a fresh Dirty Dozen ...

Clive Hamilton — Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University

Clive Hamilton

Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University

Who has been most responsible in recent times for preventing progress in the reduction of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions? The Dirty Dozen — which I originally named in 2006 and updated in 2009 — are the people who have most effectively denied the science of climate change, lied about its implications, lobbied to water down laws, or provided cover for weak policy.

They are doing most to help turn Australia from a reluctant leader into a proud laggard in responding to the most dire threat to the world’s future. Some are well-known — even if their links and tactics are not — while others do their dirty work behind the scenes. Here is my Dirty Dozen for 2014, in no particular order …

Chris Mitchell

Where to start with The Australian’s editor-in-chief? How about here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here or, if you can’t be bothered clicking on all of those, look here or here.

Just as his reporters repeatedly misrepresent the science of climate change and blacken the names of eminent scientists, so Mitchell’s opinion editors are always willing to turn over their pages to whatever disinformation is being peddled by the likes of Ian Plimer, Bob Carter and Bjorn Lomborg, plus blowhards like Maurice Newman and George Pell. Even the loopy Lord Christopher Monckton gets space.

Otherwise-good journalists at The Australian allow themselves to be sucked into Mitchell’s vortex of paranoia about all things green. At the heart of his relentless campaign of anti-science and debunking of measures to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions is a visceral hatred of environmentalism, especially the Australian Greens, whom he wants to “destroy”.

In 2009 the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the oil and gas lobby group, awarded Mitchell the JN Pierce Award for Media Excellence “for leading the newspaper’s coverage of climate change policy”, which proves that the greenhouse mafia does have a sense of humour. As a sign of his endurance, Mitchell’s is the only name to appear in all three Dirty Dozens.

Tony Abbott

What to say that everyone does not already know? Environmentalism was not around when his spiritual mentor was wielding his influence, but Bob Santamaria would have feared and hated it. His spirit lives on in the magazine he ran, News Weekly, which now reports on “how the globalist powers are using environmental scares to achieve the same ends that the older socialists could not quite pull off”.

This is Abbott’s real opinion. He has never changed from the ex-seminarian who turned up at the University of Sydney as Santa’s bully boy, but if he ever wavered, his two closest mentors — George Pell (“the Greens are sweet camouflaged poison”) and John Howard (the “agnostic” who launched Ian Plimer’s latest piece of anti-science) — would soon return him to the straight and narrow.

Ian McNamara

For too long the presenter of ABC Radio’s Sunday morning program Australia All Over has flown under the radar. When not chatting about the weather in Nuriootpa, Macca’s huge cohort of two million listeners (enough to make other shock jocks weep) is prone to debunking climate science and ridiculing renewable energy. He draws in his salt-of-the-earth listeners with a kind of folksy bush wisdom that has little time for eggheads with PhDs in atmospheric physics. Periodically, listeners complain to the ABC about McNamara’s “pot shots” at global warming and his penchant for inviting on his right-wing mates. If ABC management wants the definitive response to conservative politicians who complain that its coverage of climate change is biased (because it reports real science), it should point to Australia All Over. Macca beats Amanda Vanstone hands down as the ABC’s “right-wing Phillip Adams”.

But shouldn’t McNamara’s place among the Dirty Dozen be taken by Andrew Blot? Compared with McNamara’s numerous and impressionable listeners, Bolt’s 300,000 readers are beyond persuasion because they have already drunk the denier’s Kool-Aid. It’s true that Bolt’s impact has been multiplied by the activities of the keyboard militia of aggro deniers who fire off volleys of abuse to the “warmists” he rails against. However, most warmists now understand that the militia makes a lot of unpleasant noises but only fires blanks. The influence of Bolt on the landscape of climate denial has been exhausted.

Gina Rinehart

Climate science deniers arrange themselves on a spectrum of respectability. Those who don’t want to be seen to be swivel-eyed lunatics associate with Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation and critics like Roger Pielke Jr. (which is why Pielke hated being named by Foreign Policy as a top “skeptic”). At the other end are those like Gina Rinehart, who think Christopher Monckton is a man to be listened to. So she pays for the loopy Lord to come to Australia and thrusts him onto Notre Dame University to deliver the Lang Hancock Memorial Lecture.

Rinehart is every inch her father’s daughter. An implacable red-hater, Lang Hancock wrote “capitalism means life — environmentalism means death”. To counter their lies one should “aim at their jugular vein”, which is presumably what Rinehart likes in Monckton when he put a quote from respected economist Ross Garnaut next to a giant swastika and said “Heil Hitler”.

Rinehart is a major funder of the Institute of Public Affairs, the primary conduit of denier talking points in Australia. The IPA’s 70th birthday party last year was a love-in for the nation’s most powerful climate deniers; Murdoch, Pell, Bolt, Rinehart, Abbott, all co-ordinated by IPA executive director (and former Rio Tinto employee) John Roskam.

Innes Willox

If the Minerals Council decided to replace a hard man (Mitch Hooke) with a persuader (Brendan Pearson), the Australian Industry Group has gone the other way, replacing Heather Ridout with Innes Willox. Willox has made himself into the enforcer of the greenhouse mafia, pushing the hardest line against measures to limit emissions. He is said to draw out the worst in other industry lobbyists, who breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves the room.

Willox was a well-liked journo and chief of staff at The Age who worked his way, via a PR job with Singapore Airlines, into being Alexander Downer’s chief of staff, leaving his former colleagues mystified. In last year’s election campaign he mimicked Tony Abbott’s “scrap the tax” crusade.

Ian Plimer

Plimer is the chief ideologist of climate denial in Australia. The geologist is too busy to have his ideas on climate science published in refereed journals, but his 2009 book Heaven & Earth sold 40,000 copies, a publishing success for right-wing Catholic boutique publisher Connor Court and a sign of the appetite for anti-science. Described as “largely a collection of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories that are rife in the blogosphere”, the tome sits on a scarily large number of bookshelves in Parliament House. Plimer is closely linked to the IPA and to the thoroughly nasty Heartland Institute and is close to Gina Rinehart, who has put him on the boards of some of her companies, including Roy Hill Holdings.

Plimer’s 2011 book — How to Get Expelled From School (launched by John Howard and mailed by the IPA to hundreds of schools) — listed 101 questions for sceptical students to ask their “warmist” teachers, i.e. those who respect science. The federal Department of Climate Change (abolished by Abbott) prepared a response that thoroughly debunked his claims in words a child can understand. How long before Environment Minister Greg Hunt is instructed to have this demolition of Plimer taken down?

*Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and author of Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change. 

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31 thoughts on “The Dirty Dozen: Australia’s biggest climate foes, part 1

  1. rhwombat

    Go Clive, you good thing!

  2. Interrobanging On

    Clear, smart and incisive. Just the sort of thing that has no place in Abbott’s Australia, where thinking is suspect.

    Fingering McNamara is a revelation.

  3. seriously?

    Great piece. Interesting perspective on “Macca” – i guess that folksy, salt-of-the-earth style of propaganda may well be more pervasive, but for sheer bloody-mindedness bolter deserves a gong.

  4. SusieQ

    Does Ian McNamara really have that many listeners??? Amazing….I thought he spent most of his program promoting himself up to worry too much about anything else.

  5. rossmcg

    As others say McNamara is in interesting inclusion, bug then again I haven’t listened to him in decades. But I know people who do and they tend to be anti green Tory types. Now I know why they find him appealing.

  6. Pete from Sydney

    hate to be picky but saying Mitchell wants to ‘destroy the Greens’ and an editorial saying ‘they should be destroyed at the ballot box’ presumably by voters are two different things aren’t they?

  7. Boerwar

    Macca fell thoroughly in love with himself a fair while ago, so it is little wonder he knows more about climate science than 97% of the world’s climate scientists.

    Apart from that, a fundamental element in Macca’s core constituency is older, white, poorly-educated, rural males. Their Nationals representatives are quite happy to feed ignorance with more ignorance by means of the World’s Greatest Retail Politician. Talk about an endless loop of climate ignorance.

    Macca’s Rural Climate Cognoscenti mostly know much more about climate science than 97% of the world’s climate scientists, so Macca himself is a good fit.

    Macca sucks up to the innate nobility of these sages of the bush with his hokey folk schmaltz.

    The really entertaining segments are when drought strikes. The climate change (whoops, climate ‘variability’) elephant can be heard delicately tip- toeing through the dust bowls.

    The more alert amongst the devoted Maccaloonies (less those who walked off WA’s wheatbelt because because of climate variability) will already be fretting about what the next El Nino has in store for them.

    Still, listening to Macca from sparrow fart on Sundie might just be enough reassure their cotton picking minds that all that noise about AGW is simply a nefarious global socialist plot

  8. Simon Mansfield

    As usual Clive forgot to include himself and the Green Five who in 2009 failed to support the CPRS setting in train the collapse of Australia’s first progressive government in 12 long years. Oh that’s right it would have locked in failure, cost money to further tighten and given Bob nothing to campaign against. Well there’s plenty of failure locked in after July 1 when the sin tax is binned along with any action on climate change for a decade or more. Good work Clive.

  9. MJPC

    Clivr, thank you for identifying these individuals. When our grandchildren ask why nothing was done to abate the affects of climate change it will be nice to put a face to the envirocriminal.

  10. Freja

    Please stop calling Christopher Monckton a Lord. He is not a Lord so please don’t call him one.

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