Archive for May, 2010

Ground breaking television

May 31, 2010

Hearing is believing. A new sensation on the ABC

I don’t know if I should appologise to Tony Jones. After accusing him of having a biased show just yesterday, in the selection of both the  panel and audience, I listened last night to Maxime McKew being jeered and ridiculed by the studio audience. In addition, any mention of Kevin Rudd’s inadequacies was met either with laughter or very enthusiastic applause. This was ground breaking television, and certainly never heard before on QandA.

My conclusion is that either the audience was chosen, just for once, to largely reflected Autralian opinion — in which case their reactions are unsurprising — or, if indeed it were the usual QandA, ABC-branch-stacked audience, then one can only conclude that Kevin Rudd is really, really in deep trouble. One can hope it were the latter, in which case, I am really so sorry, Mr Jones.

ABC fails its charter

May 29, 2010

ABC does not tollerate attacks on its friends

A warm thank you to the Australian Conservative for its support. This excellent blog has been a consistent testimony to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s failure to uphold its charter on balance and bias.

In effect, the question of balance in the ABC has been a long standing issue. I remember helping to organize a national conference for the Institute of Public Affairs ten years ago, Their ABC or Our ABC? in Sydney on ABC bias. In a predictable defence of the ABC, and as a direct reaction to this conference, Stuart Littlemore on Media Watch displayed a classic example of jackboot journalism designed to silence critics.”

It would appear that precious little has changed over that time. Neither 12 years of the Howard government, nor the placing of three conservatives on the ABC Board, nor the complaints of impotent ministers in parliament, nor the constant public admonition of Kerry O’Brien or Tony Jones in the press for their selective and unfair questioning of people with whom they disagree, has changed anything much. Nor has the documented, transparently differential treatment both the 7.30 Report and Lateline routinely give to sceptics of climate change made a difference. Let me not get started on Robyn William’s Science Show. Tony Jones’ QandA discussion panel — biased in audience and in panel — has very recently been thouroughly analysed for balance in an excellent article, This ‘adventure in democracy’ is unfair and unbalanced by John Styles in The Spectator. QandA remains steadfastly biased in audience and panel.

The most striking thing in all of this is the lack of shame, or embarrassment, or accountability of any ABC presenters. The reality is that, unlike governments which are ultimately accountable to the electorate, the capture of institutions is impervious to democratic action. Top down change is ineffectual, and bottom up change irrelevant, as the ABC is not market driven. The ABC “collective” know it. As a result, they can simply ignore criticism, and display an indifference and cynical contempt to taxpayers.

The only exception to this rule is Phillip Adams on Radio National’s LNL [Left ‘n’ Left] who has openly admitted that his programme is an antidote to the Right wing shock jocks on commercial radio. This is such an accepted idea that the ABC itself boasts of Michael Duffy on Counterpoint as “the Right wing Phillip Adams”.

To finish on a clear, and one would have thought, non-controversial point. I have always found that Labor voters, generally speaking, find the ABC to be fair and balanced, and that Liberal voters, generally speaking, find the ABC often unfair and often unbalanced, or at best, very lumpy. I don’t know about you, but if that observation is largely plausible, then that to me would appear to be a quod erat demonstrandum.

Is the ABC changing its tune?

May 27, 2010

A lesson in environmental optimism for Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin got some sharp lessons in optimism in a stunning interview with Matt Ridley, author of a new book, The Rational Optimist.

Beautifully, handled, Ridley demolishes the implicit pessimism in every one Colvin’s questions. Are some in the ABC starting to wake up?

MATT RIDLELY: The number of people at increased water stress in the next 85 years is going to be less than the number of people at decreased water stress. That comes from peer reviewed articles written by IPCC scientists and so I think …

MARK COLVIN: It’s got to be small comfort for the people whose dams are drying up in large cities though hasn’t it?

MATT RIDLEY: It’s going to be good comfort for people who are finding increased water supplies. You know climate always had changed, always will change. The evidence suggests that we are actually going to see higher crop yields, slightly higher rain fall, no major change in storms, no significant change in, well, a very slow change in sea level, no huge damage to habitats.

There is much more in the full interview. I encourage readers to look at the transcript and listen to the complete interview. I know it comes as a shock to see such in-length optimism about the environment and global warming from our ABC.

Homophily and the ABC ‘echo-chamber’

May 27, 2010

ot calling Pot Black

The ABC Radio National programme “Future Tense” with Antony Funnell gives us an insight into the ABC’s lack of insight into its own bias. I cannot detect a trace of irony.

Many social researchers believe that most of us are naturally inclined toward those we agree with, or those who seem a lot like us in other ways.

In other words, that we naturally search out and associate with people who echo our own thoughts and beliefs. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, as they say.

We like to imagine that we’re open to different points of view and that we mix with a variety of people, that we expose ourselves to a range of voices. But is that really what happens …

A guest on the programme, Ethan Zuckerman, from Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society explains the term, “homophily’.

It’s a term that applies to almost without exception to the tendency of  people “to form close friendships with people who they have a lot in common with”.

… homophily can make you sort of dumb, actually. If everybody around you has the same background that you have, you probably have a less rich information network. You’re probably not casting as wide a net for solutions and for different perspectives than you would if you had a more diverse group.

But we seem to be finding ways to choose the topics we’re interested in, the perspectives we’re interested in, and perhaps are not getting the full value of that incredible diversity of information.

… if people on the left only listen to voices on the left, people on the right only listen to voices on the right, then we actually become more polarised. It’s actually much harder to have a political debate because we’re all much more confident in our views, we’re all a bit more extreme in our view.

There is one difference. Certainly those on the left indeed do listen to the ABC. But so do those on the right. After all, they pay their taxes too. So who, by default, is more open and exposed to a range of ideas?

Age Poll not scientific.

May 25, 2010

Infantile view of climate change

The Age newspaper got it almost right in an article yesterday on climate change science with its heading ‘Climate debate ‘almost infantile’.

Some of us certainly think so, but not in the way Professor Will Steffen, executive director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, thinks. He is a scientist after all, and he knows that the media is wrong in treating climate change science as a political issue in which two sides should be given a voice. The idea that a scientist should always be open to testing hypotheses must, according to him, be just plain old fashioned science. He feels that a “wise society would respect the judgment of its experts”. In other words, believe whatever the high priests tell us, in spite of ClimatGate and other glaring contradictions in the evidence.

Professor Steffen sees a larger role for the media in scientific research. He invites journalists to focus on areas where there is no consensus, and in particular, the disputed link between climate change and the south-east Australian drought. Presumably, he wants the media to mask over the disagreements. But hasn’t the science finally made up its mind on that.

Go science!

To show us the difference between an Age reader and the rest of the community, the newspaper included a survey along with the article, claiming that nearly 80 percent of their readers agreed that the uncertainties  in climate science had been exaggerated. However, according to a very recent Galaxy survey for the Institute of Public Affairs, the opposite is the case.

Fortunately, the Age, in a rare moment of honesty, explained that its polls were NOT SCIENTIFIC.


May 25, 2010


[Thanks to RR for the idea]

ABC Shock

May 22, 2010

ABC says adaption to climate change can bring “joy”

Geraldine Doogue on the ABC RN’s Saturday Extra has a reputation for interviews with fuzzy left of centre commentators, whether sociologists, philosophers, environmentalists or global warming alarmists.

Yesterday, she spoke to Professor Glenn Albrech, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University. The professor specializes in carefully crafted eco-jargon research topics like “the ethics of feral buffalo control”, “the geographies and bioethics of the thoroughbred horse industry” and, wait for it, “relevant transdisciplinarity in the domain of sustainability”, all the better, one takes it, to mine the rich ore-body of tax payer dollars through the Australian Research Council.

In our brave new therapeutic society, the good professor has come up with a new syndrome, “Solastalgia”, the topic of Geraldine’s interview. Solastalgia is a form of “human distress related to the lived experience of negatively perceived environmental change.”

But help is at hand. If, for instance, you adapt to change — yes, you heard it first on the ABC — you have a solution. If I understood the interview correctly, for example, your garden can, due to climate change, be replanted with drought resistant sustainable plants. Hey presto, “through desire and planning … a garden can adapt to new conditions”, and with “great joy” we can “turn distress to advantage”. This according to the good professor, is an example of “solaphilia”.

Australian children these days have a more straightforward way of dealing with change. They will simply tell you to “suck it up”.

ABC continues warming scare

May 19, 2010

Waste of ABC air time

Fran Kelly sounded confused, uncomprehending and disappointed in an interview this morning with scientist John Lyman from the Joint Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research at Hawaii University. Her idea to continue with more global warming alarmism sort of back-fired. She chose what in the trade one calls “bad talent”.

The scientist illustrated just how bad ocean warming was by telling Fran that it equalled 500 one hundred watt light bulbs burning for 16 years for every human on Earth, gasp! or equal to 2 billion Hiroshima bombs tsk,tsk!

When asked about the implications, Lyman feebly replied that that was not his forte.

I seem to remember that ocean warming goes in cycles of well over a hundred years. So what this present warming has to do with anthropogenic warming is anyone’s guess. Clearly, there is nothing we can do about it today. But, for the ABC, whatever…

ACF and green fools

May 18, 2010

Green Gold Rush is fools gold

ACTU President, Sharan Burrow and Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry have been exciting the media this morning with a promise of a green jobs economic bonanza to enrich Australia. They call it a “Green Gold Rush”. They cite a study claiming that Australians would be 10 per cent, or about $153 million, better off over two decades by moving to a cleaner and greener economy.

These two zealots cite how Germany created 25,000 jobs and sustained 116,000 existing jobs by retrofitting some 200,000 apartments from 2002 to 2004. With absolutely no hint of irony — think Peter Garrett and ceiling insulation — they suggest that “Australia could do the same for our own buildings’ trades by focusing economic stimulus on energy-efficient renovations”

Has Don Henry read the Spanish study by Dr. Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at Juan Carlos University in Madrid, showing that since 2000, Spain spent $774,000 to create each “green job”, including subsidies of more than $1.3 million per wind industry job. It found that creating those jobs resulted in the destruction of nearly 113,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs destroyed for every “green job” created.

Do they know that the supposed sustainable energy sources are not economically “sustainable”, because they actually consume more wealth than they produce?

In Denmark, a study by the Danish Economic Council found that the highly successful wind-power industry there was hooked on government subsidies and had a net cost effect on the economy, not a benefit. In Germany, their extensive use of green energy in their national electricity grid has come at a huge cost for households and tax payers through extravagant subsidies. .

The naïve idea that putting an arbitrary tax on the cost of carbon and depending on government subsidies like a heroin junkie can stimulate an economy is, well, naïve. What happened to all of Mr Rudd’s thriving green industries in domestic solar power, and wind, when he pulled the plug recently?

Sharan Burrow and Don Henry’s Green Gold Rush reminds me of the Soviet central planning model, where left handed, one size boot factories were very profitable.

Rudd wrong on Jesus

May 18, 2010

Mr Rudd, don’t show your ignorance

Just when will Mr Rudd be challenged on basic facts by our media, especially the ABC. Tony Abbott was roundly ridiculed for telling school children that “at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth”, the world was warmer than today.

As Jo Nova points out on her brilliant blog:

Rudd let slip a line in his frustration this week that reveals how little he knows about the topic he holds so dear. He has so completely swallowed the PR on climate science, that when poked, he reflexively fires back exaggerated scientific claims that would make even the IPCC blush. In 2007 the IPCC and Gore et al offered Rudd the perfect Election-Wedge-on-a-Platter. They’d primed the audience with propaganda; trained the crowd to recite: Carbon is pollution. It looked like a no-brainer. Yet having based his leadership and campaign on it, it’s obvious he had not done even the most basic of checks (and still apparently hasn’t).

Nova provides graphs and citations from China, North America, Venezuela, South Africa, Greenland and the Sargasso Sea from 2000 years ago. In this country with easy public access, Andrew Bolt has been providing graphs of the ancient world warm periods for many years, and the late John L Daly, an early and international award wining sceptic from Tasmania had published a book “The Greenhouse Trap”, as far back as 1989 [an Australian first?]. I remember writing an article for the Canberra Times in 1994 on the global warming scare where I reproduced one of Daly’s graphs.

The Medieval Warming, the Roman Warming, and the Minoan Warming are well known and well established. Mr Rudd is either a cynical opportunist or a fool. I wonder if he actually understands why his popularity is declining.