Since it started in 1989, ABC television’s Media Watch program has had only a series of leftist or left-of-centre (some like to use the term progressive) presenters. In short, it’s yet another manifestation of the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster as a conservative-free zone.
Last Monday’s episode began as follows: “Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch. And in 2020 it was bushfires like we’ve never seen before. In 2022 it is floods, among the worst in living memory …”
Now, Media Watch has some 10 staff who produce a 15-minute weekly program around 45 times a year. In other words, it should not be beyond the team to check the “facts” Barry puts to air each week.
Take the 2019-20 bushfires, for example, which devastated parts of southeast Australia. It was a dreadful event. But, according to historical documents, the 2020 bushfires were not like something “we’ve never seen before”.
According to reports, in NSW 5.4 million hectares were burnt in what is termed the Black Summer of 2019-20. In the bushfires of 1974-75, focused on NSW, about 117 million hectares were burnt. There were also appalling fires in Victoria in 1851, 1938-39, 1983 and 2009. Likewise in South Australia (1939 and 1983), Tasmania (1967) and Western Australia (2002-03).
It’s much the same with floods. Barry was correct in stating that 2022 saw “the worst floods in Lismore”, substantially exceeding the 1954 record. But this was not the case with Brisbane – which seems to have experienced its most damaging floods in 1893, 1974 and 2011.
Barry used the occasion to bag several Sky News presenters and commentators along with some News Corp journalists for essentially making the point that Australia is a land of drought, fire and flood. But it is. During the recent visit to the flood areas in northeast NSW and southeast Queensland, Scott Morrison acknowledged that Australia was “dealing with a different climate to the one we were dealing with before”.
The problem with the media critics of the Prime Minister on this issue is that they fail to recognise that Australia cannot do anything of its own volition to reduce climate change since the nation produces just over 1 per cent of total global carbon dioxide emissions. It would make as much sense to blame Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for our current instances of drought, fire and flood.
Barry’s point was that his Sky News/News Corp targets were engaging in a “culture war” with their comments on fires and floods in Australia. And also with their focus on the problems facing the Western world due to its increasing dependence on Russia and China consequent upon the move towards renewable energy and away from dispatchable power sources such as gas, coal and nuclear. But it is.
Towards the end of his Media Watch sermon, Barry made this concession concerning those he was targeting. He said, “There may well be some truth in what they say: Australia is a land of fire and flood, building more dams might help flood control – and reliance on Russian gas has made it harder for Europe to punish Putin’s aggression.”
And that’s the point. There has been scant discussion on ABC news and current affairs programs such as 7.30, News Breakfast, Insiders and Q+A on the dramatic changes in Germany following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. When he was US president, Donald Trump warned German chancellor Angela Merkel that her nation was becoming far too dependent on Russian gas as it phased out its nuclear and coal-fired power stations.
Currently Germany has a left-of-centre social democratic government in a coalition that includes the Green Party. Recently new chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would reconsider its decision with respect to coal and nuclear energy and said it would increase defence expenditure to above the NATO target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product.
This is a dramatic change that has been reflected in the position of some other European nations. No sensible democratically elected leader will continue to have energy supplies dependent on the evidently paranoid Russian President Vladimir Putin. The unfashionable fact is the rush to embrace renewables has led to a situation where even the US, under the Biden administration, has become too dependent on oil from Russia.
There is a lesson here for Australia. On February 4, the Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development was released by the rulers in Moscow and Beijing.
The communists came to power, due to revolution, in Russia (which later became the Soviet Union) in 1917 and China in 1949. Between 1949 and 1956, the two communist powers were close. However, in 1956 what was called the Sino-Soviet Split occurred – due to Mao Zedong’s fear that Nikita Khrushchev was distancing the Soviet Union from the policies of Khrushchev’s predecessor, Joseph Stalin. Mao was a Stalinist kind of dictator. It would seem this division has been healed officially.
Australia does not do much trade with Russia. Obviously it does with China – but so far there has been scant awareness that Australia’s national security with respect to energy has been affected by the move to renewables.
Much of Australia’s solar panels and wind turbines are imported from China. The latter require permanent magnets, composed of rare earth minerals, that turn the wind generators. Electrical vehicles require similar magnets. At the moment, about 85 per cent of rare earth minerals are produced in China.
Last Tuesday the Morrison government announced that Australia would significantly increase its critical minerals sector. This is an important move designed to reduce Australia’s dependence on China in this area. However, it will take time to have effect.
The message from the recent disasters and tragedies at home and abroad is that Australia needs to focus more on mitigating against fires and floods and on becoming as self-sufficient as possible with respect to national security, including energy. This has nothing to do with the (so-called) culture wars. It just makes sense.