GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 101
1 JULY 2011
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence
he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011
“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”
– ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.
Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick” – Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.
“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work” – Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.
● Stop Press: Karen Barlow’s Academic Test; Laura Tingle on Hysteria; Oscar Humphries on Himself
● Fantasy Update: Tony Jones on the Battle at the Star Hotel (1979)
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: What Nick Minchin Didn’t Say to John Howard
● A Deborah Cameron Moment: In Which the ”Green-Left-Daily” Presenter Accepts the “F” Word – For “Fascists” She Doesn’t Like
● Can You Bear It? Jill Singer’s Gas and Nick Dyrenfurth’s Review
● Five Paws Award: A Word from Tigger – Margaret Throsby and Haydn Keenan & ASIO Delusions
● Correspondence: ABC Management Reckons That Ross Garnaut is Bi-Partisan
▪ MS BARLOW SETS A HIGHER STANDARD – FOR VISCOUNT MUNCKTON, AT LEAST
On Lateline last night, Karen Barlow covered Christopher Monckton’s visit to Perth. Good Lord. Er, not really. According to his critics, Monckton is not a lord at all since he does not sit in the House of Lords. No. He’s just the 3rd Viscount of Monckton of Brenchley. Is that clear?
In any event, the 3rd Viscount of Brenchley was referred to by Ms Barlow as a “man without academic qualifications on climate science”. Quite so. It’s true that Monckton is not qualified in climate science – or even science. But, then, nor are the majority of individuals who take part in the climate change debate. Even though you are not likely to learn this on the ABC.
Take John Connor, the director of the Climate Institute, who is a regular on the ABC. Next time Mr Connor’s views are reported on ABC, will he be branded as a man without academic qualifications in climate science? Not likely. And what about the likes of Malcolm Fraser, Simon Sheikh, Tim Costello, Ross Garnaut and Lord Stern [A life lord – since he was born Nicholas Stern and was appointed to the House of Lords. – Ed].
And what about Cate Blanchett? When the thespian’s views on climate change were reported recently on the ABC, no one mentioned that she was a woman without academic qualifications in climate science. Moreover, what about Tim Flannery whose formal qualifications are Bachelor of Arts in English, Master of Science in Earth Science and Doctorate in Palaeontology for his work on the evolution in macropods? [If Timothy Fridtjof Flannery is so concerned about reducing carbon emissions, how come he has submitted an entry to Who’s Who which takes up almost a full page? – Ed].
MWD would have liked to ask Ms Barlow about her intentions. It’s just that if you write to an ABC journalist these days you get replies from one or more public sector bureaucrats who do not answer the question. See Correspondence section in MWD Issue 100 and today’s edition. Also, Ms Barlow seems to spend lengthy periods away from her desk interviewing penguins in the Antarctic – all of whom are without academic qualifications in climate science.
▪ SHOCK-HORROR: LAURA TINGLE CALLS FOR QUALITY IN DEBATE – YOU DOPES
Wasn’t it great to see Australian Financial Review political editor Laura Tingle banging on once again this morning – and advocating enhanced “quality” in the public debate.
In her own personal contribution to quality in the public debate, La Tingle referred to the Coalition’s taxation policies as the “tax-cut pony circus” and depicted this as “a car crash in the making”. She also maintained that “the carbon tax has reduced the Australian political discourse to a destructive, low-grade farce”.
It would seem that the AFR’s political editor longs for a return of the high standard in political debate which led her to describe Opposition shadow treasurer Joe Hockey “a lightweight” and “a dope”. (AFR, 20 May, 2011).
Addressing the business community, La Tingle opined:
Here too, things are changing. The business commentary on the carbon tax is changing. The hysteria is going. The “let’s get on with it for God’s sake” is growing.
Maybe. However, if La Tingle is correct, someone has not told Phillip Coorey. In today’s lead story in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Coorey reported that “an alliance of some of the nation’s biggest industry organisations is preparing to spend millions of dollars on a campaign to destroy the Gillard government’s plans to put a price on carbon”.
▪ THE AGE OF OSCAR
Today’s Guardian-on-the-Yarra contains a piece by Oscar Humphries which first appeared in The Telegraph in London. Mr Humphries is something of an expert on Australia – after all, he attended school here until he was 11 and lived here during his early twenties. Around this time Young Oscar wrote a column for a Sunday newspaper – which was unfavourably reviewed by Nancy’s co-owner. See here.
Oscar’s conclusion? Well, there’s a “seam of racism” in Australia. What’s his source for such a serious charge. The only authority cited is, wait for it, Dame Edna Everage (Oscar’s old man in performance drag). The only present or past politician cited in the column is, believe it or not, Pauline Hanson.
Oscar Humphries does not seem aware that Australia is one of the few countries in the world with a refugee and humanitarian intake. He claims that there is a “subtle division between white Australians and their ‘ethnic’ friends”. Mr Humphries seems unaware that Australia has a relatively low level of ethnic motivated crime and a high level of inter-marriage between ethnic groups.
WE’LL TAKE THAT AS A FANTASY (continued)
TONY JONES ON THE STAR HOTEL NEWCASTLE (IT’S SOUTH OF SAIGON)
There has been such an enormous response to MWD Issue 100’s inaugural “Nancy’s: We’ll Take That As A Fantasy” segment that readers have requested more of the same this week.
Fortunately Q&A presenter Tony Jones, the winner of the inaugural gong, has stepped up again. You see, the sassy Caroline Overington spoke to Mr Jones for her “Media” column in last Monday’s The Australian and asked him about this comment which he made on Q&A on 21 June, viz: “I was involved in a generation that went out on the streets, turned cars over during the Vietnam war.”
Ms Overington put to Mr Jones that last week MWD had raised the issue of just how many cars were turned over in Australia during the Vietnam War – and suggested to the Q&A presenter that he was too young to be involved in the Vietnam War demonstrations since he was in Year 9 in 1971 when all Australian combat forces were withdrawn from Vietnam. Here is Tony Jones’ response to Caroline Overington:
Yes. Too young to be in the streets demonstrating by a few years, that’s true.
But I never said I did such things myself. I said I was in a generation where people took to the streets to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. My memory is that people jumped in front of cars when they had LBJ on board and turning police cars over and burning them came somewhat later, when thousands of people rioted in protest against the closure of the Star Hotel in Newcastle.
Well, now. Lyndon Baines Johnson visited Australia on two occasions while he was President of the United States.
The first visit took place in October 1966. As Peter Edwards wrote in A Nation at War (part of the official history of Australia’s Southeast Asian commitments), the visit was a “personal triumph” for Johnson who put in a “consummate performance”. The crowd in Melbourne was estimated at 750,000 and in Sydney at one million. According to Dr Edwards, “it seemed that a huge proportion of the population of Australia’s eastern seaboard wanted to see and greet their visitor”. Many of those who turned out on to the streets of Melbourne and Sydney to greet Johnson were young.
There were a few violent demonstrations against LBJ in October 1966 – but there is no recorded evidence of even one car being turned over. It’s possible, just possible, that young Master Jones went to sleep during social studies classes at Newington College while being taught about the Paris Commune of 1871 or the (alleged) storming of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1917 – and dreamed about LBJ Down Under, overturned cars, riots and all that.
President Johnson’s second official visit to Australia took place in December 1967 when he attended the memorial service for the late Harold Holt in Melbourne. There were no demonstrations, violent or otherwise, on this occasion.
So, what about Tony Jones’ claim that police cars were turned over and burnt when thousands of people rioted in protest against the closure of the Star Hotel in Newcastle.
Sure, that happened. But it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Vietnam War. The story is told in Kevin Baker’s Mutiny, Terrorism, Riots and Murder: A History of Sedition in Australia and New Zealand and by John Huxley in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 September 2004. The event took place on 19 September 1979. This was almost eight years after all Australian combat forces were withdrawn from Vietnam and over five years after Saigon had fallen to the North Vietnamese Army.
Clearly, the Star Hotel riot had nothing to do with Vietnam. Rather, it was about thirst. Or perceived thirst. The Star Hotel was a run-down dive – so run down that topless sheilas and occasional appearances by a drag queen named Stella the Fella failed to generate the required interest. So Tooths Brewery decided to close the place down and gave the licensee Don Graham a week’s notice. Mr Graham provided a “happy hour” of free beer on the final night and the riots commenced around closing time at 10 pm. Soon after, police cars were overturned and set on fire.
No one is quite sure what happened that night. After all, many of the participants were pissed. Absolutely pissed. But it seems that the Star Hotel’s clientele objected to the fact that the police asked them to quit the premises some 30 seconds before closing time. As muso Mark Tinson, whose band Heroes played on the Star Hotel’s last night, recalled – the “pivotal moment” occurred when the police entered the bar:
I mean, we’d 30 seconds to go. And everyone was, well: “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Quite so. Some people riot for food. Others riot against autocracy. But at the Star Hotel in Newcastle in 1979 the riot was sparked by coppers depriving drinkers of 30 seconds of quality-time thirst quenching. In short, a very Australian riot.
So what should Tony Jones have told the Q&A audience? He could have said something like this:
Well, I’ve got to tell you that I was involved in a generation that went out on the streets. We turned-over and torched cars when the Star Hotel closed down and the pigs wouldn’t let us finish our schooners. Gee, it would have only taken 30 seconds to scull our last round. But the pigs insisted, so we turned over their cars.
Alas, such a memory might not have impressed the 20 somethings on the Q&A panel that night. So it seems that Tony Jones upped the ante somewhat by recalling a Vietnam War era event that never happened.
In The Communist Manifesto (1848), Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote that: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries Unite!” Outside Newcastle’s Star Hotel that Spring 1979 night, it was very much a case of: “The drinkers have nothing to lose but their physical balance. They have a thirst to quench. Workers of Newcastle Unite!”
How to wind-up on Tony Jones’ evident date-challenged confusion about the Star Hotel and so on? We’ll take that as a fantasy. That’s what.
HOWLER UPDATE – FEATURING NICK MINCHIN
Great piece by Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald last Monday on Senator Nick Minchin titled “A few home truths on way out the door”. The story was about (then) Senator Minchin’s valedictory speech – he stepped down as a senator last night. Mr Coorey concluded his otherwise insightful piece as follows:
Minchin was regarded as being close to Howard but in reality their relationship was at times strained and became more so as time wore on. ”Howard saw everything I did through the prism of factionalism and every action and statement as the produce of my conservative factional base,” Minchin said. ”My views were often discounted as a result.”
This frustrated Minchin because, he said, his advice to Howard was motivated always by what he thought was good politically for the government, rather than being factionally driven. By having formalised factions, such misunderstanding would have been eliminated. Subsequently, by the time Minchin thought Howard should go, Howard was not listening to him.
It is true that John Howard and Nick Minchin were not close during the final years of the Howard Government. This was due, in part, to Mr Howard’s resentment that Senator Minchin was so indiscreet as to be reported as saying at an H.R. Nicholls Society meeting that the Coalition’s WorkChoices reforms did not go far enough and that further industrial relations reform was necessary.
However, it is a myth to claim that “by the time Minchin thought Howard should go, Howard was not listening to him”. As Gerard Henderson documented in his essay “The Howard Government: Success But Not Succession” (see here), Nick Minchin never spoke directly to John Howard and suggested that he should step down in favour of Peter Costello. Never. Senator Minchin did express this view to others – including Alexander Downer. But he never fronted John Howard and told him to quit.
A DEBORAH CAMERON MOMENT – IN WHICH THE “GREEN-LEFT-DAILY” PRESENTER EXHIBITS DOUBLE STANDARDS ON BAGGING THE PM AND USING THE “F” WORD
The working week started on Monday with Deborah Cameron – who presents the “Green-Left-Daily” program on 774 – reflecting on how criticism of Julia Gillard has gone too far. Let’s go to the transcript – where Ms Cameron points the finger at unnamed columnists who rail against the Prime Minister:
I think it is really interesting to sort of read closely some of the commentary that’s written [about Julia Gillard]. And a lot of them, a lot of the commentators are themselves sort of, middle aged, a bit sad. Not yet, not editors. Not likely to be editors. Probably think they can run the country better than half the people who are in it. And it is, sort of, staggering to see their own bitter lives sometimes being played out in some of what they write. I mean, I wonder whether or not there’s something wrong with some of the columnists that they can resort to this…
Well, it’s true that some columnists are unduly critical of politicians, including Julia Gillard. She targeted Canberra scribbler Robert Macklin [Robert, who? – Ed]. But, then, so are some presenters. Including Deborah Cameron herself. Here’s how Ms Cameron opened her program on Tuesday:
G’day. Well leadership this morning and the quality of it in Australia. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Opposition leader have captured the public imagination. The polls reveal, time and again, increasing alienation of voters. Could either of them finish the sentence: “The country I see in 20 years’ time is – – .”
According to the 702 presenter, the answer is in the negative. She then opened up on both the Prime Minister and Opposition leader Tony Abbott:
The major parties have leaders who have so far not captured the public imagination with a greater meaning to their leadership. They’ve both been caught out on the character test – both are duplicitous, both are plotters, both have been involved in political coups. The polls reveal that neither of them is particularly trusted. And that goes with the whole shallow and repetitive question around popularity. Now if popularity if the only test, then bring out Donald Trump. Is that really the best you can do in Australia?
So there you have it. On Monday Deborah Cameron declared that Julia Gillard was subjected to “personal abuse” which has “gone too far” by middle-aged, sad columnists. And on Tuesday, Deborah Cameron depicted the Prime Minister as “duplicitous” and a “plotter”.
Then yesterday (30 June), during “The Spin Doctors” segment on Mornings with Deborah Cameron, the presenter said nothing when one of her guests used the “F” word – as in FASCIST. She allowed Ian Kortlang to have a tremendous spray – and merely responded to his outburst with her traditional artificial laugh. Let’s go to the transcript where Mr Kortlang said that Peter Reith’s failure to win the Liberal Party presidency would lead to his increased intervention in the public debate.
Ian Kortlang: I mean, fancy letting him [Peter Reith] out of the box. He’s now going to go and set something up with that fascist policy unit in Victoria and to do it all about workplaces. So he’s going to go and haunt Abbott every day. Which is really bizarre. So we’re going to see Peter Reith coming out of the crypt to talk about Work Choices and Tony must be saying “Oh my god”
Deborah Cameron: [Laughter] “Peter Reith out of the crypt”. [More laughter]
Ian Kortlang : The mad uncle’s back. Totally back. And this, that sort of hunchback that he’s got now. And out of his own words: “I was born to plot.” Remember, I mean, the guy died. He’d gone away. I bumped into him in Washington DC I sort of wondered whether he was working there as a waiter or t’other. But no, he’s back again and he’s fully alive and he’s part of the Victorian establishment talking about all these weird wacky right-wing things. I mean, crazy.
By the way, Ian Kortlang’s reference to a “fascist policy unit” was to the H.R. Nicholls Society which, is focused on industrial relations and is not in any sense fascist. This was just slander by verballing.
According to Deborah Cameron, it’s okay for Ian Kortlang to describe the H.R. Nicholls society as “fascist” and to refer to Peter Reith as a “hunchback”. However, in “The Spin Doctors” segment on 23 June, Ms Cameron bagged Christopher Monckton for comparing Ross Garnaut with the Nazis and declared:
…in high school debating usually the first person to compare the other side to Hitler, or use any sort of Nazi comparison, just loses. Like, that’s just what happens. That’s it, you’re out, you’re done for.
So there you have it. If one of Ms Cameron’s panellists refers to the H.R. Nicholls Society as fascist – well, that’s funny. Just so funny. But if Monckton refers to Professor Garnaut as a Nazi – well that’s not at all funny.
Verily, many A Deborah Cameron Moment of late.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Jill Singer’s (Gas) Explosion
Last week, MWD did not report Jill Singer’s “top-yourself” advice to Future Fund chairman David Murray – since Nancy expected that there might have been a correction/apology this week. But, no. This is what Ms Singer had to say about David Murray in her Herald-Sun column on Wednesday 22 June:
Murray states there’s no link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide is necessary for life, colourless and odourless – and therefore can’t be considered a pollutant. It’s a popularly held view. Andy Semple of the Menzies Institute claims it’s “refreshing” for someone with Murray’s standing to take on the global warming “scam” by expressing such views.
Really? I’m prepared to keep an open mind and propose another stunt for climate sceptics – put your strong views to the test by exposing yourselves to high concentrations of either carbon dioxide or some other colourless, odourless gas – say, carbonmonoxide. You wouldn’t see or smell anything. Nor would your anti-science nonsense be heard of again. How very refreshing.
In other words, according to Ms Singer, the likes of David Murray should go and carbonmonoxide themselves. And she likes to present herself as a well-meaning leftie. Can you bear it?
▪ Nick Dyrenfurth’s Hypocritical Complaint
In “News & Views” in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian Review, Nick Dyrenfurth whinged about Ross Fitzgerald’s review of his tome Heroes & Villains: The Rise and Fall of the Early Australian Labor Party. This book began as a Ph.D. thesis – and still reads like one.
Dr Dyrenfurth alleged – without evidence of course – that Professor Fitzgerald had not read his book before reviewing it in The Weekend Australian on 11-12 June 2011. It seems that Dyrenfurth is upset that Fitzgerald described his laborious tome as, yes, laborious. Fancy that.
In his review, Professor Fitzgerald expressed surprise that around 15 per cent of Heroes and Villains consists of endnotes – but the book contains no bibliography. Strange, eh? In Heroes and Villains, Dr Dyrenfurth has documented virtually everything he wrote. But the very same Dr Dyrenfurth refuses to answer correspondence about the sources for his edited collection All That’s Left which contains neither footnotes nor endnotes nor bibliography. See MWD passim.
Can you bear it?
NANCY’S FIVE PAWS AWARD
A WORD FROM TIGGER – ANOTHER DOCUMENTARY ON ASIO
An Occasional Piece In Which Nancy’s Mate Tigger Puts In His Paw’s Worth
Some time ago we had a TV documentary on ASIO which amounted to a low-grade attack on Colonel Charles Spry and his colleagues. Now instead of striving for a balanced view we are going to get more of the same. On Monday, on her 10am ABC FM radio slot, Margret Throsby interviewed a documentary maker, Haydn Keenan, the producer of a four-part series on ASIO to be shown on SBS later in the year. For an hour, Throsby accepted everything Keenan said uncritically, even enthusiastically.
Margaret Throsby got off to a bad start when, in her intro, when she recalled her memory of Mrs Petrov being dramatically hustled off a plane at Darwin airport by ASIO agents. The trouble is that it was KGB strongmen who were doing the hustling, not ASIO, as the Russians tried to force a terrified Mrs Petrov on to a plane until they were stopped by Australian officials. This mistake by Throsby was symptomatic – in her mind ASIO were the baddies, so she engaged in almost subconscious role reversal in transposing actual KGB and ASIO activities.
The whole hour abounded in instances of role reversal, as when Keenan argued that ASIO was desperate for targets/victims, as their main aim was the bureaucratic one of expanding their own empire. He also claimed that the collapse of the Communist Party of Australia circa 1990 was a tragedy for ASIO as it almost put them out of business. In 1990 the security services were much more involved, for instance, in protecting our oil rigs than worrying about a decrepit CPA.
Keenan’s ludicrous examples stand reality on its head. They are only possible if you omit, as Keenan does, the positive reasons why ASIO existed in the first place. Namely, to counter subversive and spying activities which sometimes amounted to treason, and to keep a watch on people, like student demonstrators, who openly proclaimed before the fact that they intended to break the law and act in a violent way. These are legitimate precautions all democratic societies take. But Keenan cannot admit this, as it would demolish his jocular, bar-room anecdote type of analysis. If you understand the genuine basis of ASIO, you know that ASIO recruited Vladimir Petrov to break the Soviet spy ring in Australia, not to impress the CIA and MI5, as Keenan claimed, another example of getting things the wrong way round.
Keenan tried to argue that ASIO could not distinguish between subversion and dissent, but certain kinds of dissent need to be monitored, as ASIO understood. Keenan twice instanced people who were connected with Sydney’s New Theatre as examples of dissenters unfairly targeted. However, the New Theatre was a Communist-inspired organization. ASIO knew this, even if Keenan doesn’t.
Mark Aarons in his book The Family File admits ASIO acted in the main properly and efficiently, and as a prime target he should know. Keenan said he could imagine ASIO and KGB staff meeting for a friendly Christmas party and admitting they were in the same business, preserving the status quo. This is extraordinary – the KGB were not into preserving the status quo, but into disrupting democracies around the world by such means as murder and entrapping Western citizens. Overall Keenan treats ASIO as so ludicrously inept as to be laughed out of court. Why then the need for a four-part series on it?
ABC MANAGEMENT DECLARES ROSS GARNAUT’S WORK BEYOND CRITICISM
In his letter to ABC staff on 2 October 2009, managing director Mark Scott called on the public broadcaster’s employees to “develop thicker skins” and “admit and correct errors quickly when they occur”. He also wrote that the ABC is “gradually empowering content divisions [i.e. journalists and producers] to deal directly with complaints, acknowledging that the swift posting of corrections and clarifications can prevent issues building into much bigger problems”.
The evidence suggests that nice Mr Scott’s wishes have not yet been implemented – as the following correspondence between Gerard Henderson and both Deborah Cameron (content provider) and Andrew Henley (content manager) demonstrates:
Gerard Henderson to Deborah Cameron – 21 June 2011, 12.55 pm
I was listening to Mornings with Deborah Cameron this morning when you introduced Professor Ross Garnaut as “Australia’s leading economist” and “Australia’s most authoritative economist”.
During the segment you (i) suggested that unnamed economists have “sold their souls”, (ii) referred to “economists becoming hand-maidens to climate science deniers” and (iii) asserted that economists are “being paid to do someone’s bidding”. You also asked this leading question: “Do more economists need to get out and actually be honest?”
For his part, Ross Garnaut said that “there is a tendency for businesses to tell economic analysis [sic] to tailor their analysis to their clients” and that for economists “the commercial imperative is often to tailor the analysis to what the client wants”.
These were strong criticisms of the economics profession as a whole. The suggestion seems to turn on an allegation of a cash-for-economic-analysis.
I note that neither you nor Professor Garnaut mentioned that he has been a paid consultant to State and Federal governments for some years as an adviser on implementing market mechanisms for abating carbon emissions.
My questions are:
▪ Why was Professor Garnaut’s role as a consultant to Labor governments not mentioned by you or him on “Mornings with Deborah Cameron” this morning.
▪ Do you believe that there is one rule for Ross Garnaut and another rule for other economists? If the answer is in the negative – then how come Professor Garnaut is not a hand-maiden to the Commonwealth Government and how come he manages not to tailor his analysis to suit what his clients want?
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I believe that Ross Garnaut genuinely says what he believes. My concern is with the apparent double standard.
Over to you.
cc: James O’Brien
Manager 702 Sydney
Andrew Henley to Gerard Henderson – 30 June, 3.37 pm
Dear Mr Henderson,
My apologies for the delay in replying but your email took a while to make it to me. James O’Brien hasn’t been at 702 for several years now and your original email didn’t make its way to Deb’s inbox for some reason.
Deborah invited Professor Garnaut onto the program to elaborate on an extract of a speech he was about to deliver which had been published that morning in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the extract, while discussing the debate about carbon pricing he said that many of the “scary statements are commonly based on what economists call partial analysis” He then went onto say that “No reputable economist would consider it appropriate to use “partial” rather than “general equilibrium analysis to calculate the economy-wide effects of carbon pricing on employment – even employment in one industry”. The morning program team judged that if Prof Garnaut had observed that economists were providing incomplete advice then this was something that Prof Garnaut should be given an opportunity to confirm or deny.
In her introduction Deb introduced Professor Garnaut as “the author of key reports to the Federal Government on the economics of carbon pricing and climate change.” This is a succinct statement of his relationship with the current Federal Government for an audience who would be well aware of his role in the current carbon pricing debate.
Prof Garnaut is a well respected market economist whose most recent work for the government has not been criticised for being one-sided to my knowledge, so he seems ideally placed to critique his own profession. He is not biddable and as a highly experienced media commentator would not hesitate to deal immediately with a journalist who was “leading’ him. I don’t believe that there was a double standard in asking him to comment on the work of other economists.
I hope this allays your concerns with this interview.
For your reference, the ABC Code of Practice (11 April 2011) is available online. Should you be dissatisfied with this response to your complaint, you may be able to pursue your complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, more information is available on their website.
Local Content Manager, NSW
Gerard Henderson to Andrew Henley – 30 June 2011, 5.04 pm
Dear Mr Henley
I refer to your email of 30 June 2011 in response to my email to Deborah Cameron of 21 June 2011. I note your apologies for the delay in responding. Apparently my email did not make it into Ms Cameron’s inbox – this is surprising, since I did not get a “undeliverable message” email from her. A copy of the email was forwarded to James O’Brien since the ABC Switch Board advised that he was the 702 manager. At 1.03 pm on 21 June, James O’Brien advised me that he had passed on my email to both you and Sascha Rundle.
I note that many an ABC journalist (among others) criticise politicians for not answering questions. I also note that many an ABC manager refuses to answer questions about ABC journalists.
My questions to Deborah Cameron on 21 June 2011 were as follows:
▪ Why was Professor Garnaut’s role as a paid consultant to Labor governments not mentioned in the Cameron/Garnaut interview on 702 which took place on 21 June? Especially since Ms Cameron criticised (unnamed) economists of “being paid to do someone’s bidding”.
▪ If there is not one rule for Ross Garnaut and another rule for everyone else, how come that when Professor Garnaut acts as a paid consultant he is not referred to as a paid consultant – but when other economists are paid to act as consultants they become in Ms Cameron’s words – “hand-maidens” who have “sold their souls”?
In your email of 30 June 2011, you have refrained from answering both questions.
Instead you have come up with your own editorial position in your penultimate paragraph – which reads as follows:
Prof Garnaut is a well respected market economist whose most recent work for the government has not been criticised for being one-sided to my knowledge, so he seems ideally placed to critique his own profession. He is not biddable and as a highly experienced media commentator would not hesitate to deal immediately with a journalist who was “leading” him. I don’t believe that there was a double standard in asking him to comment on the work of other economists.
This is meaningless process-speak. Of course, Ross Garnaut is a well-respected economist – a standing he shares with many in his profession. However, it is ill-informed for you to suggest that Ross Garnaut’s work on climate change has not been criticised by economists. And it is ludicrous to suggest that he is “ideally placed to critique his own profession”. The concept of peer review in the economics profession entails that qualified economists are well placed to critique their colleagues. Professor Garnaut is not a “God” in this regard.
Your comment that Professor Garnaut is “not biddable” is devoid of meaning. And your implied assertion that I said that there was “a double standard involved” in asking Professor Garnaut “to comment on the work of other economists” is misleading. The double standard I was referring to is the claim that economists who are paid by business sell their souls – but economists like Professor Garnaut who are paid by government are honest.
I appreciate that you responded to my email to Deborah Cameron. However, if you do not intend to answer my questions to Ms Cameron – there is little point in this exercise.
* * * *
Until next time.