6 MAY 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.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.  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.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– 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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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

● Stop Press:  Deborah Cameron Gooses the Golden Egg

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Geoffrey Robertson On Why Osama’s Ahead

● Howlers Of The Week: Step Forward Kerry O’Brien & Richard Walsh

● Reflections on The Monthly, The Age, Kathy Lette, Guy Rundle

& Michael Shmith

● Nancy’s Five Paws Awards – John Barrand on The Chaser (And Princess Di) & Peter Morris on Manning Clark (& Ross Fitzgerald)

● Lindsay Tanner’s Lateline Love-In

● Jane Dullard’s PR Pitch for a Carbon Tax

● Nancy’s Old Bones: Featuring Jonathan Holmes With a Guest Appearance by Geraldine Doogue and Some Others

● Correspondence : Unanswered –

Tim Flannery in “Return to Sender” Mode



In her (on-going) efforts to advocate green causes, ABC Radio 702’s Deborah Cameron got her metaphors mixed this morning.  Here’s how Mornings with Deborah Cameron commenced today:

Solar energy has been one of the great examples so far of the community acting for itself and in its own interest on energy and climate change.  It’s been a hip pocket decision, short and long term.  But governments have needed a lot of help in how to finesse the management of it.  It’s now up to them to figure out how to grow this goose without killing the thing before the golden egg is shattered off the roofs of Australia. We’ll talk about that solar energy thinking that’s going on.

What a you beaut idea.  Ms Cameron is proposing to fry golden eggs on solar panels.  Or something like that.  [You must resume your “Truly a Deborah Cameron Moment” material – I’m sure you must have lotsa material in store – Ed].


Geoffrey Robertson QC On Why Osama (Deceased) Is A “Winner”

Nancy just loves Geoffrey Robertson, the British based/Australian lawyer with that Epping accent – you know, the type of accent a pompous Aussie in fashionable London develops when he/she subconsciously wishes to pretend he/she was not born in Sydney’s suburban Epping.  [Haven’t you run this gag before? – Ed].

Last Tuesday, Geoffrey Robertson QC was interviewed on ABC News Breakfast by Virginia Trioli about Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of United States’ Navy SEALs.  GRQC told La Trioli that Osama had been subjected to “summary execution” or even a “cold-blooded assassination”. When asked how the Obama administration should have handled the situation, m’learned friend replied:

Geoffrey Robertson : Look, the way to de-mystify this man is not to kill him and have the iconic picture of his body. The way to de-mystify him, rather than [for there] to be sorrowful pictures of the tall man on the mountain, is to put him on trial – to see him as a hateful and hate-filled old man, screaming from the dock or lying in the witness box. That way, the true inhumanity of the man is exposed.

Geoffrey Robertson regards Osama bin Laden as an “old man”. For the record, Osama was born in 1957, Robertson in 1946.

Then GRQC (nee Epping) went on to claim – wait for it – that Osama bin Laden is a winner, having been shot in the head by US Navy SEALs.  Let’s go to the video:

Geoffrey Robertson : Of course, the irony of this is that this is what Osama Bin Laden craved. He wanted – the last thing he wanted was to be put on trial, to be convicted and to end his life in a prison farm in upstate New York. What he wanted was exactly what he got, to be shot in mid-jihad and get a fast-track to paradise. And the Americans have given him that. It’s an irony that it’s a win/win situation for both Osama and Obama.  The latter gets re-elected as president and the former gets his fast-track to paradise.

Talk about barking mad.  Mr Robertson believes that Osama and Obama are in a win/win situation. Terrorist Osama “wins” by being shot in the head.  And President Obama wins because his opinion poll ratings went up after Osama was shot in the head.  For the record, MWD would prefer to be in President Obama’s shoes – not in Osama bin Laden’s (sunken) coffin in the North Arabian Sea. [If Osama really wanted a fast-track route to Paradise why didn’t he take on the US Army in the field of battle a decade or so ago? – Ed].


▪ Kerry O’Brien (Falsely) Blames Liberal Robin “Call me Robert” Askin

Last Monday Four Corners presenter Kerry O’Brien introduced Matthew Carney’s program titled “Return to Aurukun” with the following comment:

Most Australians were oblivious of the struggle of Indigenous communities when Four Corners went to the Aboriginal reserve of Box Ridge, near Casino in northern New South Wales, in its first year – 1961. After that story went to air the premier, Bob Askin, had to convene a special Cabinet meeting to deal with the eruption of press and public outrage.

In the decades since then, government after government – State and Federal – has produced wave after wave of policy reform. Promises made, billions spent but the gap between Indigenous Australia and the rest on key measures like health and education and mortality rates, remains profound.

Interesting theory – and what fun to portray prominent Liberal Party  politician Robert Askin as having to respond to public outrage engendered by Four Corners.  The only problem is that Mr Askin did not become premier of New South Wales until 13 May 1965.  [Doesn’t nice Mr Scott provide Four Corners with a fact-checker? – Ed].

In 1961 Labor’s Robert Heffron was NSW premier.  He was succeeded by Labor’s Jack Renshaw. By 1961, Labor had held office for 20 years in New South Wales.  It remained in government until Askin defeated Renshaw at the May 1965 NSW election.  For the record, in the 1960s Askin went by the first name “Robin”.  He changed his first name to “Robert” when he was knighted in the early 1970s.

▪ Richard Walsh Recalls A Coronation Which Never Took Place

Author and publisher Richard Walsh put in a striking performance on Richard Glover’s 702 Drive Time program last Monday.  Asked to comment about the Royal Wedding between William and Kate, Dr Walsh confessed that he had not seen the telecast.  This did not prevent him discussing the occasion, however, since he declared that he had “seen this play many times before” with a different cast and a different production. Richard Walsh even had time to reflect on the Prince of Wales-Mrs Simpson saga, a comedy tragedy which took place circa 1936. Let’s go to the audio tape:

Richard Walsh : I think you’ve always got to come back to the Coronation of Edward, Edward who became the Duke of Windsor.  The great outpouring – he was a celebrity, he was a celebrity bigger than William is, bigger than William’s mother is. He was there. People loved him. But then when he asked the people to do something that he wanted – like allowing [him] to marry the woman he loved – they wouldn’t have a bar of it.

And now for some facts.  Edward VIII, who became king in January 1936 on the death of George V, never took part in a Coronation.  He abdicated, in December 1936, before the planned Coronation took place.  Moreover, Edward never asked “the people” to do anything.  It was the British government which indicated to the King that it was not acceptable for him to marry a divorced woman (Wallis Simpson) and Edward VIII then decided, on his own volition, to abdicate. The British public did not find out about the King’s love interest until just days before the abdication.


And now for a true confession. Sometimes the media makes life difficult for Nancy’s co-owner.  When Media Watch Dog was set up in early 2009, one of Nancy’s early obsessions turned on the fact that The Monthly (proprietor Morry Schwartz, editorial chairman Robert Manne) did not run a correspondence page in its printed edition and did not employ a fact-checker. Then, lo and behold, The Monthly decided to publish a Letters Page and employed a fact-checker. Difficult.

Over recent years, MWD has been banging on about The Age – aka “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. Here the weekly column of the sit-down comedian Catherine Deveny was most helpful – she was engaged by The Age’s (then) editor Andrew Jaspan.  But Fairfax Media management sacked Mr Jaspan and, not long after, The Age’s new editor Paul Ramadge sacked Catherine Deveny.  This made life difficult for Nancy.

Shattered by Ms Deveny’s exit, MWD turned its focus to the prevalence of leftist opinion on The Age’s Opinion Page.  But then, just recently, The Age’s Opinion page editor Roslyn Guy was moved sideways and was replaced by Paul Austin (who used to edit the page some time ago) and Sushi Das – and some balance was restored.  Not good – from Nancy’s perspective. [I get your point. It would be a bit like Robert Manne, Phillip Adams, John Pilger and Bob Ellis all going into retirement at the same time – Ed].

So it’s great to see that The Sunday Age – aka “The-Observer-On-The-Yarra” – came good last Sunday with its four page “Souvenir Liftout” of the Royal Wedding.  The two feature articles were by punster Kathy Lette (see MWD, Issue 92) and pundit Guy Rundle (see MWD passim) – republicans both.


Nancy’s co-owner (also a republican) was grateful that The Sunday Age’s editor Guy Alcorn had seen fit to publish the thoughts of Ms Lette (Beach Babe, Retd) and Mr Rundle (Marxist, Retd) on – wait for it – that Royal Kiss. [Weren’t there two? – Ed].

Here is Ms Lette on the Royal Kiss:

…back in the crowds around Buck House, we were all waiting for the kiss. Would Wills go in for the double-cheek peck? A smack on the lips? Or do a full Rhett Butler bend-back, complete with black belt in tongue fu? Charles and Di had a fairytale wedding. Only it was scripted by the Brothers Grimm. But when Prince William kissed his bride, the roar that went up from the crowd sounded like a Bondi breaker. The only way I could stop my eyes moistening was to remember that to the rest of the royal family, it probably meant, ”Oh, serf’s up!” But there’s no denying that happiness reigned.

What pun.  So, according to Kathy Lette, the Royal Kiss was well received.  Not so – according to the one-time editor of Arena Magazine.  This is what Mr Rundle wrote about the Royal Kiss:

What finally is to be done with such an intoxicating institution? If it can continue to put on such a show, can it go on forever? The spectacle would suggest that to be the case; the reality is more complex. For just before William and Kate left the Abbey, for the palace, and that anodyne, inevitably disappointing kiss, they were sung out by Jerusalem, anthem rather than hymn, and a republican one at that.

So, according to Guy Rundle, the Royal Kiss was “anodyne” and “disappointing”. Come to think of it Mr Rundle made more sense when he used to write turgid Marxist articles for boring Arena.  For the record, it may well be that William Blake, who wrote Jerusalem, was something of a luddite.  But this was not a widely known fact in Britain last weekend and is unlikely to disturb the reign of the Windsors.  Here’s Nancy’s idea for next Sunday’s Sunday Age.  Perhaps Ms Alcorn should arrange for Mr Rundle to kiss Ms Lette.  The full job or just anodyne?  You be the judge.


MWD anxiously waits for the spirit of “The Guardian on the Yarra” to return.  There was a sign, just a sign, in The Saturday Age last weekend when Michael Shmith reported on the Royal Wedding from what he termed “Richmond 3121”. For non-Melbourne types, that’s inner-city Melbourne, leftist, sandal-wearing country.  In truth, Mr Shmith had little to say. [That’s a bit unfair.  He did write about feeding his cat and dressing in yellow trousers. – Ed].  But at least he said it with a “Guardian-on-the-Yarra” type sneer.  Here’s hoping for more. Lots more.


▪ SMH Reader John Barrand Nails The Chaser “Boys” For Racism and Sexism

The controversy over the ABC’s (failed) attempt to air The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary (see MWD Issue 92) led to John Barrand writing to The Sydney Morning Herald last Friday.  While not a royalist, Mr Barrand supported the decision by Clarence House to prohibit the Chaser Boys (Average Age 38) from obtaining a feed of the Royal Wedding as a background for their sneering humour. John Barrand reminded Herald readers of the words of the Chaser’s Andrew Hansen’s ballad titled “Even Pricks Turn Into Top Blokes After Death”.  This can be accessed on You Tube and is as follows:

Princess Di was just a slut for sex/when they looked in the car wreck/her dress was wet with Arab semen stains.

If anyone but one of The Chaser Boys (Average Age 38) had written this – they would have been up before the beak for both racism and sexism.  However, Hansen’s skit was defended by the ABC at the time. And ABC management wanted Andrew Hansen to have another go at the Royal Family in The Chaser’s Wedding Commentary.

John Barrand – Five Paws for musical memory.

Australian Reader Peter Morris Nails Manning Clark’s Soviet Softness

Then there is Peter Morris, who wrote to The Australian on Tuesday defending Ross Fitzgerald’s article (The Australian, 2 May 2011) about Manning Clark titled “Fellow traveller was mute about Communist crimes”. Fitzgerald’s piece was criticised by Stephen Holt, who claimed that the late Manning Clark was not really a supporter of Soviet communism. Last Tuesday, The Australian published the following letter supporting Professor Fitzgerald:

It’s not correct for Stephen Holt (Letters, 3/5) to suggest that Manning Clark never gave any support to communism. In the first school term of 1944, when Clark was a master at Geelong Grammar School, he gave a special lecture in which he eulogised Lenin, communism and the Soviet Union. As well as the students who attended the lecture (of whom I was one) another master was also present, a Dr Parness, who was a refugee from (I think) Poland.

Immediately after Clark finished speaking Parness stood up to challenge him and started by saying, “Do you realise you are supporting a regime which has killed 30 million people?” Clark rubbished the suggestion and refused to accept any further discussion.

– Peter Morris, Armadale, Vic

Peter Morris – Five Paws for historical memory.


There are not many scoops in Lindsay Tanner’s book Sideshow: Dumbing Down of Democracy. However, here is one – on Page 41:

Sometimes, to be fair, the media can take a more enlightened approach. While pre-recording a Lateline interview with Leigh Sales, I was asked to describe Kevin Rudd in one word.  The question was a bit ambiguous because it also referred to John Howard.  Mistakenly, thinking I was asked to describe the Liberal leader, I replied, “Nasty”. I then realised that I had just made a career-threatening blunder, and hastily clarified my comment.  To the credit of the ABC and Sales, this rather messy exchange was edited out of the broadcast interview. No doubt it appeared in the bloopers video at the ABC Christmas Party.

It is a matter of record that other journalists did not grant such licence to other politicians. In 1986, when campaigning in the South Australian election, John Howard said he was in Adelaide to support John Bannon – when he meant the Liberal Party leader John Olsen. Bannon was Labor premier at the time. In 2006 Kim Beazley was bagged by journalists when he referred to American conservative Karl Rove when he meant Rove McManus.

It seems that there is one media law for John Howard and Kim Beazley – and another one for Lindsay Tanner.  At Page 122 of Sideshow, Tanner asks why Kim Beazley ever decided to make a statement about the entertainer Rove McManus, who had recently become a widower.  To which MWD responds: Why did Mr Tanner ever agree to Ms Sales’ request that he describe John Howard – or Kevin Rudd – in one word?


According to the Herald/Nielsen poll, 59 per cent of Australians oppose the carbon tax.  According to last Wednesday’s Newspoll, the figure is 60 per cent with 30 per cent in favour and 10 per cent undecided.  In other words, close to two thirds of Australians oppose a carbon tax while close to one third support the concept.

The release of these figures triggered in MWD a memory jolt – back to Jayne Dullard’s appearance on ABC News Breakfast on 20 April 2011.  Ms Dullard is a member of a group which is increasingly heard on the public broadcaster these days – namely members of the public relations and consulting profession.  They have plenty of opinions, usually fashionably left-wing, which suits the ABC.  And exposure on the ABC can only help such business as public relations and consulting – since they need to draw attention to their product.

The problem is that some PR types seem to know very little about how politics works. Let’s go back to 20 April 2011 – when Jayne Dullard, of CPR Public Relations, appeared in the News Breakfast segment discussing the morning’s newspapers. She referred to a letter which Julia Gillard had written to the Business Council of Australia on climate change.  This had been referred to in that morning’s editions of The Age and the Australian Financial Review.  Let’s pick up the conversation.

Jayne Dullard : …Gillard has actually laid down the gauntlet now, in what I think is quite a clever fashion, to the Business Council of Australia –  asking the CEO there: “Do you support a five per cent reduction in emissions?”.  You know : “Do you or do you not?”. And I think at last a strategic clever move in this, you know, terribly sort of poisonous battle for public will. …So when she [the Prime Minister] returns from her tour of North Asia, she will have – or she won’t, which will be just as telling- something quite definitive with which she will then be able to go up to the public and say, I suppose either: “Look, we have agreement on the principle of this matter, now we have to work together and move forward”.  Or, “they [the BCA] don’t support us at all, so do we need to listen to anything they say?”.

Peter Kennedy: As a public relations expert, what have you made of the Prime Minister’s handling primarily of the – say in the last couple of weeks?

Jayne Dullard : Look, the whole framing of the debate around emissions reduction, I think, has not been as clever as it might have been. I mean, just talking about – for example – emissions reduction and carbon rather than pollution, way back then was probably a mistake. If we talked about pollution I think it’s something we can all see and smell. We know what it is, we know it’s bad, we don’t like it, I think that would have been a more compelling message. And that’s something that happened many, many years ago. I think taking – and this has been much discussed, of course – the sort of the leadership role and if you’re just standing strong and saying: “No, we have to do this, and we’re going to do it, and we’ll work out the best way to do it but there is no other option”.

If only politics and government were so simple.  Jayne Dullard appears to believe that Julia Gillard can win the argument on carbon tax by saying that the Business Council of Australia supports such a move. The fact is that most electors, including those who run small businesses in suburban and regional Australia, really don’t care much about what the BCA says.  Then there is the fact that big business is divided on carbon change.  Some major companies support a carbon tax leading to an emissions trading scheme being implemented as soon as possible.  Other major companies believe that Australia should not move on a carbon tax ahead of other nations such as the US, China and India. Moreover, if saying that “there is no other option” works – then the Rudd Labor government would never have felt compelled to junk its emissions trading scheme in April last year in the lead-up to the 2010 election.

Ms Dullard is clearly a barracker for a carbon tax.  However, she should be well advised not to project her convictions on others.


Jonathan Holmes Looks Back in Confusion on Four Corners, Communism, Geraldine Doogue, The Late Andrew Olle and All That

On 28 April 2011 Jonathan Holmes, presenter of the ABC TV Media Watch program since 2008, wrote an article for The Drum titled “The complainant and the commissar”. Mr Holmes’ article was essentially a defence of the ABC’s revised internal complaints procedures.  Fair enough.  However, MWD was intrigued by the lead to Jonathan Holmes’ article, which reads as follows:

In April 1982 I arrived in Sydney from the UK to take up the position of Executive Producer, Four Corners. It was the program’s 21st anniversary that year. This year it will celebrate its 50th. It’s unimaginable, now, that the ABC would entrust the running of its premier current affairs program to a 34-year-old who didn’t even know the names of the Australian states, let alone the difference between a Prime Minister and a Premier.

Interesting.  Jonathan Holmes now acknowledges that, when he arrived in Australia to take up the key executive producer position at the ABC’s leading current affairs program in 1982, he knew nothing about Australian government or political history. Absolutely nothing.

But Mr Holmes’ ignorance did not stop there.  He also assumed that his Australian critics could not be serious – rather they were just joking.  As the Media Watch presenter told readers of The Drum:

There was a lot else I didn’t understand about Australia. So when, a few months into my tenure, we received a complaint from a Queensland address alleging that Four Corners was run by a cell of communist agitators in league with the Soviet Union, I made the mistake of assuming that its author was having a lend. In those days, programs dealt with complaints themselves. I blithely bashed out a response on my big grey office Remington. It ran something like this:

Dear Comrade,

I congratulate you on your perception. It is true that we attempt to conduct each week a rigorous Marxist-Leninist analysis of Australian conditions. Of course, we do our best to dress up the product of our labours in the bourgeois garb of “impartiality and balance”. However, such attempts will never deceive viewers, like yourself, who have a grasp of the fundamentals of dialectical materialism.

There were a couple more paragraphs in a similar vein – I had good fun writing it – before I signed off…

Yours fraternally

Jonathan Holmes

Commissar, the Four Corners Socialist Collective

That’s what Jonathan Holmes claims today.  He does not have a copy of the letter and there is no record of such an incident – which apparently led to an official rebuke – on his file. Nor is the matter covered in K.S. Inglis’ book This is the ABC. Jonathan Holmes’ recall may be a true account of what (allegedly) happened some three decades ago.  Or it may be apocryphal.

However, MWD does know how Jonathan Holmes really reacted when a program which he had produced and directed on the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), titled The Party’s Over, went to air in July 1990 and was subsequently criticised.  This program was produced as part of the ABC TV’s Hindsight program and was presented by Geraldine Doogue.

Gerard Henderson criticised The Party’s Over in his Sydney Morning Herald column on 31 July 1990 – which is reproduced here (as it appeared in the book Gerard Henderson’s Scribbles On).

Henderson pointed to the soft treatment of the CPA in The Party’s Over and drew attention to errors and omissions in the program and in coverage of The Party’s Over by Andrew Olle on ABC Radio in Sydney.

On 1 August 1990, Jonathan Holmes wrote a five page abusive letter to Gerard Henderson – in which he said that he was “fed up” with Henderson, accused him of “blatant dishonesty” and alleged that he was idle.  Mr Holmes also privately complained about Henderson to the SMH’s then opinion page editor (Scott Milson) and wrote a letter to the SMH.  The paper did not publish the Holmes letter but he was invited to write an article for the Herald – an offer he did not get around to accepting.  However, on 6 August 1990 the SMH did run a letter by the late Andrew Olle who was also criticised in Henderson’s column.  Mr Olle avoided all the substantial criticisms in the SMH column and wrote 150 words claiming that Henderson’s critique “holds only limited appeal for bemused onlookers”.  The late Andrew Olle offered no argument or evidence – only sneers and attempted ridicule.  In fairness to Mr Olle – this was the way ABC handled considered criticism at the time – and to some extent still does. The reference is to Phillip Adams et al.

Jonathan Holmes’ angry letter is published here along with the follow up correspondence from Henderson to Holmes (20 August 1990), Holmes to Henderson (4 September 1990) and Henderson to Holmes (17 September 1990).

The 1990 correspondence demonstrates that, yes, Jonathan Holmes was once quite ignorant about Australian political history and, no, he did not assume that his critics were merely “having a lend” of him.  Instead, Holmes went into angry denial about the errors, and most of the omissions, in The Party’s Over. Not long after this controversy Chris Masters, whom Holmes had appointed to Four Corners; publicly conceded that there was a Marxist influence within ABC current affairs like Four Corners – which suggests that the complainant from Queensland (if such an entity existed) was on to something.

By way of background, in the Holmes/Henderson correspondence there is reference to an ABC TV program titled Power to the People, which was also produced by Hindsight and which aired in May 1990.  Power to the People, which was also presented by Geraldine Doogue, was a soft account of the left-wing Vietnam protest movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.  It was very much in the ABC genre – where only the leftists were heard and no conservatives were interviewed.  Gerard Henderson’s column on Power to the People (8 May 1990), which was also published in the Gerard Henderson Scribbles On, can be read here.


MWD’s Correspondence Section has been most popular.  So much so that a decision has been made to run correspondence – even when no one answers Nancy’s co-owner’s original epistle.  Here we go: On 1 March 2011, Gerard Henderson emailed Tim Flannery in the following terms:


Congratulations on your appointment as Chief Commissioner of the Independent Climate Commission. I wanted to follow up one point concerning your appearance on Q&A on Monday 21 February. During the exchange on Q&A, Senator Barnaby Joyce made the following comment:

Well…you’ve got to match predictions up with what people have said. Now, I’ve heard Mr Flannery before say that Brisbane was going to run out of water. Well, we certainly didn’t – that didn’t happen.

As you will recall, you did not respond to Senator Joyce’s comment.  It is unclear whether you refrained from responding or whether it was not possible for you to inject yourself into the debate at this point. My query is this: What do you say in response to the comment that you predicted that, without drastic measures, Brisbane would run out of water?

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

So far, alas, Dr Flannery has not responded.  This could be because the Independent climate Commission’s Chief Commissioner is oh-so-busy emitting carbon as he travels in Australia and overseas attending meetings or flogging his (non-electronic) book.  Or it could turn on the fact that he does not have a suitable answer.

If Dr Flannery gets in touch, MWD will ask whether he will stand by his article “Australia: Not Such a Lucky Country” in the New Scientist on 16 June 2007 – which commenced as follows:

Over the past 50 years southern Australia has lost about 20 per cent of its rainfall, and one cause is almost certainly global warming. Similar losses have been experienced in eastern Australia, and although the science is less certain it is probable that global warming is behind these losses too. But by far the most dangerous trend is the decline in the flow of Australian rivers: it has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent decades, so dams no longer fill even when it does rain. Growing evidence suggests that hotter soils, caused directly by global warming, have increased evaporation and transpiration and that the change is permanent. I believe the first thing Australians need to do is to stop worrying about “the drought” – which is transient – and start talking about the new climate.

When Nancy emerged from her kennel this morning, the official water catchment storage figures for Australia’s major east coast cities were as follows:

Brisbane:  90 per cent capacity

Sydney: 74 per cent capacity

Melbourne: 53 per cent capacity

Hobart: 100 per cent capacity.

MWD would like to send Professor Flannery a letter about this to see whether he still maintains  that dams in Australia will no longer fill.  But it is polite to first await any reply to the first query.

We’ll keep you posted.

Until next time.