THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is slashing the budget for its network of foreign correspondence* when more than ever Australia needs to be able to accurately and continually assess its place in a rapidly changing global power dynamic.
At the same time some local ABC journalists, like Robyn Williams from the Science Show, are peddling alarmist propaganda while denigrating our best independent thinkers.*
At Senate Estimates in Canberra* last week, Senator Eric Abetz queried Managing Director, Mark Scott, on the treatment of Bob Carter by Mr Williams and in particular asked why the week Professor Carter’s new book was launched, instead of discussing the book, The Counter Consensus, the Science Show paraded a British journalist masquerading as a climate expert to attack a paper published by Professor Carter two years earlier.
Some of the transcript follows and is entertaining in parts:
Senator ABETZ—So let us hope it was not illegally obtained. I move on to the ABC’s Science Show where Bob Ward was interviewed to criticise, I understand, a work of Professor Carter. What are Mr Ward’s qualifications to do so and does he have any peer-reviewed publications on climate change in any academic scientific journals?
Mr Scott—I do not have all these details. I know that he works for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, where he is policy and communications director, but I do not have the background of his own output.
Senator ABETZ—Could you find out for us what academic scientific journals he has written in that are peer-reviewed in relation to climate change?
Mr Scott—I do understand he was critical of Professor Carter and Professor Carter was offered the opportunity to respond to Mr Ward’s claims, but Professor Carter rejected the offer and submitted a written statement which I think was put on the Radio National website….
Senator ABETZ—Thank you. In the promo for this segment Ward was quoted as saying it was ‘the worst paper ever published on the subject’. Can you take on notice for me how often that promo was played around Australia?
Mr Scott—We will try and ascertain that.
Senator ABETZ—What did Mr Ward actually critique and why on that program? As I understand it, he was critiquing an article Professor Carter wrote in 2008 that had very conveniently happened to coincide in the few days before Professor Carter was launching a new book.
Mr Scott—We will take it on notice, Senator.
Senator ABETZ—It may well be one of those wonderful coincidences that seem to happen, like tweets and shoe throwing.
Mr Scott—I must say that books being published do generate publicity and coverage, there is no doubt about that.
Senator ABETZ—But why does somebody then spend their whole time talking about something that was two years old rather than the actual book?
Mr Scott—I will take that on notice.
CHAIR—I have a request from Senator Ludlam. He has two questions which he says will take less than 10 minutes. Do you have got an appropriate time you want to break?
Senator ABETZ—I was about to move on to another question.
CHAIR—Senator Ludlam for a few questions, then back to Senator Abetz….
Senator ABETZ—If I may, I will go back to where I left off in relation to Mr Ward’s description of Professor Carter’s work as ‘the worst paper ever published on the subject’. How often was this played, and what sort of editorial policy was used to allow that to be used in a promo? It was, quite frankly, just gratuitous denigration. It did not really add anything to the debate; it was just gratuitous denigration of—
Senator Conroy—That is an opinion—
Senator ABETZ—No. ‘The worst paper ever published on the subject’—it is very difficult to put that into any category other than gratuitous denigration unless the ABC had done some genuine analysis to say that, of all the climate scientists around the world, they had looked at all the papers and they had come to the
conclusion that this was the worst one. I doubt that that occurred.
Mr Scott—I do not recall the promo, but I would say this: that is not the ABC’s view; that is the view of Mr Ward from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. So I think the question is: was it a reasonable apprehension on the part of the Science Show people, the people who had done the interview, that that was Mr Ward’s genuinely held view? Our interviewers, in a sense, ask questions of those guests they have. When we do an interview with you, Senator Abetz, we are not fact checking everything that you say before we put you to air. We respect that you have a position in society, you have a level of expertise. We reference you and your view is expressed. An offer was made, as I said, to Professor Carter to appear on the program. He declined that but he did issue a statement and we made that statement available.
Senator ABETZ—Yes, but after he has had a promo run against him saying that he had produced ‘the worst paper ever published on the subject’, it is hardly conducive to him then coming on the program, I have to say.
Mr Scott—There would be two views on that, Senator. One would be to let it pass by. The other one would be to take advantage of the opportunity to engage in conversation. I am not judging Professor Carter on it—
Senator ABETZ—No, I am judging the ABC, not Professor Carter, as to why they would run such a gratuitous denigration that is not based on any scientific analysis of the papers or any peer review of Professor Carter’s papers, and that is why I asked about Mr Ward’s qualifications in comparison to Professor Carter. It would be like a paralegal somewhere saying that the Chief Justice of the High Court is the worst lawyer in Australian history, running that as a promo and then somehow saying that that is fair.
Mr Scott—I am not in a position to judge Mr Ward’s expertise.
Senator ABETZ—I am the very, very concerned about the editorial policy which would suggest bias in allowing that to occur. In relation to labelling of groups and individuals, you have a policy on that. I understand that the ABC likes to describe people that have doubts about climate change as ‘sceptics’. What
label do you apply to those that are the non sceptics?
Mr Scott—I am not sure that there is a label.
* Slashing budget of foreign correspondents here
* Background here
* Hansard from SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE ESTIMATES (Supplementary Budget Estimates), WEDNESDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2010, CANBERRA
Thanks to Graham Young from On Line Opinion for discussions and briefings.