Australia

Nick Minchin

Nick Minchin

 Credentials

  • BEc (Economics), Australian National University 
  • LLB (Law), Australian National University 

Source: Parliamentary Biography.

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Thu, 2014-01-30 18:39Graham Readfearn
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Australian Report Trumpeted By Coal Bosses Does Not Say What They Want You To Think It Says

WHAT follows are some thoughts about coal from a report just published in Australia.

A longer-term concern relates to the environmental impacts of large-scale coal use, especially its climate consequences….

Coal is a carbon-intensive fuel and the environmental consequences of its use can be significant, especially if it is used inefficiently and without effective emissions and waste control technologies. Such environmental consequences include emissions of pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury, and carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Indeed coal-sourced pollution remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Hence most forecasts show a very wide range of future coal demand, based on differing degrees of environmental policy implementation.

Now who might have written that?  An environmental campaigner?  An anti-coal activist in a less bombastic mood? Maybe they’re the words of an advocate for action on climate change?

Actually, these are the views of Ian Cronshaw, a long-standing advisor to the International Energy Agency who was commissioned by the Energy Policy Institute of Australia to write a report about coal and its future economic outlook.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia’s board includes a number of figures who have spent their careers in and around the fossil fuel industry.

Tue, 2014-01-14 22:27Graham Readfearn
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Exclusive: Mont Pelerin Society Revealed As Home To Leading Pushers Of Climate Science Denial

THERE’S a popular talking point coming from climate change denialists that all people who accept the science and the need to act on it are somehow blinded by faith.

In Australia, climate science contrarian columnists can barely touch their keyboards without typing out the words “global warming faith” or explaining how human-caused global warming is some sort of “new religion”.

This “climate religion” narrative often goes hand-in-hand with another favourite denialist talking point where climate scientists are only doing what they do because there’s a dollar in it.

Presumably the laws of physics, the melting ice sheets, the increasing risk of bushfires, the hottest decades on record and the acidifying oceans are also waiting for their cash.

Maurice Newman, the man hand-picked by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the government’s top business advisor, loves both of these debating points.

Newman has described climate scientists as being a “global warming priesthood” and belonging to a new “religion”. In a second opinion column in two weeks in The Australian, Newman repeats his cynicism over the IPCC and climate scientists, describing them as a “cartel” that “will deny all contrary evidence”.  Newman even repeats the myth that in the 1970s scientists were certain the world was heading for global cooling, when in fact, as this study shows, a healthy majority of scientific papers were predicting the opposite. 

Yet Newman has a deep belief system of his own, having long been associated with a form of “classic liberalism” – a particular world view which advocates small government and low regulation of the activities of businesses.

Not only that, but he is a member of a global society of influential business people, academics and think tank associates known as the Mont Pelerin Society who share the same broad ideology.

The Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society was established in 1947 by free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek.

Maurice Newman, a Mont Pelerin member since 1976, has long been an admirer of the work of Hayek and fellow free market economist Milton Friedman, a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Newman was responsible for bringing Friedman to Australia in the mid-1970s, at a time when Newman was helping to set up the Centre for Independent Studies – a Sydney-based free market think tank.

Mont Pelerin’s website explains that while all members don’t agree on everything, “they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”

The Society, which holds a meeting annually in different parts of the world, also explains how its members see their society “as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by those classical economists, political scientists, and philosophers who have inspired many in Europe, America and throughout the Western World.”

To become a member, individuals have to be nominated by a current member and then seek endorsement by the membership committee before being endorsed. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained a full list of the society’s members that includes senior representatives of many of the world’s foremost “free market” think tanks actively pushing back on proposed policy solutions to tackle climate change.

The list, from 2010, includes almost 500 people from 52 countries, with the bulk of members coming from the United States and the United Kingdom. The 70-page list includes private contact details. DeSmogBlog has decided to publish only extracts with contact details redacted.

Among the notable members is Charles Koch (list excerpt here), the US oil billionaire who has been a Mont Pelerin Society member since 1970.

Tue, 2013-11-19 10:47Graham Readfearn
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Climate Denial Group CFACT Congratulates Australia During Warsaw Talks

AUSTRALIA finally has a vocal cheerleader at the COP19 United Nations climate talks currently taking place in Warsaw - a climate denial activist think tank which rejects the science of human-caused climate change.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, a fossil fuel-funded group which denies that emissions from burning fossil fuels cause climate change, declared in a UN-sanctioned press conference inside the talks that the world should be following Australia's lead in repealing laws to price carbon emissions.

Environment groups have been critical of Australia at the talks, giving the country four “Fossil of the Day” awards for slowing down the talks, while one group said Australia is taking an “anti-climate” stance in Warsaw.

Campaigners have been shocked at the rhetoric coming from Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who recently described carbon pricing as a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one” and characterised moves to financially support developing countries to manage climate change as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”

Marc Morano, the editor of the ClimateDepot denial website, appeared Tuesday alongside CFACT executive director Craig Rucker. Morano unleashed a torrent of previously debunked climate denial talking points to a sparsely populated and occasionally perplexed press conference audience.

“Coal is the moral choice, particularly for the developing world,” said Morano in the CFACT Warsaw press conference - a comment greeted with laughter from many in the room. Conference hosts Poland have been criticised for simultaneously hosting a World Coal Association conference elsewhere in Warsaw.

“The model for the world right now should be Australia,” Morano said. “Australia gets it. Scientifically they get it, politically they get it and particularly when it comes to the United Nations, they get it. They are pulling out of this, they are repealing their carbon tax and Canada seems to be intrigued by what Australia is doing.”

“Australia gets it - they have realised what the United Nations is doing here today. Viva Australia - let's hope the world follows Australia's model,” said Morano, who is a former advisor to Republican Senator James Inhofe, who has said global warming is a scientific “hoax”.

Support from CFACT is not the kind of attention which Australia will welcome.

Fri, 2013-11-01 15:00Graham Readfearn
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Australia's Murdoch Newspapers Lying to Public About Climate Change, Says Study Author

CONSIDER the following two statistics together.

Research into the peer-reviewed science of climate change found that between 1991 and 2011, 97 per cent of studies agreed that climate change is caused mostly by humans.

Research into the reporting of climate change science in Australia's biggest selling newspaper, the Herald Sun in Melbourne, has found that 81 per cent of all the coverage, including 97 per cent of all the opinion stories, were sceptical of human-caused climate change.

Overall, this major new study into newspaper coverage of climate change in Australia has found about one third of all the stories and columns are sceptical of the scientific consensus on climate change.

But the study, carried out by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at Sydney's University of Technology, reveals how Australia's dominant Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers are heavily slanted away from the scientific reality towards denial of the science.

The Sceptical Climate study was led by Wendy Bacon, Professorial Fellow at the ACIJ. She told DeSmogBlog:

Thu, 2013-10-31 18:28Graham Readfearn
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Australian Scientists Call For Apology Over Business Leader's "Slur" of Climate Science Profession

A LEADING association for climate scientists has called on one of Australia's highest profile business leaders to apologise for accusing their profession of lacking integrity.

David Murray, former head of Australia's Commonwealth Bank and the Future Fund, told the ABC Lateline television news programme earlier this week that “there's been a breakdown in integrity” in the science of climate change.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society has issued a statement saying it was “disturbed” by the remarks of Murray, who was in charge of $75 billion of government assets during the final year of his six years as the chairman of the Future Fund.

Mr Murray said he believed “the climate problem is severely overstated” which led interviewer Emma Alberici to point out the strong findings of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In an open letter, AMOS president Blair Trewin writes:

Wed, 2013-10-09 17:00Graham Readfearn
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Australia's New Prime Minister Surrounded By Climate Science Denying Voices and Advisors

WHEN speaking to script, Australia's new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott will say that he accepts that human emissions of greenhouse gases are having an impact on the world's climate.

Yet the Liberal Party leader appears to be surrounding himself with ministers and advisers who reject the science of human-caused climate change, with the most outspoken anti-science advocate being Maurice Newman, recently appointed as chairman of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council.

According to Newman, the current government's two key climate science agencies - the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology - “continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change”, as he wrote last month in the Australian Financial Review.

Writing in The Australian newspaper in July, Newman described the science of human-caused climate change as a “smokescreen” for “vested interests” and criticised US President Barack Obama for continuing to “champion discredited research”.

Last November Newman, a former stockbroker and chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was again dripping with hatred for climate scientists and “believers”, who he described as being part of a global throng of  “fundamentalists” who had “collected hundreds of billions of dollars from naive governments that adopted their faith”.

Since entering Government in September, Tony Abbott has already abolished Australia's publicly-funded Climate Commission, re-iterated his “blood oath” to repeal the country's carbon price legislation and has pushed on with attempts to scrap the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The CEFC has made a reported $500 million in loans since July which have attracted a further $1.6 billion in private investment to projects it has backed.

Fri, 2013-07-12 10:53Graham Readfearn
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Climate Sceptic Professor Sacked From Australian University Was Banned By National Science Foundation For "Deceptive Conduct"

A CLIMATE sceptic professor fired from his Australian university for alleged policy breaches had previously been banned for three years from accessing US taxpayer-funded science research money.

Dr Murry Salby, sacked in May by Macquarie University in Sydney, was the subject of a long investigation by the US National Science Foundation.

The investigation (pdf), which was finished in February 2009, concluded that over a period when Dr Salby was working at the University of Colorado, he had likely fabricated time sheets in relation to research paid for through NSF money.

We conclude that the Subject (Dr Salby) has engaged in a long-running course of deceptive conduct involving both his University and NSF. His conduct reflects a consistent willingness to violate rules and regulations, whether federal or local, for his personal benefit. This supports a finding that the Subject is not presently responsible, and we recommend that he be debarred for five years.

The NSF subsequently decided to only “debar” Dr Salby for three years, preventing him from accessing any NSF research grants or being involved in work related to them. The investigation was carried out by NSF’s Office of Inspector General - an arms-length organisation providing oversight to the NSF.

Tue, 2013-04-16 13:08Graham Readfearn
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Just How Many Climate "Sceptics" Are There?

A version of this post first appeared at RenewEconomy.

WHEN Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that former Woodside gas company executive and lobbyist Gary Gray was Australia’s new energy and resources minister, questions turned quickly to his position on climate change.

Fri, 2013-04-05 05:00Graham Readfearn
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Whistleblower Claims Australian Govt Censored Environment Concerns Prior To Approving Mega Gas Projects

A WHISTLEBLOWER has claimed approvals for two multi-billion dollar gas export projects in Australia were waved through government despite warnings that key information on a range of environmental impacts were either missing or inadequate.

Environment assessment specialist Simone Marsh, who had been on secondment to the Queensland Government's Department of Infrastructure and Planning when the projects were being assessed in early 2010, has spoken of a process where approval of the projects was never in question. Commercial and economic interests were put above environmental concerns.

“All the scientific arguments in the world wouldn't have changed things in that situation,” Marsh told the ABC's investigative journalism documentary program 4 Corners. “They had decided that they wanted to go ahead with the projects and there was nothing stopping it.”

Documents obtained by 4Corners under Right to Information laws in Queensland also reveal how a state government department tasked with assessing the environmental impacts of the projects were looking to provide the state's co-ordinator general with a “bankable outcome” on which to approve the projects.

The 4 Corners program looked at two major projects costing US$38.9 billion that would drill thousands of wells into coal seams in Queensland and, with the help of hydraulic fracturing and 6500 km of access roads, extract gas and pipe it to a new export facility at Curtis Island beside the Great Barrier Reef. Some 26 million cubic metres are being dredged from Gladstone harbour for the export projects.

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