Thursday 28th of January 2021

carbon copy, on the wrong side of history...


“On Thursday, March 26, Morrison summoned a handful of senior journalists, one from each mainstream outlet, to meet him in the cabinet room where he would speak frankly about the state of play. He would do this on a handful of occasions during the coming weeks. John Curtin, Labor prime minister from 1941 to 1945, did the same thing during World War II.”

So wrote Rob Harris, the National Affairs Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on June 10.

Last week, this select group of journalists – from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the Liberal Party stalwart Peter Costello-chaired Nine Entertainment, Guardian Australia and the ABC – “splashed” with a front-page story extolling the government’s Gas Plan.

As one, they “broke the news” that the government intended to spend taxpayer money to build a gas-fired power plant and gas pipelines and open up new fields for gas fracking.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday promise a “gas-led recovery” from the coronavirus recession by making sure Australian manufacturers can gain access to the energy they need to compete with overseas rivals,” wrote David Crowe, chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He cited a policy document.

Similar stories appeared in the Australian Financial Review, The Australian and other mainstream media. But there was no public announcement, no policy disclosure; only a cosy briefing to a tight crew of chosen Canberra-based journalists.

Morning TV, Radio and Press Club follow up the newspaper “drops”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor had already been booked for Fran Kelly’s ABC Breakfast radio program. Morning TV and radio took their cue from the blanket coverage in the mainstream media and praised the gas plan too. The agenda had been set.

It was all staged, planned and choreographed to manipulate public opinion en masse. 

Fossil fuel executive Andrew Liveris drove home Scott Morrison’s gas gospel at the National Press Club. Liveris is also chairman of the National Covid-19 Commission, the body the Prime Minister set up to advise the government on Australia’s recovery.

And Labor was as silent as a mouse. They are similarly captured by big gas via tight-knit lobbying connections and years of donations.

Yet by the afternoon, the plan was already being discredited. Energy generation and retailing juggernaut AGL said the new gas plant was not needed. So, too, did energy markets operator AEMO. A former BP president even dubbed it an “industry rescue package”.

Much of the media promptly backflipped, with the notable exception of fossil fuel cheerleaders in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. Yet the damage was done. The corporate media and a gun-shy ABC had run the press campaign for the government, deceiving millions of Australians.

It was just the latest blatant example of media capture, what the notorious Queensland premier of yore, John Bjelke-Petersen used to describe as “feeding the chooks”. 

The “Drops” Game

Cabinet ministers have always leaked to the media in return for favourable coverage. During the tenure of Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, the joke around newsrooms was that senior Fairfax correspondent Peter Hartcher was so close to Rudd that senior ministers would wake up in the morning to see policy announced in the Sydney Morning Herald before Rudd had told his most senior ministers. 

The difference now, under the shrewd media management of Scott Morrison, is that the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet no longer “drops” its press releases to a single journalist or outlet. “The drop” is made to a group of senior journalists from a group of outlets.

Where previously journalists from rival media would bring a critical eye when following up a story they had missed, now all major media outlets run the same story at the same time.

It is how the Government ensures favourable press coverage. If a journalist refuses to play ball, they face being excluded from special briefings and future drops. How would these journalists explain to their editors why they missed the story?

As veteran and respected ABC journalist Quentin Dempster notes:

“In one sense I understand what has happened if the confidential briefing of selected journalists in Canberra is going on. But mindful editors can implement counter measures … by assigning other journalists to follow leads and, where necessary, kick the government in the accountability shins.

“Rupert Murdoch, of course, rejects all this ethics crap. The record shows the Murdoch culture cuts straight to the chase by effectively blackmailing or intimidating governments and their spin doctors: ‘give us the first drop on government news or a stream of bad headlines can be expected to follow.’ It’s worked a treat for News Corp in Australia for years.”

One Canberra correspondent who declined to be identified told Michael West Media the financial distress in mainstream media had flow-on effects in newsrooms – fewer journalists and lower pay – which meant less time spent on stories and less experienced journalists writing about government.

It is a sentiment echoed by veteran investigative journalist Wendy Bacon, who said the lack of resourcing and expertise had led to a deterioration in culture.

“Younger journalists have not been brought up in a culture where you stand up for your story. They are scared for their jobs. If you think you might be out the door, you take fewer risks. If you don’t like the story angle (put forward by a government source or a newspaper editor), are you willing to put your job on the line?”

Senior independent journalists such as Crikey’s Bernard Keane and Michael Pascoe at The New Daily have been increasingly scathing of the mainstream media’s sheeplike coverage.


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I don't know if you've been as outraged as I have been, by our Priminiscule Minister "banging the table" like a spoiled child braying in front of a lollie-shop or similar impressions of acrid demand, acting like a desperate despot ON ALL ISSUES, from gas-fired power stations, which not a single respectable energy retailer want — to "opening borders by Christmas" so Santa can deliver Covid-free/laced goodies to the kiddies... No more Mr Smooth nice guy. Here comes the full-blown dictator. Even Scotty from Marketing has turned into Paul Joseph Goebbels...

the cancerous growth of our capitalist economy...


by Dr. Geoff Davies

Growth has a fundamental place in the biological world, of which we humans are a part. Unchecked growth has no place, outside of the microbial world. Unchecked growth is called a plague, an epidemic or a cancer.

Growth, among mainstream economists, has become a reflexive, mindless goal, specifically growth of the Gross Domestic Product. Growth of the GDP is the dominant global criterion for allegedly successful management of an economy. GDP is an indiscriminate measure of what we spend money on: some things good, some useless, some bad and, increasingly, some attempting to repair damage from previous spending. GDP is not a useful measure of our quality of life, whose improvement should be the real goal, but it does correlate with resource use and resource waste, also known as pollution.

The claim that unchecked competitive markets are the most efficient way to increase material wealth has no basis, as I explained in Part II. Nor have free markets worked in practice. Australia’s economic performance post-1983 has never come close to that in the 1950s and 60s when it averaged over 5% annual GDP growth and 1.3% unemployment.

However economists and the self-interested rich have promoted a system based on unrestrained markets that in turn promotes anything that yields short-term profit. Thus we have unsustainable extraction of natural resources, and for-profit aged care that consigns our grandparents to disgusting neglect.

We also have potent and dangerous new technologies like face recognition, meta-data analysis, artificial ‘intelligence’ and various biotechnologies including, imminently, the suspension of biological ageing. The planet really needs a plague of demanding, smart-aleck old farts. The surveillance state is a reality, and rapidly gaining in power and pervasiveness. I am only mentioning war making and killer robotics.

Some older people occasionally wonder why the forecasts of our childhood have not come to pass. We were told that by the year 2000 no-one would work more than 15 hours a week. The reason is that we have been kept on the treadmill so as to keep the GDP increasing. A major motivator has been ‘labour market flexibility’, the notion that your labour is just a free-market disposable commodity that needs to be used to maximum efficiency and effect. One difficulty of course is that your labour comes with you attached. The primary effects have been to keep the employed insecure and to enrich the rich and empower the powerful.

The recently-deceased David Graeber addressed another aspect of the treadmill in his book Bullshit Jobs. He found that nearly half of office jobs are useless, or even harmful, according to those occupying them. He also found that payment is in rough inverse proportion to the usefulness of the job, so a garbage collector is paid very little, a receptionist making her boss look important is paid more, and a corporate lawyer defending his firm against other corporate lawyers is very well paid, although collectively they accomplish very little.

Exploitation is nothing new. Six thousand years ago people started over-exploiting local environments, animals and lower-rank humans, using the new-fangled agriculture, and soon the Pharaohs over-exploited the slaves and paid little attention to the environment supporting everyone.

Five hundred years ago bands of rapacious aliens started invading many parts of the world and carrying off wealth, people and well-being. Those aliens were from Europe. European tribes had been fighting amongst themselves for centuries and they had become very good at it. I learnt only recently that H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was inspired by events in our own, notorious, Van Diemen’s Land.

Two hundred and fifty years ago people discovered how to harness fossil fuels, debt and competitive marketsto hyper-charge the exploitation of everything, everywhere.

The fact that there has been a moderately widespread increase in material wealth since then is taken as proof that fossil-fuelled markets are good. It is true that even some of the common people gained more wealth, erratically, through this period. However that share of wealth was not simply gifted by the rich, it was wrestled from them by people who managed to band together in unions and other common causes. There are still many poor in the world, and their ranks are growing again.

Meanwhile we watch with trepidation as the clever innovators create technologies whose power and implications are difficult to comprehend, except they are tampering with the deep and ancient order of the living world, of which we are still inextricably a part. Why do they do it? Because it is there to be done, and someone will pay them for it.

Our popular culture is well aware of the dangers of our trajectory, as manifest in dystopian tales of many kinds. However I can’t remember any tale of the future that portrays a happy, pleasant Earth, or even a reasonably tolerable one, with a future of its own. We stare in fascination at our predicament, but most of us don’t know what to do about it, and think it is inevitable anyway.

The practices and technologies to stop warming the planet and trashing its environment are available and well known, to anyone who looks. We can also manage the incentives our markets operate under, instead of leaving the incentives to chance and the manipulators. At present it is generally profitable to exploit people and trash the planet. If we make it profitable to nurture people and the planet we might be surprised how quickly things improve. That is what a carbon emissions price was supposed to do, for example.

The implicit goal of our present system is the creation and discarding of more and more stuff. It’s a bullshit job.

We can live well if we choose. The bigger challenge now is to displace the narrative of selfishness and entrepreneurial competition so we actually make that choice, collectively.

If we make our goal the indefinite improvement of the quality of our lives, and societies, there are other things we can do. We can make Enough the centre of our lives. We can acknowledge that we are in fact highly social. We can cultivate the community we are part of. We can appreciate that to love and be loved is what leads to a fulfilling life. We can connect or re-connect with nature, so we might glimpse our real place in the world.

It may be hard for us jaded moderns to believe, but many people have lived well this way, and their ways of life endured far longer than ours. Traditional values, indigenous values, developed over millennia because they work. This does not mean returning to only traditional technologies. If you live by traditional values you won’t destroy the world.

Dr. Geoff Davies is a retired geophysicist who has explored economics for over two decades. He is the author of Dynamic EarthSack the Economists and Economy, Society, Nature.


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Read this YD ( website from head to toe...



scomo's brain-fart...



SUVs versus the world...

Sunday environmental round up, 27 September 2020



 On 27 September 2020


Despite presidents and SUV drivers doing their bit for oil, the industry is going down the drain. China steps into the global climate action vacuum. Dr Fauci calls for a new relationship with nature to reduce the likelihood of more emerging infectious diseases. WH Auden praises the USA. 



The oil and gas industry likes to present itself as not only responding to the problem of climate change but also being part of the solution. As this report in the New York Times demonstrates though, industry executives are principally interested in burnishing their public image, particularly among younger people, so that the industry survives for as long as possible. They are not particularly interested in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This will come as no surprise to P&I readers, but the Times provides some convincing evidence of the industry’s true priorities. At an industry conference, one executive, concerned that gas flaring presents a ‘huge, huge threat’ to the industry’s efforts to project itself as climate-friendly, asks, ‘What’s our message going forward? What’s going to stick with those young people and make them support oil and gas?’ Image and profit, not emissions, are the industry’s priorities.

Mind you, if you’re an executive in an industry that has falling profits and massive capital write-offs because demand and prices for your product are collapsing, and you’ve been overproducing so there is a glut, I suppose you would be a tad worried about your industry’s image, and your own job. Australia digs coal and pumps gas so we don’t hear too much about the travails of the oil industry, but it was struggling globally before COVID and its future is looking even worse now. This spells big trouble for oil companies who want to maintain their profits and power and for states that are dependent on oil to make their budgets balance (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Russia). Governments face some big decisions. Will they orchestrate a managed decline of the industry or let it stumble along and collapse at some point? What actions will rich countries take to assist developing countries to leave their oil in the ground and/or transition to renewable energy. How will governments assist workers who are made redundant by bankrupt companies as the whole industry implodes?

The straight line from oil-money to Trump’s victory in 2016 to the USA’s imminent withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement  to the significance for global warming of the forthcoming presidential election is drawn out by Bill McKibben. Another four years of Trump will see the USA lose its opportunity to cut power sector emissions by 80% and create millions of jobs by 2035. It will also signal the USA’s complete absence from any global leadership role on climate change. In contrast, Biden has seriously ramped up his climate action commitments in recent months, including promising to re-sign the Paris agreement. He is also being pressured by Democrat donors to exclude all people with links to fossil fuels from his campaign and, should he win, his administration. Looks like US voters will have a real choice on climate change in November. What chance Australian voters having one next time around?

President Xi Jinping has stepped into the climate leadership void created by Trump and declared China’s aim to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. It will be interesting to see if China’s commitment and Biden in the White House prompts any  change to Morrison’s climate action nihilism.

During 2010-18 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions. This was due to a combination of increasing numbers on the road and their greater weight and higher emissions per kilometre than other types of car. If all SUV drivers formed their own country, they’d be the seventh largest emitter in the world. In 2019, 40% of global car sales were SUVs. They may have names such as Land Cruiser, X-Trail, Land Rover, Forester, Everest, Trailblazer and Outlander, but the only off-road driving many SUVs experience is the weekly ballet with their cousins in Coles carpark.


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And apologies for making Scomo look like Hitler on the subject of global warming ignorance... Apparently it's not the thing to do as Media Watch pointed out the merde-och press for doing similar stuff on Daniel Andrews... But I was unaware of the merde-och media campaign to discredit Andrews... So please accept my apologies in a barf bag...

a controversial environmental decision...

Australian state authorities have approved the development of a major coal seam gas field in a controversial environmental decision.The Narrabri gas project from energy firm Santos could be one of the biggest in New South Wales (NSW), and provide up to 50% of the state's gas demand.But critics say drilling wells threatens wildlife and water supplies, and increases greenhouse gas emissions.Australia re-committed to a contentious "gas-led" future last week.Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the nation needed more gas supplies as a "transition" source between coal and renewable energy sources.However scientists criticised the focus, saying investment in a fossil fuel hinders Australia's climate change and emissions reductions progress.The Narrabri gas project had already been earmarked by Canberra this year as a key infrastructure project before its official approval by state planners.On Wednesday, the NSW independent planning commission granted "phased approval" to the A$3.6bn (£2bn; $2.5bn) project, which would be located on farm and woodlands in rural northern New South Wales.More than 95% of the 23,000 public submissions to the commission had opposed the development, which is to run for 25 years.However, the commission found the project was "in the public interest" and "any negative impacts can be effectively mitigated with strict conditions".If fully realised, the project will see the drilling of up to 850 coal seam gas wells on a 95,000 hectare site covering farming land and a known forest habitat for koalas.Scientists estimate the project would release about five million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.The decision has drawn anger and outcry from many sections of the community.Along with environmentalists and traditional Aboriginal owners, drought-affected farmers in the region had opposed the gas field for the risks it poses to groundwater supplies.
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