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The climate science denial promoters behind Queensland’s energy scare election headlines

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Desmog Blog

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In the final week before an election, the biggest-selling newspaper in the Australian state of Queensland screamed a front-page headline that cut into one of the poll’s most divisive issues.

Nervous Energy” read the headline, claiming an “Exclusive” on a “Dire warning of power station closures, blackout.”

According to the Courier-Mail, a just-published report had warned that the center-left Labor Party’s target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 would cause “statewide blackouts” for “up to 15 percent of the year.”

According to the report, the policy would also cut dividends to the state’s treasury and push power prices up even further. Labor rejected the claims, saying the state owned the coal power stations and it had no plans to close any prematurely.

The report was from the Australian Institute for Progress (AiP) and provided a perfect echo of the center-right Liberal National Party’s (LNP) warnings to prospective voters in the state poll. But this is not surprising, when you learn who is behind the AiP.

We did not model that

The Courier-Mail report gave only a hint — the report’s author, Jonathan Pavetto, was a “former LNP Federal candidate,” the newspaper briefly disclosed.

Pavetto ran in the Federal Queensland seat of Kennedy against Bob Katter in the 2016 election. But the AiP’s links to the LNP go far deeper than that. The “institute” is stacked with current and former senior Liberal National Party members.

What’s more, the same institute has heavily promoted the rejection of the science linking fossil fuel burning to dangerous climate change.

But there also appears to be serious questions about the conclusions made in the AiP report.

The AiP report says: “The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Australia’s independent energy markets and power systems operator, has modeled the impact of a proposed 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 plan on the state’s electricity generation sector. This analysis was conducted as part of AEMO’s annual National Transmission Network Development Plan(NTNDP) update.”

This claim has caused some head scratching in AEMO, and so it should. The NTNDP report makes it clear that the proposed Queensland target was not part of its modeling.

An AEMO spokesperson told me: “To date AEMO has not modeled a 50 per cent renewable energy target in Queensland in our 2016 NTNDP or any other reports.”

How can a report make claims based on a set of modeling, when that modeling has not actually been done? An email and phone message to Pavetto have gone unanswered.

But the AiP report also comes to other questionable conclusions.

The report is based on one modeling scenario used by AEMO that assumes demand for electricity will drop by one third within 20 years — a scenario deemed highly unlikely.

Under this AEMO scenario, it is this drop in demand for electricity that could see coal plants closing earlier, not a 50 percent target for renewable energy.

The “blackouts” claim depended on a scenario where two interstate powergrid connections simultaneously failed — also highly unlikely and also undisclosed in either the AiP report or the Courier-Mail story.

Institute pushes climate science denial

But what is the Australian Institute for Progress and should anyone have expected it to be a non-partisan voice on energy policy during a heated election campaign?

Soon after launching in 2014, the AiP hosted Canada-based climate science denier Patrick Moore, who claims there is no evidence that human emissions of CO2 are warming the planet — a position at odds with all the world’s major scientific institutions.

In July 2017, the AiP hosted a Brisbane screening of Climate Hustle — a film produced by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a U.S.-based climate science denial group.

Several climate scientists reviewed the film for DeSmog and described it as “muddled,” “misleading,” and “the usual rubbish from the usual suspects.”

The AiP was also a “founding think tank partner” of the October 2017 LibertyFest conference in Brisbane that featured two prominent climate science deniers.

Political Allegiances

The AiP also has strong and enduring political ties to the LNP.  Graham Young, AiP’s executive director, is a former campaign chairman of the state Liberals.

Young also rejects the evidence that human-caused climate change is a problem and, as publisher of the OnLine Opinion website, has given a platform to several climate science deniers.

AiP’s chairman, Bob Tucker, is a former Liberal Party president who ran as a federal candidate in the 2001 by-election in the seat of Ryan.

Practically all of the directors listed on the AiP website also have strong links to the LNP.

Barrister Amanda Stoker is on an LNP state policy committee, is a former editor of the party’s policy magazine Dialogue, and has appeared on the LNP Senate ticket in federal elections.

Fellow AiP director Carol Cashman is a former general secretary of the Queensland division of the Federal Liberal Party and was a Brisbane City Councillor for the Liberal party for 12 years.

Dan Ryan, another AiP director, is also on an LNP policy committee and appeared on the LNP’s Federal senate ticket in 2016. According to the LNP’s 2015 annual report, Glenn Ferguson was a member of the party’s Sunshine Coast regional executive.

That only leaves Gary Johns — former Labor Party MP who was defeated in 1996 and went on to serve almost a decade as a fellow at the climate science denial “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs.

So the Courier-Mail promoted a report from a group with deep and current political ties to LNP and with a record of promoting pseudo-scientific climate science denial.

Energy policy debate

The Courier-Mail has been consistently negative towards Labor and its policies, according to citizen journalism site No Fibs, which has been tracking coverage from the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper.

Energy policy and the future of the proposed giant Adani coal mine has been a key feature of the state election campaign.

The Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has promised a policy to reach 50 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 — a proposal that matches the party’s stance at a national level.

Palaszczuk’s opponents in the center-right Liberal National Party have branded the proposal as reckless, and have used it to push fear among voters that it could mean statewide blackouts and further rises in power prices. Climate change is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

The LNP has pushed for the building of more coal-fired power stations while backing to the hilt the Adani project.

The mine would be the biggest in the southern hemisphere in a state that already ships more coal overseas than any other state in a country that’s the world’s biggest coal exporter.

Palaszczuk has said if the Federal government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility approves a $900 million taxpayer loan to Adani, she will block it. Numerous polls have shown that taxpayer support for the mine is deeply unpopular across the state.

The Adani mine has caused ructions within the Labor party — Palaszczuk has been an enthusiastic supporter of the project, claiming it will bring jobs to the north Queensland region.

She claimed to have reached the decision to block the loan because news was about to break that her husband had been working with Adani through consultants PwC on its loan application.

Polls hint at an election that will be tight run, with neither of the main parties projected to win enough seats to form a government in their own right.

But the LNP has said it would be willing to team up with far-right “populist” party, One Nation, which thinks human-caused climate change is mostly a hoax.

Former One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, a former coal miner and anti-climate science activist, will run for the party in the seat of Ipswich.

Queenslanders will go to the polls on 25 November.

Source: Desmog Blog. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Patrick Comerford

    Thanks for reporting on this rats nest of LNP trolls this is an important and essential task in informing people in a free society. The tactics of the LNP and their news ltd funders needs all the exposure we can muster. Thanks again for your important contribution.

  • Rob G

    I’d love to see the media gate crashing one of these climate denier events, all wearing tin foil hats. These people deserve full ridicule.

  • Joe

    How is that the Rupert and his newsrags get away with printing rubbish, misinformation or just plain lies. Surely there is law so that a gag can be put on The Australian until they start printing truths.

    • lin

      yep, it’s truly amazing. Our toothless media watch-puppies are completely hopeless or complicit. It would be a much better place if news outlets found guilty of peddling lies were compelled to publish or broadcast a retraction of equivalent size/length/prominence or face fines sufficient for someone else to do it.

      • Joe

        Yes, 100% agree. The retractions / apologies are a joke, why do they even bother. It’s usually weeks after the original event when everyone has forgotten, a measly few lines buried somewhere deep inside the paper….the apology you have when you aren’t apologetic!!!!

  • mick

    i know its wrong but at times like this i question free media

    • solarguy

      You mean cash for comment media.

      • mick

        no mate murdoch rags

        • solarguy

          That’s exactly what I mean Mick. Cash for comment, Murdock rags!

          • John McKeon

            I am reminded of my earliest days using old newspapers to wipe our bums. How metaphorically still appropriate.

      • Joe

        …and Rupert’s media

      • Joe

        Now its is cash for Barnaby! Gotta luv Gina and her $40,000 super sized cheque presented to the Bananabee in Canberra…what was it for again…’Farmer of The Year’ or….Biggest Political Bribe of The Year. CORRUPTION on the public stage and where is a Federal ICAC when you need one?????

        • solarguy

          Didn’t know about that, was it just recent?

          • Joe

            Hello my Solarguy. Yes, it all happened on Tuesday night, plenty of video on the media showing our ‘Farmer of the Year’ collecting the “inaugural” prize at an Ag Day function held at the War Memorial in Canberra. A rather delighted Gina made the personal presentation to our Bananabee which is sort of fitting really. The Ag Day function is Gina’s baby and of course Gina and Bananabee are very, very good friends. The occasional Gina contribution to Bananabee’s electoral fund doesn’t hurt the friendship either….this is corrupt as hell!!!!

          • solarguy

            I’ll say it’s corrupt. Shamelessly and blatently!

          • Joe

            Get The Federal ICAC onto it…oh wait…that’s right, there is no Federal ICAC. Turnbull & co don’t want a bar of an ICAC. I mean ICAC would be run off its feet amidst the current fiasco of MP dual citizenship / ‘Identity Fraud’ ( my description) those who have collectively pocketed millions of our hard earned that they were never legally eligible to receive. And guess who leads the that little club…our ‘Farmer of The Year’…Kiwi Bananabee!

        • lin

          It was perfect timing. At least now the voters of New England know who owns him and whose interests he represents (hint – not theirs).

          • Joe

            I don’t know if they / New England voters even care. They seem to pull strongly for our new… ‘Farmer of The Year’. To put it kindly for Bananabee he was ‘sloppy’ with his citizenship paperwork / status, made a false electoral declaration ( ie he broke the Law ) and causes us punters to stump up our hard earned to pay $…….’s for a by-election so that Bananabee can have seconds in being elected again. He has no shame and neither does Turnbull or The COALition.

  • hugh grant

    As you may be aware, I provided the Courier Mail with a comprehensive 40 page analysis of the price impacts of the Queensland parties’ election promises that they have chosen to ignore. I wrote the following to them today:

    Its a very sad state of affairs when Queensland’s most powerful news outlet appears to be deliberately ignoring the only independent analysis of the Queensland Parties’ electricity policies – and instead gives centre stage to blatantly biased LNP lobby group propaganda.

    Over the past few years, you have had no hesitation in publishing my research and analysis when it is critical of Labor and the Greens’ policies – so why is your organisation deliberately ignoring my latest analysis?

    The Queensland public deserves balanced reporting – not the propagation of fake news.

    • solarguy

      Get on ABC’s 7.30 Report and tell the storey Hugh! Even Channel 10’s The Project!

      • Rick Taylor

        Darn good idea, more info should be given to the public before the election. Both Labor and LNP are lying through their teeth. I am so fed up I am putting Greens and Independents at the Vote 1 section, with Labor, LNP, One Nation and Katter at the bottom. All of those 4 want the mine to go ahead.

  • Tim Buckley

    The Courier Mail is an associated entity of the Qld LNP and should be raided by the AFP plus the Electoral Commission plus subject to all the tax audits and law fare that our Federal LNP has thrown at 350.org, Getup and ACF, all eNGOs using our environmental laws to try to protect the Australian environment.

    • Joe

      Senator Michaelia Cash loves an AFP raid.

  • solarguy

    There is plenty more of these arseholes out there, like Anthony Cox, radio host Dean Mackin. All getting coal money for their comments. I urge every one to fight against these bastards.

    • Graham Readfearn

      Any evidence that these people are getting coal money?

  • johannes

    It’s really not a surprise to know that the Courier Mail is promoting such a backwards view of the energy world. Like so many of the distortions of public discourse, you just need to follow the money. Rupert gets the bulk of his revenue from advertising, not subscriptions. So he’s beholden to the businesses that spend big on exposure through the News Ltd outlets. Most of these businesses aren’t in the renewable energy industry, they’re businesses dependent on maintaining the status quo. Sadly, conventional media still gets some credit for being influential. Hopefully this is changing.

    • Jodie Green

      Maybe, hopefully, it just makes the LNP look like fools for having a hand in such blatant shonkiness?

  • JIm

    Has fighting Adani left too few people and resources to counter attacks on renewables? This is in no way to disparage those involved in that campaign which is poised to win I hope.

  • hugh grant

    Well done Graham.

    FYI – I called out the issues raised in your article during this ABC interview yesterday..

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fake-news-real-electricity-price-impacts-queensland-parties-grant/

  • hugh grant

    Well done graham.

    FYI – I called out some of the issues you’ve exposed in this ABC interview yesterday……
    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fake-news-real-electricity-price-impacts-queensland-parties-grant/

  • Rod

    However on a happier note, some in QLD don’t like coal

    https://twitter.com/skynewsaust/status/931099786874306560

    • technerdx6000

      The craziest thing is those in the sunniest parts of QLD are the biggest supporters of the mine

  • John McKeon

    Compare the titles: “Australian Institute for Progress” (sic) and “The Australia Institute”.
    Chalk and Cheese.
    For a shit load of bollocks in the service of vested interests in climate destroying fossil fuels (not to mention destruction of farms and aquifers) go to https://aip.asn.au.
    For an intelligent look at our present and future go to “The Australia Institute” at http://tai.org.au.

  • larry w

    For they have slaughtered thebinnocent and trampled on the righteous….chartist statement 1830’s…….

  • john

    For weeks now every News Corp paper has been publishing drivel about the need for a coal fired generator.
    2 page adverts. with ludicrous prices for solar and wind against this clean coal price; which is shown as lower ?? !!
    This is leading to the belief that because transmission towers were destroyed in SA then the same thing is going to happen everywhere, and it is because of Renewable Energy evidently.
    Fear Uncertainty and Disinformation is the bread and butter of parties and organisations that have the aim of stifleing change from the status quo.
    The message is working because i have conversations with people, who sprout the same nonsense.
    Once again I must say, “We are living in the age of the educated idiot”.

    • solarguy

      Find the same myself and it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bloody serious.

      • john

        It is serious mate and it is happening and it is working because the average person believes the rubbish they are being told Solar will never work in a million years you are wasting your money it is all a con you spend $5000 and get nothing back ??!!
        The facts are they will in a few short years.
        As to the Fear it is about not having power this is terrible; Uncertainty about I do not know because i will not have any power it must be bad and finally; Distrust do not trust anything that is said because it must be bad for me.
        It works all the time.
        This unfortunately is the type of media articles and statements by some in the media that are published all the time.

  • liquidblueocean

    I’m getting really tired of politicians not calling out this fake news, when reality is on their side. Is it usually because they are scared of further repercussions from Murdoch?