Well, if it wasn’t clear before, Rupert Murdoch has stipulated exactly what the party line should be on climate change and clean energy – for his newspapers and TV networks, as well as for the governing Coalition in Australia.
Murdoch, in a widely reported interview on Sky News to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Australian, made some striking remarks on the two key political, economic and environmental issues of the day.
The role of climate change, he reckoned, was overplayed. And he didn’t think much of “windmills” and “all that rubbish”. Better, it would seem, to build some more coal-fired generators and drill for more oil and gas.
Murdoch’s views shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Readers and viewers of Fox News in the US, the Wall Street Journal and any of the newspapers in Australia will be familiar with this line of thinking.
When the master speaks, journalists do not have to be told what to write, or to be edited. They simply reflect the party line.
But it doesn’t stop there. News Ltd, of course, is hugely influential as a critic of left-leaning policies, and anything that could be remotely considered to be “green”.
And as a flag waver for the Abbott government’s attack on climate and clean energy policies, which include repealing the carbon price, diluting the renewable energy target, and seeking to dismantle the Climate Change Authority, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
But what is striking is the similarity between Murdoch’s remarks, and those of the senior policy makers in the Abbott government. It is though they are singing from the same songsheet.
Murdoch said climate change should be approached with great scepticism.
“Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here. And there will always be a little bit of it. At the moment the north pole is melting but the south pole is getting bigger. Things are happening. How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture.”
The worst case scenario was that there would be a 3C rise in temperature over 100 years and only “one of those [degrees] would be manmade”, Murdoch said.
“What it means is if the sea level rises six inches it’s a big deal, the Maldives might disappear, but we can’t mitigate that, we can’t stop it, we just have to stop building vast houses on seashores.
Apart from making the Maldives his new climate Maginot Line, Murdoch seems to have not yet caught up with the latest science around the Antarctic, relying on marginal blogs that like to focus on seasonal increases in sea ice.
Abbott’s views concord with Murdoch’s on the efficacy of climate policies, and the role played by humans (a little but not much), which seems to be the new mantra of the do-not-much policy brigade. As Abbott said in 2010:
“This is a government which is proposing to put at risk our manufacturing industry, to penalise struggling families, to make a tough situation worse for millions of households right around Australia. And for what? To make not a scrap of difference to the environment any time in the next 1000 years.”
Murdoch also said:
“We can be the low-cost energy country in the world. We shouldn’t be building windmills and all that rubbish.”
Abbott also agrees that Australia should be “an affordable-energy superpower” – whatever that means in a country with extraordinarily high network costs, soaring gas prices, and falling demand for its thermal coal.
Murdoch’s views on “windmills” fit in nicely with the views of Abbott’s main business policy advisor Maurice Newman who says wind farms are a “danger to human health”.
And it fits with Abbott’s own views, who said of driving down to Canberra:
“If you drive down the Federal Highway from Goulburn to Canberra and you look at Lake George, yes there’s an absolute forest of these things on the other side of the lake near Bungendore,”
“I absolutely understand why people are anxious about these things that are sprouting like mushrooms all over the fields of our country. I absolutely understand the concerns that people have.”
“And I also understand the difficulty because while renewable power is a very good idea at one level, you’ve gotta have backups because when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the power doesn’t flow. So this is an obvious problem with renewable energy in the absence of much more sophisticated battery technology than we have right now.”
And, of course, with Treasurer Joe Hockey.
“I drive to Canberra to go to parliament and I must say I find those wind turbines around Lake George to be utterly offensive. I think they’re a blight on the landscape.”
And, Hockey, also told Alan Jones:
“Well, we can’t knock those ones off, they are into locked into a scheme. There is a certain contractual obligation, I’m told, associated with those things. But you will see in the budget we will address the massive duplication that you have talked about, the vast number of agencies involved in the same thing. We have considered that very carefully. When I say we’ve seen the age of entitlement, that applies to business as much as it applies to the rest of us.”
They’ll be relieved to know they have passed the Murdoch litmus test.