Features Australia

60 minutes of shlock

...as Turnbull fans the flames of outrage

29 February 2020

9:00 AM

29 February 2020

9:00 AM

Timing is everything, not just in the stockmarket but in the media’s climate reports. America’s 60 Minutes on CBS last February ran a hefty piece ‘Climate Change’s Role in Australia’s Fires’. It features Malcolm Turnbull calling his ex-colleagues dangerous idiots while ANU’s go-to climate scientist Joelle Gergis suggests that sceptic ministers are potentially criminals.

Their shtick looked plausible against a montage of fiery horrors, and in no way do I trivialise the fires. But as American viewers watched, the flooding rains were mocking the CBS narrative. The piece was thirteen minutes. The producers had to tack on an awkward seven seconds about the rain.

Americans weren’t much interested. It drew eight million viewers, its fourth-worst result in 15 episodes. Comments on-line were vitriolic. The show typifies the media’s climate horse-manure. Embittered Turnbull, introduced as ‘a political conservative’ is interviewed with love while spouting nonsense. Gergis is taken seriously about our climate being now as apocalyptic as she expects in 2050 (except it’s still raining as I write).

Prime Minister Scott Morrison – a no-show – gets this: With his country on fire, [he] took his family on a Hawaiian vacation. When he returned home, he was given a cold shoulder as he tried to comfort victims in the fire zones. He was heckled by seething residents, including in the hard-hit town of Cobargo… Cut to man snarling, You’re an idiot, mate, you really are, and a woman: He’s just a bloke with a whole bunch of people under him and they’re all idiots. Good job, CBS. Who’d imagine that fires are States’ responsibility? Here’s the money quotes:

Turnbull: We have been mugged by the reality of climate change in this summer. This is climate change in the raw. This is what we’ve been told to expect for years.

Holly Williams (reporter): When you were prime minister, were you warned that the fires were getting worse?

Turnbull: Well, of course. We’ve been warned by the climate scientists…The right-wing climate deniers treat an issue of science and physics and fact as though it’s a question of ideology, and their conduct is not just idiotic, it is downright dangerous for us here in Australia and right around the world.

Williams: You’re talking about people in your own party.

Turnbull: Of course I am, absolutely.

Williams hadn’t checked back to March 19, 2018. Prime Minister Turnbull stood in fire-ravaged Tathra saying, ‘I’m disappointed that the Greens would try to politicise an event like this. You can’t attribute any particular event, whether it’s a flood or fire or a drought or a storm to climate change.’

Now to ANU Senior Lecturer Joelle Gergis (promoted to Professor by CBS).

Williams: What [Morrison] has not done is make any change to reduce this country’s carbon emissions. Climate scientist Joelle Gergis says the future of Australia hangs in the balance [eh?]. Are the Australian people being betrayed by their politicians?

Gergis: At this moment, I think it is really reckless and potentially criminal because we actually know enough about the science now. I think the science is crystal clear. Gergis is the princess of our younger catastrophists (make way, Steffen and Karoly). She’s a lead author for the IPCC’s next report. She told the Monthly last August that she sobs about the climate during her (kerosene-fuelled) flights, then switches to ‘volcanically-explosive rage’ because the hoi polloi won’t pay for enough windmills. She’s on Flannery’s Climate Council and I listened to her in Perth a year ago announcing that climate change ‘is an ethical and moral issue, no longer a scientific issue.’

Gergis on CBS: This is the type of summer you might not have expected until the middle of the century based on past projections, so I think this is really redefining what it means to actually be living through a period of rapid climate change.

Williams [still leading the witness]: Are you shocked?

Gergis: Of course I’m shocked. I think this summer has been a real wakeup call for most Australians (and) to the world.

After running Gergis on climate and droughts, Williams ought to have cut to UNSW Climate Professor Andy Pitman last June: This may not be what you expect to hear. but as far as the climate scientists know there is no link between climate change and drought. That may not be what you read in the newspapers, but there is no reason a priori why climate change should make the landscape more arid. We don’t understand what causes droughts, we don’t know what stops a drought.

But, but, Professor Gergis, isn’t the science ‘crystal clear’? Turkey-based Aussie reporter Holly Williams got inspired by smoke-filled Sydney on a Christmas visit. CBS associate producer Jacqueline Williams, an Aussie resident in New York, was just finishing a CBS crock about Venice’s allegedly climate-caused flooding when her father rang from fire-threatened Rosedale. She bought the new crock that the fires were ‘unprecedented’. Fact check: In 1974-75, the area burnt in those bushfires was six times worse, and double the acreage was burnt in 1968, 1969 and 2002. It’s just that the 2020 fires hit close to home in fuel-laden NSW and Victoria. Ex-fire chief and now Climate Councillor Greg Mullins recycled luridly his tale of Morrison being ‘too busy’ to meet him last year about fire threats and climate.

Mullins: Point blank. Told us to buzz off, basically. We’ve been told by senior public servants in Canberra that because we uttered two horrible words: climate change, we were discounted as being activists, and we would not get a meeting at any stage. Holly Williams’ only decent question was to Turnbull: whether Australian emissions mattered, given growing emissions from China, India and the US. (US  emissions in fact are falling).

Turnbull: Well, if we don’t act, a wealthy advanced economy facing the harsh reality of climate change, if we don’t act and show leadership, why would anyone else act?  Picture the scene: China’s Xi Jinping notices Australia’s self-sacrifice, and orders, ‘Communists, we must follow Australia’s example, whatever it costs us!’

Williams, stuck with rained-on ex-bushfires, finished her piece lugubriously, The music of the forest, in the middle of the Australian summer, is gone. Also gone: any faith in 60 Minutes’ credibility.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Tony Thomas’s new  book , ‘Come to think of it — essays to tickle the brain’ (Connor Court) will be launched at Il Gamberos, 166 Lygon St Carlton, Vic, on March 10 at 6.30pm. All welcome.

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