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The ABC bias swindle

By Alexander Deane - posted Friday, 13 July 2007

I’m sceptical about the supposed effect man’s behaviour has on the Earth’s climate. To hold such a view is to contradict the orthodoxy of our time. Indeed, in a recent article in The Age Peter Christoff likened such scepticism to Holocaust denial.

But, courtesy of the ABC, scepticism had an outing yesterday. Sort of.

Martin Durkin’s The Great Global Warming Swindle was screened by the ABC at 8.30pm. Commissioned by Channel 4 in the UK, it is unapologetically polemic, akin to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, in that it sets out to make an argument without any pretence at impartiality or effort to put the other side’s position.


The manner in which the ABC chose to present the piece is interesting. It had been trailed for some time prior to screening as “the controversial documentary” (and sometimes, for variety’s sake, “the very controversial documentary”) complete with menacing music and/or images of destruction. And indeed, that’s how the “contentious” show is advertised on the ABC’s website. Furthermore, immediately prior to screening, Tony Jones appeared on screen to state “I’m bound to say that this does not represent the views of the ABC”.

When documentaries and broadcasts are made which support the climate change orthodoxy, they don’t come with a health warning. They’re not advertised as “controversial”.

Following the screening of the piece, there followed a pre-recorded presentation which was little more than a remarkable hatchet job. Jones had flown to London to confront Durkin with various supposed flaws in the documentary (it is not known if he carbon offset his flight). Undoubtedly, there were some - though the fact that Jones was often harking back to mistakes that have been removed from the show and were not in the version we saw last night is pretty strange.

(The use of a completely inaccurate graphic in the original version of Swindle was bad and rightly attracted criticism at the time of the UK screening - but an apology was given at the time and it wasn’t in the show we had just seen!)

It was obvious that Durkin’s responses in interview were being heavily clipped, often leaving little more than an assertion of disagreement with a question from Jones, the tenor of his voice and his posture making it apparent that elucidation (unseen in the edited interview) was forthcoming - exactly the sort of partiality Jones was leveling at Durkin about his piece.

On the other hand, various things that any interviewee should be entitled to think will be removed were left in by Jones’ editorial team - for instance, a passage where Durkin unconsciously wiped at sweat on his face with a make-up sponge, then looked directly to the cameraman and said, “oh sorry, I can’t do that, can I?” sat up straight and began his answer again. Anyone taking part in a pre-recorded TV interview can justifiably expect that such a silly bit of business will be on the cutting room floor before screening. It was just childish to leave it in.


In addition prior to the interview’s showing, Jones attacked a number of past documentaries made by Durkin but gave him no opportunity to respond to these attacks in the interview.

Again, no such challenges were mounted when An Inconvenient Truth was shown - it was just screened. Its creator and/or supporters weren’t dragged over the coals and asked to justify their work. No attempt was made to harangue or embarrass them, to catch them off-guard in interview and leave the blooper in, or challenge their qualifications on the basis of their past, irrelevant, work. When those who believe mankind is causing climate change speak, they are simply given free rein.

Anyway, the piece de resistance was the live panel discussion that followed the Jones pre-recorded bashing. Impartially enough, the eight people selected by the ABC included their own science presenter Robyn Williams - treated with quite some reverence by Jones - who is a very strong proponent of the orthodoxy. He was alongside the quirky, you-would-think-we’re-sceptical-but-ha-ha-we’re-actually-not good citizens (Greg Bourne and Dr Nikki Williams) and two well-credentialed pro-orthodoxy advocates, Professor David Karoly and Nick Rowley.

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About the Author

Alexander Deane is a Barrister. He read English Literature at Trinity College, Cambridge and took a Masters degree in International Relations as a Rotary Scholar at Griffith University. He is a World Universities Debating Champion and is the author of The Great Abdication: Why Britain’s Decline is the Fault of the Middle Class, published by Imprint Academic. A former chief of staff to David Cameron MP in the UK, he also works for the Liberal Party in Australia.

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