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MMfA: Media Mattered for Australia

September 24th, 2013 · 2 Comments

The recent Australian elections represent a significant set-back for climate sanity within Australia and represent a serious step backward when it comes to climate change issues in the Anglophone world.  Now, two major Commonwealth nations (Canada, Australia) are governed by political parties that are lock-step with fossil fuel extraction industries and the Australian government seems well down a path toward censoring it scientists as is going on in Canada (and Canadian scientists fighting back …).

There are a myriad of reasons for what happened in Australia.  Climate denialists and other anti-clean energy voices are strongly leaning forward to assert that the primary reason for the change of government was rejection of carbon pricing.  While the path to that carbon pricing was messier than it should (could) have been, there is a rather interesting dynamic:  polling prior to and after the election does not support assertions that carbon pricing was a primary player in the election results.

voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn’t even break voters’ top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country’s climate policies should remain the same or stronger.

Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian‘s Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it “became an issue of her [former PM’s] credibility really rather than carbon pricing.”

As the pollster put it

The Coalition’s complaint that everyone wants to get rid of the carbon tax is not backed up by the numbers.

The issue that seems to have resonated was the twisted path to the carbon pricing … not the existence of such a program. (E.g., ‘character’ rather than ‘policy’ swayed Australian voters …)

Yet, whether listening to the new Australian Prime Minister, the climate denialist/anti-clean energy world, and a huge share of the media world, carbon pricing was central to the election results. In a sense, they are right — the results of the election will have a detrimental impact on Australia’s climate policy even if the majority of Australians understand that climate change is a reality, a reality impacting Australia already, and a reality that will have ever more devastating impact on their nation.

Missed, for so many, in discussions about the Australian election is a simple reality: MMfA or Media Mattered for Australia.

Murdoch’s News Corp is the dominant voice in Australian media.

Ownership of national and the newspapers of each capital city are dominated by two corporations, Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation, (which was founded in Adelaide but is now based from the United States) and John Fairfax Holdings – Murdoch-owned titles account for nearly two-thirds (64.2 per cent) of metropolitan circulation[5] and Fairfax-owned papers account for a further quarter (26.4 per cent).

What if 2/3rds of U.S. metropolitan circulation were Wall Street Journal editorial line and worse?

That is, in fact, what is going on in Australia and the Murdoch empire went all out to change the electorate.

The undue influence of News Corps on Australia’s political dynamic(s) is hard to exaggerate.

Media Mattered for Australia … and the rest of us.

From the “Men with Day Jobs” (original youtube to give some ‘likes’). Lyrics here.

Denial … I’m in denial
When I see those eco-nazis, I raise my arm and shout Sieg Heil
I’m in denial … deep in denial
And as the waters rise around me I’ll just hold my breath and say
It isn’t so

Those fires are not raging, No floods deluge the land
Those hurricanes and tornadoes are just flashes in the pan
The animals are doing fine, No species dying out
And half the bloody climate isn’t choking in drought
The ice is not receding, from either polar cap
I’d go with Tony Abbott, It’s just a load of crap
This round-the-world disaster is an evil greedy trap
‘Cause everybody knows the world is flat

PS: Another Canada and Australia linkage: they are both nations being hit by significant climate impacts on a more accelerated pace than many other regions/nations of the world.  The Canadian Arctic is melting and Australia has been (seemingly) oscillating between burning (and burning and burning and …) and flooding (and flooding and …).

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John Egan // Oct 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Mr. Siegel,

    I am reminded of a phrase a woman in the sex industry once used, “I have my principles! But for a big dick or a fat wallet, I am willing to make adjustments.” Sadly, this seems to be the operating method for so many agencies and individuals in today’s world. There are university research departments underwritten by Monsanto or Eli Lilly which are highly unlikely to produce research critical of their leash-holders. There is the Securities and Exchange Commission which has hardly made a peep since the 2008 economic meltdown. And, most famously, the collusion between Arthur Anderson and Enron with the Supreme Court overturning Arthur Anderson’s conviction.

    Did you bother to verify the surveys and/or polls? Did you look at the methodology?

    It’s a moneyed world. In this case, The Climate Institute retained JWS Research. A modicum of skepticism is useful when considering data – especially knowing who pays the bills. Is it a public news organization such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or an advocacy group such as the Climate Institute? The Climate Institute’s core mission is climate change.

    (BTW – Significant funding for the Climate Institute comes from the Tom Kantor Fund – Kantor was Rupert Murdoch’s nephew. Must be a little family conflict here.)

    As it turns out,, the data has been significantly “massaged”.

    Although I have not had access to the raw JWS data or cross tabs, there is some tabular information available.

    Two statements were made both in 2012 and 2013:

    “The Coalition should repeal carbon pricing if it is elected to government at the next Federal election.”
    “The Coalition will repeal carbon pricing if it is elected to government at the next Federal election.”

    Response choices were:
    2012 – Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, Strongly Disagree
    2013 – Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, and Don’t Know

    “Don’t Know” was not a choice in 2012. Furthermore, “Don’t Know” or “No Response” was not indicated for 2012 eve as a volunteered response. In amy polling that I have done, “Don’t Know” is nearly always volunteered by a small percentage. Best practice is to repeat the question a second time, but then to indicate a null response.

    So, not only is the “Don’t Know” response ignored in 2012, it is included in the tabular data for 2013 and compared against a very different set of 2012 data. That’s because “Don’t Know” had a response rate to the above statements of 14% and 23%, respectively.

    Even with the flawed methodology, you fail to mention that although “only” 37% agree with repealing carbon pricing, “only-only” 27% disagree.

    If one were to eliminate the “Don’t Know” responses from the 2013 data and recalibrate the percentages, there is very little change – statistically insignificant – between 2012 and 2013 responses.

    Q1 2012 – 24, 24, 26, 12, 14
    Q1 2013 – 19, 24, 26, 14, 17

    Q2 2012 – 14, 30, 36, 14, 5
    Q2 2013 – 16, 31, 31, 14, 8

    And the 2013 poll was done at a time of internal chaos within the Labor Party with an upcoming election looming. The absence of any accessible crosstabs of two-party preferences makes interpreting even the small movement between 2012 and 2013 impossible. However, the question of partisanship should be weighed.

    It is far too easy for anyone to jump at data which appears to support one’s position. In the matter of this climate data, it appears that, at best, the changed methodology makes it worthless and, at worst, shows intentional manipulation.

    PS – As for the second part – the level of importance – –

    “Unlike telephone polls, Vote Compass is not a random sample. People opt in by completing the survey, and analysis relies on weighting the data to reflect the characteristics of the Australian population.”

    Although I ABC is not Murdoch-owned, this is not a valid scientific poll. It’s a set of responses by ABC users who choose to respond.

  • 2 John Egan // Oct 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I grant you that you were three or four stages removed from the original poll data, but there is no doubt that it involves questionable methodology and/or interpretation. The percentages remain roughly 60/40 opposed and there has been little movement. I am reminded when RL Miller stated that the Arctic Ocean was 10 degrees above normal – I think back in 2007. When I look at surface temp maps, it was only a portion of the White Sea. When I brought this up and asked her to correct her diary, she said something in the order of “Fat Chance!” Both of you are intelligent, highly-educated people and know when data is being misused, stretched, and massaged.