Bernie Fraser was an undergraduate a few years behind me at the University of New England, and I remember him there mostly as a nuggetty Rugby Union player. He went on to join the Treasury, becoming in time its Secretary. The Hawke Government then appointed him to the Board of the Reserve Bank as its Chairman, and he had a subsequent career in the superannuation industry, appearing on television as a spruiker for member-owned super funds. His flat voice and boy-from-the-bush style (he grew up in Junee in NSW) added solidity and reassurance to his message.
The Gillard Government appointed him to the Climate Change Authority as its Chairman in 2012, and I wrote about it, and passingly about him, the other day. Yesterday he addressed the National Press Club on the subject of ‘climate change’, preceding that with a teaser in the Guardian, from which I drew for this post. Bernie is a ‘believer’, there is no doubt about it, and like other believers he simply ignores and rejects material that gets in the way of his faith. Not for him a dispassionate review of the evidence: he is the embodiment of the ‘church militant’, and his tone is of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.
The good guys have lost the argument because they failed to contest untruths peddled by bad guys, including the federal government, he told Lenore Taylor, the Guardian’s Political Editor. The good guys are way behind and seem to be not making up ground. The public generally are getting bored with it all and switching off. The problem seems to be to be that the bad guys are spreading untruths and exaggerations and assertions without a lot of hard evidence and serious debate, cheered on by the big companies who make similar assertions and repeat those assertions without thorough debate.
This really is cowboys-and-Indians stuff. How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys? For Bernie that is easy.
The good guys are the mainstream scientific bloc and their analysis of why the planet is warming up. The bad guys are the mavericks, the kind we hear on the radio, who don’t accept the science and who attack the scientists, I ignore them and they deserve to be ignored … but it’s more serious when you get to people in positions of influence, in industry associations or companies, or in the government and the opposition who in some cases say they believe the science but then don’t act as if they do. That whole range of people I lump into the bad guy camp. He adds in … the present government and some of its biggest supporters, big companies and industry associations.
I read all this with astonishment, but my eyes opened widest at this: There is no one out there really presenting a coherent, informed, mature case on this … It seems to be a very important debate we should be having is going by default and those who speak loudest and most frequently, regardless of the merits of the argument, seem to be winning the day.
My natural modesty prevents my suggesting that Bernie could read this website with some profit, because I have been trying over the last eight years to develop ‘a coherent, informed and mature case’ on the possible threat from AGW. But there is an abundance of material out there — thousands of papers, critiques of the IPCC’s five assessment reports, and book after book. Is he aware of none of this?
The most vexing aspect is that every sceptic that I know, and they include his former colleague, the late Ian Castles, former Secretary of Finance and Australian Statistician, has been asking for exactly ‘the very important debate we should be having’ — and nobody from the orthodoxy is prepared to engage in it. Our present government is dismantling the AGW edifice put up by the previous Labor governments, but is not prepared to authorise a debate on the whole question, lest it antagonise some of the other believers.
My reading of the Fraser lament is that he takes as gospel everything the scientific advisers on the Climate Change Authority have told him, partly because that is their job, and partly because he ‘believes’ that they are right anyway. He is not talking about a debate of substance, in which the whole scientific edifice of ‘climate change’ is looked at closely, but a debate that takes the AGW gospel as fact, and gets down to how we are going to save the world from the dreadful menace of global warming, extreme weather, worse droughts and floods, and all the rest of it.
You have to ask: where is the acumen, the search for good data, the sheer intelligence, that Bernie Fraser must have displayed within the Treasury to rise as quickly as he did to become the Secretary of the toughest department within the Australian Government? It’s not in evidence here. Why? I go back to the beginning: for believers, facts are unimportant. They just know …