Towards ‘a mature discussion’ in Australian society

At the discussion on arts funding that I mentioned the other day, one of the panel spoke well about the need for ‘a mature discussion’, in which each side really listened to the other, and thought about what they had heard. I was reminded at once of an encounter I had experienced at the University of Canberra, in my last year there. My resourceful deputy, Meredith Edwards, who knew a great deal about how you can translate good research ideas into effective policy, suggested that we meet with two union leaders under a neutral arbiter and have a ‘mature discussion’ about matters affecting our staff, most of them union members. I agreed, and a series of meetings took place. We did have a mature discussion, and both sides learned a lot. I might be wrong, but I think honours were shared, in that each side had misconceptions about the position of the other, and when they were cleared away there was plenty of room to move forward.

Not to do so, when you can, is really a mistake. Early in my term at UC we had a black ban on the removal of garbage that arose from the University’s failure to move quickly enough on the reclassification of general staff. One of the administration’s middling senior staff was moving off to a general meeting of staff, and I asked her why people were so exercised about the reclassification. ‘It’s just more of the same!’ she said excitedly. ‘Twenty years ago we were promised a day off in lieu, and we never got it!’ And off she went. Her anger was palpable. Twenty years before! That was the early 1970s, and I was a young professor at Macquarie University, learning my trade there. Why hadn’t this matter been resolved long before? I never found out. But I did learn from the black ban that any organisation needs to be able to have mature discussions all the time, otherwise you do easily assemble grievances and defended positions from the past that get in the way of what you want to do in the present, let alone the future.

And where do we have those mature discussions in today’s Australia? Parliamentary debates are not good examples, but parliamentary committees often have them, I am told. I think back to my past working life. Did we have them at universities? The answer comes fairly easily: universities were like Parliament. If there were an opportunity to grandstand, discussions at faculty meetings, Council meetings and the like would quickly move quickly from ‘mature discussions’ to what people like to call ‘robust exchanges’, point-scoring and rhetoric. But if what was happening was a committee meeting to sort out the best way to deal with, for example, the expenditure of government money on assistance to disabled students, there was usually clarity, co-operation and common sense. It helped if the committee members involved people without past public positions on the matter in question.

Newspapers provided a sort of forum for good discussions. My local newspaper maintains a couple of pages devoted to letters to the editor, and you can often find a range of opinion there which might help the seeker after truth. Just as often, however, he or she might be put off by the intellectual intolerance of some letter-writers, who see those who disagree with their point of view as lunatics or worse. Many are politically partisan, and are either defending or attacking, depending on the case. I used to get letters from readers explaining that they had a point of view about something I had written, but they would rather express that point of view to me personally than set it out in the public prints. It was commonly the case then that what they wanted to say ran to many hundreds of words, but I responded, always. Most such contributions were at a tangent to what I had written, but I did my best.

To me a mature discussion is one where one enters the discussion prepared to learn and if necessary to change one’s mind. This is what I learned to do as a postgraduate student in history and political science, and it became my métier. I learned almost at once, when teaching undergraduates myself, that the teacher can be wrong, and I said so, to the astonishment of some of my students. That did not mean that I had no point of view myself — on the contrary — but that my point of view was always contingent. If the facts changed, or I came across a better path, my point of view would change too. Again, some people find that astonishing. The media refer to changes of position as ‘backflips’, and maybe some are. But an honest person must be able to change his or her mind on an issue if they recognise superior reasoning or evidence.

Were the constitutional debates that preceded the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia periods of sustained ‘mature discussion’? It’s ages since I looked at them. What about the preceding debates in the American colonies that led to the formation of the USA, and to publications like The Federalist Papers? The verdict of history is that these were occasions of serious and thoughtful discussion. Is it that our current issues are too trivial to produce that kind of engagement? I would have thought not. We all seem to have opinions, and perhaps we are too ready to defend them against all comers. Our politics, as I’ve said before, is about highly specific claims and grievances, not about over-arching ideas of what would constitute a better society for everyone.

It saddens me that I do not find much evidence of ‘mature discussions’ in our society, and I would be glad of guidance, if any reader can point to an example. What we have are statements from the pulpit, answered by statements from another pulpit. There is no recognition that one should listen first, and speak later. The kinds of essays I write on this website had their counterparts in what I wrote nearly fifty years ago and afterwards in newspaper columns, though they are today more reflective and less focussed on immediate events in the daily news round. I suppose I see them as my current entry into a hoped-for mature discussion. I have posted on other websites, but have often found that my contribution there has been machine-gunned, or worse, simply tipped into the electronic wpb. I left ‘The Conversation’, which ought to be exactly the place for a mature discussion, because of that kind of treatment.

Now that I run my own website I have to confess to disappointment that there have been no well-argued contributions that are critical of what I have written about ‘climate change’, or indeed about anything else. In the current series of essays that are an attempt to summarise what I think are serious objections to the global warming scare, there has not been one rejoinder from anyone who is well-known in the orthodox camp. I’ve debated David Karoly in public in Melbourne, but he does not take part in website discussions.The reasons are probably straight-forward: the orthodox camp has the power and the authority. Why would you engage in a public discussion with any critic, when the media and to a smaller extent the governments accept what you are saying? Judith Curry has more success in the USA, but even there the defenders of the orthodoxy only enter into an engagement over very small matters, not the core issues. The various website interested in the issue talk to those who agree with them, rarely to the other side. There is no engagement.

So I write for the readership out there. There are a lot of readers, and their number is growing. Occasionally one will write to me thanking me for what I am doing, and others will say the same on the website. Perhaps, in a slow way, what I am writing about is having an effect. Maybe there never were any ‘mature discussions’ about the great issues in Australian life, and websites like this, and the others in our society, are the best we can have. The Federalist Papers, after all, presented one side of the constitutional debate in the American colonies, not both sides.Ultimately some of the questions in our society are dealt with at the time of an election, but I doubt that the coming election will be one of them. We will be choosing between slogans, not between cogent analyses of what is wrong, and what might be done about it, let alone as the result of a sustained public discussion.

 

Join the discussion 170 Comments

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Don,
    Some of that discussion occurs at arms length in the occasional thoughtful newspaper article, but then it is more often as reporting on the competing ideas; it is not a real discussion between the contending parties, of their differences and their agreements. Perhaps this is a form of discussion of ideas by proxy. I was reflecting the other day that it is such a pity that so much of what passes as political debate is not debate at all – it is shouting from the media rooftops; bring back the town hall meetings, I say! Good speakers with honest convictions, can thrive on the more thoughtful interjections from hecklers, more thoughtful than generalised cries of “What about the workers?” or “What about small business?”, although even those might be quite pertinent to the discussion at the time.

    To quite an extent, the expansion of our communication capabilities over the last thirty years in particular (although some might argue it goes back fifty years to the time when politics entered the TV world), has encouraged the decline of political discussion. It as if we will learn more quickly of events, but understand them no more than we ever did. The media feeds on conflict, and reporting “mature discussion” attracts few customers. At least we do have some political debates on TV, but these are certainly not discussions – they are declarations of intent, of positions, no more than that (apart from the vitriol).

    As for discussion on global warming, yes, there isn’t any. That would be a bit like a Christian church hosting a debate between its pastor and some resident atheist. Sometimes that kind of thing happened, but it was years ago as I recall. On your site here, warmist positions are usually expressed as statements of position, statements of faith if you like, or appeals to authority, such as invitations to present one’s sceptical opinion to NASA. That would be a bit like writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, advising him that he had got it all wrong.

    Nevertheless, keep writing, Don. For there is at least the to and fro in the comments you receive, and they are often thoroughly informative. A positive of today’s communications and supporting devices, is that these exchanges would not be so readily possible without them, and they would be far less frequent.

    • margaret says:

      Of course he will keep on writing – he’s not one to need his cheer team to keep going, although the cheer team closes its ranks around him whenever a ‘troll’ appears.

  • Sadly there have not been enough head to head meetings of people on very different sides of the climate debate. However, there was a one-day meeting held by the American Physical Society that you can access by searching for APS Meeting climate change January 2014. On one side were Drs Santer, Collins and Held and the other Drs Curry, Lindzen and Christie. The full transcript of the day is over 500 pages. During the meeting no one was allowed to appeal to authority or consensus. It is interesting to see the frank discussion of model problems and difficulties to detect and agree on the ‘human influence on temperature’.There was also agreement if a temperature pause or hiatus continued for another decade the models were in real trouble. There was unanimous agreement that the IPCC summary statements did not properly reflect the body of material in the IPCC Technical Volumes. best wishes, Dr Howard Thomas Brady

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Howard, when I read this “There was also agreement if a temperature pause or hiatus continued for another decade the models were in real trouble” the first (no, the only) thought that crossed my mind was that such a concession would have been made by people already receiving tax payer-funded research grants who know they will be retired in 10 years. On the other hand, considering that the WMO defines climate as ‘the average’ of weather over a 30 year period, perhaps the warmist acolytes feel entitled to delay rational debate for another 10 years, to add to the 20 years or so of already-failed predictions, to comply with the 30-years definition, notwithstanding that these seem people talk of climate change from one year, indeed one month, to the next. It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck.

  • whyisitso says:

    Thanks for another excellent post, Don. I couldn’t help thinking about the degeneration of your comments facility that reached an unfortunate peak in your previous post. That degenerated to a very uncivil mayhem, due to the hijacking of a trio of trolls. Certainly not a mature discussion. Comment facilities on blogs used to be interesting and informative, but no longer it seems.

    It’s difficult to know what to do about it. Leftist blogs are very restrictive on comments, not allowing contrary views at all. I’m thinking of John Quiggin, John Menadue, Club Troppo, Harry Clarke to mention a few. You get banned very quickly on all of those. Andrew Bolt’s comments are heavily moderated (due to an exaggerated concern about 18C), and are so slow in publication that you can’t have any sort of “exchange” there.

    • dlb says:

      I don’t about the policy of Conservative / right leaning blogs, but the commenters do resent anyone who differs from the accepted ideology. I am thinking of “Quadrant on Line” where a chap called Ian, who though a Conservative argues the case for anthropogenic climate change. One other commenter had the temerity to say he was not welcome, as this was a site for those with Conservative views! I must admit I am often tempted to get a subscription to challenge the group think at such blogs Right or Left.

    • margaret says:

      A considered and mature Rightist response.

    • David says:

      Getting banned from Bolt’s blog because of an “exaggerated concern about 18C”. That would take some doing I would have thought. And you complain about me being a troll. All my inappropriate posts to the NASA home page ?

  • David says:

    “Now that I run my own website I have to confess to disappointment that there have been no well-argued contributions that are critical of what I have written about ‘climate change’, or indeed about anything else.”

    You are a hard man to please Don. Bobo has written some really wonderful stuff!

    • dlb says:

      “wonderful stuff” to those on the orthodox side. I would say he / she puts forward reasoned arguments that should be welcome on this site.

      • David says:

        Agree dlb. You can disagree with Bobo but surely one should still have the good grace to recognize a well argued position when one reads it!

    • David says:

      Where are the moderates on this site; dlb, JMO JohnR, look at Dons’s statement. Tell me that is not the statement of a man with a closed mind.

  • David says:

    Where are you JMO?

    Apparently Don cant find one post in his entire blog that he would classify as well-argued. Not one apparently. And you wonder why he is called a a “denialist”

  • Alan Gould says:

    Thanks Don,
    You are right, listening has become a form of charity. I am mindful of Keats’ idea of ‘negative capability’ where he remarked that he never wished to win an argument for fear of depriving himself of apprehending that portion of truth that might belong to his opponent’s case.

  • chrisl says:

    Regarding letters to the editor,the downside is the letters editor.If the letter doesn’t agree with the paper’s point of view, it is not published. So you get the impression that everyone is in furious agreement. When blogs became popular I saw the comments as letters to the editor but unedited and you got the chance to reply! But then came the trolls!

  • gnome says:

    It’s possibly a bit much to expect reasoned discussion when the issue at hand is as polarised as politics, global warming or whatever. The best most of us do is select the forum which is least annoying to us personally, and go there, rather than to a forum which rings with hatred for our point of view.

    Occasionally, a bit of a stoush warms up the discussion, but most usually the dominant paradigm on a particular site sets up its own smug, self satisfied intellectual thread, and any dissent is just wasted. They don’t call “the Drum” the echo chamber because it welcomes exploration of acoustics.

    However, I can claim some virtue here (and not just because I don’t intend to let this little rant become a pointscoring exercise in chastening Ross, David and Margaret) because I contribute to a few sites which discuss plants, plantings, botanical and horticultural issues, and although feelings can run quite hot at times, we contributors always part on reasonably polite terms , and when there is a resumption, it often involves parties taking sides with someone they have just recently been disagreeing with.

    Remarkable, how the hope of future support can moderate the temperature of the discussion. On a macro-scale, that’s why the ascent of Richard di Natale to leadership of the Green Party gives me some hope for a better standard of discussion in the near future.

    • David says:

      I think of you as a friend gnome. 🙂

    • dlb says:

      Gnome, if you frequent sites which discuss plants, plantings, botanical and horticultural issues you must be of the Garden variety 🙂

    • BB says:

      Gnome I except reasonable adult discussion from people that have a point of view and are willing to defend the logic behind it. We seldom get that from the trolls you mention who are making this blog a farce. Which I am sure is their intention to annoy people so much a go somewhere else. We should not be feeding them they are a blight.

      I do not understand your reference to the new leader of the Green party. I do not see how that will affect this blog, other blogs or the media. The media wishes to entertain so that they can sell stuff in one of the fundamentals is that investigation may show what you are printing is correct but you get paid the same.

      • Peter Kemmis says:

        The best way to handle trivial comment is to ignore it. If it is ignored, it generally ceases through lack of follow-up. I distinguish between the comment and its writer as sometimes there are serious contributions with which I disagree, from writers who engage quite often in badinage or less humorous exchange.

        Two reasons for not moderating comment, are first that opposing views must be welcomed, else we have just another echo chamber. The second is that such comment can lead to useful countering information and argument being presented.

      • gnome says:

        BB- I think his willingness to accept GMOs points to a new maturity in which it will be possible to discuss things like neonicotinoids, glyphosate and possibly even DDT. It’s the thin edge of the wedge for introducing science into a discussion of global warming.

        Could you imagine doing any of that with Christine Milne shrieking into your ear?

    • dlb says:

      I can just imagine heated discussions on whether callistemons should be called melaleucas. Then you could really get political and claim that exotic plantings are a hang over form our colonial past and that Australian natives are the progressive thing to be planting in garden beds.

  • BB says:

    Yes Don I read your blog and I appreciate very much what you write. It seems on blogs you can have an expression of one general idea. Those that have a genuine reasoned opposition to whatever the theme of the blog is don’t come near. Or should I say seldom do. I think we all find it comfortable to form a group in which all have a similar view and find it uncomfortable when others oppose the view. You can see the classic examples of it in religion but it pervades all groups. The aim of the group is to discuss amongst themselves those things they believe in and oppose absolutely those things that they don’t believe in. I am not a Christian nor was I raised with a religion but I have come across the fact I think, that in Christianity the worst possible thing is to not believe absolutely without question.

    Trolls are a weird phenomena I don’t quite understand. They offer very little and sometimes remind me of a computer program that was written some years back. It was an exercise in language and counselled the person using it. It was called Eliza I think and written in Algol W, is that spurious trivia or what? What it did was followed a known technique which is take what is said alter it in some way and feed it back to the user. Example my husband beats me, response why do you think he does that? I think this is designed to drive people crazy or go away. But our trolls do just that again and again with some variation of course. It is a very rare time that they contribute anything. Disruption and insults is their forte. I compare blogs to beef soup a lot of it is worthwhile but you get this sludge accumulating at the top. That’s what you make trolls out of.

    You spoke of universities but the more I learn about current universities the less I like it. In recent times discussion has been about safe spaces in universities. It seems this is a trend that started in 2013 particularly in the social sciences and people are really starting to take notice. This is suppression of free speech on steroids and it looks like something that will affect us all greatly as it spreads into the general community.

    I suggest looking at this link or should I say listening because there is no video and decide what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K92rOsjyLBs there is information on why the speaker thinks it is happening. The real worry is where will it end?

  • margaret says:

    Perhaps the Westminster system is at the heart of the inability to have mature discussion. It’s form of debate is obnoxious.

    “But there is a definite message – “we’re working against you” – that is sent out by the Westminster layout. And, in general, there’s an implicit feeling of “we’re working together towards a common goal” in semi-circular formats, particularly when a non-party-political symbol (such as the flag in the US Senate or the Mace in the Scottish Parliament) is placed at the semi-circle’s focal point.”

    http://noisyclassroom.com/secondary/ideas/debating-in-citizenship-looking-at-parliamentary-procedure.html

    • dlb says:

      Perhaps Don could write a post on the benefits and problems of adversarial politics.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        I’ll put it on the list!

        It’s not so much the Westminster system, which is how elected politicians interact with the bureaucracy, as it is the binary nature of both the electoral system and the outcomes: win/lose, in/out. Even if we used proportional representation you would still have a binary system elsewhere, though there would be, and would have to be, more negotiation.

        • David says:

          Don, I know you have sent me to the naughty corner for 40 day and 40 nights, so wont respond to me, directly. But this is exactly what you should be writing about a little more often. The politics of AGW would be your long suit. Your natural area of expertise would be policy, polls and electoral systems, I imagine. The ebb and flow of public opinion on AGW and how that affects the political fortunes different stakeholders. Anyway just a thought.

        • margaret says:

          Contrasting styles of Westminster system.
          http://insidestory.org.au/a-canadian-in-canberra

  • Ross says:

    As a member of the terrible three (who knew?) may I humbly apologise for ruining anyone’s time on this website.
    Let me just say, that if the science world comes to a conclusion that ‘Global Warming’ is, in fact NOT taking place, or not caused by human induced Co2, then I will happily demure. What else could I do? If that’s what the worlds scientists say, who am I to argue against it?
    I have no skin in the game. It is not ‘a religion’ to me.
    I simply trust that the worlds scientist are not (in no particular order) part of a world wide conspiracy, on the take, only after lucrative grants, not ‘real’ scientists, part of a religion??? or just all hopelessly wrong.
    I realise there are a number of ‘theories’ bouncing around blog sites. I am not a scientist, but remain sceptical as to why they remain on blog sites and not in peer reviewed scientific journals.
    I respect yours and anyone else’s right to have an opinion different to mine. Just understand, I think you are wrong. If it comes to pass that I am wrong, so be it.
    Have fun.

    • spangled drongo says:

      But rossie, if you can be sceptical of sceptics, why can’t you extend that scepticism to your own opinion that has no convincing evidence to support it [other than a little scientific consensus which has been so wrong so often in the past].

      • Ross says:

        If the science proves to be wrong, then I too would be wrong. I accept that.
        If and when that happens, I’ll have a red face, I guess.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Ross, the science is not only wrong, it just doesn’t know in the chaotic scheme of things.

          Like with David’s polar bears.

          But having witnessed actual sea level falls based on plenty of sea front infrastructure I have built to specified levels over a period of up to 70 years there is simply nothing happening other than <1c of temperature increase since the end of the LIA and the beginning of the industrial era which is likely less than average for the time it's taken for that to happen.

          Being an eye witness to a bit of evidence does help my understanding especially when it is supported by tide gauges with GPS chips.

      • David says:

        Why don’t you lead the way Spang, and show us how it is done.

        • spangled drongo says:

          David, do you have any personal, long term observations that would support your argument?

          Or is it only the occasional consensual sweaty feeling?

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      “demure” Russ? Not you.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Ross,

      You set up a strange choice there: ‘Let me just say, that if the science world comes to a conclusion that ‘Global Warming’ is, in fact NOT taking place, or not caused by human induced Co2, then I will happily demure. What else could I do? If that’s what the worlds scientists say, who am I to argue against it?’

      Let me pass by what you meant to write instead of ‘demure’. The science world probably does agree that warming has taken place over the past 150 years, and is taking place now. It is also probably true that the science world agrees that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide must have some effect on warming. There is no agreement at all, however, about how much effect that increase in CO2 has, nor has anyone been able to show it. Nor is there any agreement that CO2 has ’caused’ the warming. You set up a straw choice, and you would wait forever to make it.

      And there is no such collectivity as ‘the world’s scientists’ able to say something. As the essay above showed, the 97 per cent statistic is hopelessly flawed. The world’s scientists have never said anything about global warming, nor could they. Nor would it mean anything if they did.

      You don’t engage with the argument. You set up silly statements as though they mean something. And you don’t contribute. You simply distract. Why do you bother?

      • Ross says:

        So what are the worlds governments reading , that they ALL feel compelled to act on global warming, Don?
        Some kind of published works with a conclusion alluding to an ever growing problem with the Earths climate? Who would be responsible for this?
        I’m assuming it would be a fair chunk of the worlds scientists with expertise in the Earths climate (Not statisticians or retired geologists, sorry guys).
        Not one or two. Not ten or twelve. Not fifty or one hundred.
        “The worlds scientists have never said anything about global warming. Nor could they. Nor would it mean anything if they did!”
        Why do I bother, Don? Good question.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Once again, you don’t engage. If you bothered to read my essays on the Paris agreement you would realise that that Paris agreement has no teeth at all, no compliance, no nothing except words. That’s why there was an agreement. Indeed the world’s governments are doing nothing. You could engage. You could show who is doing what, but you just hand-wave.

          • Ross Carnsew says:

            I take your point, Don. I didn’t say the world governments were doing a great job of addressing it. (Lets face it, it would be a first)
            But address it they are. Even if you maintain there is nothing to address.
            “It has no teeth at all.”
            Call me a cynic, Don, but multinational fossil fuel and oil corporations don’t donate millions of dollars, pounds, francs, etc to political parties to just ‘be part of the democratic process’. They to want specific outcomes. Even if they don’t happen align with the science being discussed.
            They know they can’t win the scientific argument. If they could, they already would have, already. (that much, is obvious)
            I’ll wager, they see this as an acceptable outcome.
            A pity. A shame.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Ross,

            There must be some reference to those donations you speak of. Perhaps you could let us have it, so we could make a judgment for ourselves. I am aware of oil companies making donations to WWF and Greenpeace for certain activities, but I’m not aware of the other. Or do you think it just happens and there’s no need to be sure?

          • Ross says:

            Oh, Don. That’s actually quite sweet.

          • Ross says:

            “Today’s whole political game, run by an absurdist nightmare of moneyed elites, is a ridicules game in which corporations are people, and money is magically empowered to speak.
            Candidates trek to the corporate suites and secret retreats of the rich – shamelessly selling their political souls.”
            Jim Hightower; former Agricultural Commissioner of Texas. 2015.

            “I can legally accept gifts from lobbyists, unlimited in number and value.
            As you might guess, what results is a corruption driven by big money in politics.”
            Missouri State Sen. Rob Schaaf, 2015.

            Heaven forbid, multinational mining and oil companies would stoop to such nefarious goings on, Don. I mean, why would they?

  • Peter B says:

    It would appear that some contributors to this ‘discussion’ have inadvertently strayed in their quest for The Guardian or Fairfax sites. But why stop there? They would also be ideal candidates for The Drum or Insiders, where the panellists can all sit round agreeing with each other and receive solace in doing so. Of course the topic would not be of concern because whatever topic is chosen can quite happily be slanted to suit the agenda and dissenters can be attacked in a manner that fits their style. Any real facts would be omitted because airy fairy nonsense and obfuscation generally carries the day, and everyone stays happy. Particularly for those on the Left. Sad, really.

    • Ross says:

      Peter B. So straight away you declare yourself right wing, at war with the left wing,
      Sorry if you see the debate in such an absurdly narrow view. Perhaps you’d be more at home @ Andrew Bolt.
      But a question.
      Did you believe in climate change, but through further investigation, realise there were flaws?
      Or did you just know (believe) it was wrong and then sought the data to confirm your belief?

      • Peter B says:

        Ross. I guess I have to accept that you are therefore one of those on the Left? However, allow me reply to you to your question. I do, in fact, believe in climate change, but no doubt it will differ from your rather narrow [or to use your term, absurd], view. No doubt you would say that the science is settled and be falling over yourself to rail against those who would disagree. However, I have studied the science of CC for many years, and even listened to esteemed ‘climate scientists’ such as Tim Flannery [and friends] making predictions which are to once again use your term, absurd. So I would be keen for you to point out any predictions made [eg] by TF which might actually be true. Are you up for the challenge? However, I do like the one about the dams around Sydney never again filling up.

        • Ross says:

          No Peter B. I hold no Candle for Tim Flannery. I personally think he over egged it. I think this was done to help raise the issue in the publics mind. I was sceptical that this was a good idea then, and remain so. I don’t know his friends.
          The earths climate is warming, and continues to do so. The scientific world maintains that this is due to Human induced CO2 in our atmosphere.
          If you have been following the science of CC (for years) you would be aware of this. Unless the scientific world have changed their opinion in the last two hours.
          In that case, I am wrong, and I apologise.

        • David says:

          or Whyalla wiped off map,

        • David says:

          Peter B here is the text to the full radio interview. You are misrepresenting him!

          PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY: We’re already seeing the initial impacts and they include a decline in the winter rainfall zone across southern Australia, which is clearly an impact of climate change, but also a decrease in run-off. Although we’re getting say a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall in some areas of Australia, that’s translating to a 60 per cent decrease in the run-off into the dams and rivers. That’s because the soil is warmer because of global warming and the plants are under more stress and therefore using more moisture. So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems, and that’s a real worry for the people in the bush. If that trend continues then I think we’re going to have serious problems, particularly for irrigation.

          http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2006/s1844398.htm

          • David says:

            Can you find me the quote where Flannery said “the dams around Sydney never again filling up” ?

          • David says:

            Apologies to anyone who may have been offended by my posting a link to ABC’s Landline.

          • David says:

            No comment? Yep, nothing stops a conversation with a denialist,quicker than a fact to two.

          • Marty says:

            “So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems,”

            I guess a person reading the quote you supplied could assume that Flannery was referring to dams and river systems around Australia, which in turn would include dams around Sydney. But I take your point that he did not specifically state that Sydney’s dams will not fill. Just don’t make the mistake of believing he never said that future rainfall ‘isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems’. It is in the quote you supplied from our ABC. Note that there are no ‘mays’ or ‘coulds’ in this interview, even though he claims otherwise in later interviews.

            I suppose his only caveat is “If that trend continues…”.

            Mind you, this quote from 2005 doesn’t really help his cause:

            Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery in 2005:

            “But since 1998 particularly, we’ve seen just drought, drought, drought, and particularly regions like Sydney and the Warragamba catchment – if you look at the Warragamba catchment figures, since ‘98, the water has been in virtual freefall, and they’ve got about two years of supply left, but something will need to change in order to see the catchment start accumulating water again…. So when the models start confirming what you’re observing on the ground, then there’s some fairly strong basis for believing that we’re understanding what’s causing these weather shifts and these rainfall declines, and they do seem to be of a permanent nature…”

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Russ, I have an open mind on the topic – so open, in fact, that I can hear the wind whistle as it blows from one ear to the other. But when I read, and have read for years, that Tuvalu is sinking, and look at the BOM Pacific sea level reports, one is inclined to have some doubts. And when vast amounts of money are involved, doubts escalate exponentially. Money always trumps ideology (and almost everything else).

        • Ross says:

          Bryan, point taken. Hence the number of privately funded (Heartland, et al) blogs, throughout the internet. That could be right, I guess. I remain sceptical. Follow the money, indeed.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Blogs are completely irrelevant. Tuvalu, Kiribati, Maldives, etc are asking for billions, if not hundreds of billions, which, guess what, they won’t get if there is not universal acceptance of the ‘threat’ of catastrophic global warming.

          • Ross says:

            I agree they probably won’t get it, Bryan. There have been, and still are millions starving around the world. The good and great tell us that helping them would only hurt them in the long run. Perhaps true. Definitely convenient.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Rossie, when the only thing you are sceptical of is sceptics, try reversing that question and asking yourself.

    Remember, now, the right attitude to science is a rational scepticism of all things.

    • Ross says:

      But you’re quite certain of your position, Spangles. Honestly, we could do this all day.
      As I said. I’m a certain as the main stream science is certain. No more, no less.
      I believe you think otherwise. Big deal.

      • spangled drongo says:

        To believe a POV that is based on uncertainty and dubious modelling you have to want to believe it otherwise you would be sufficiently sceptical to do some serious personal evidential checking.

        If you can’t do that you need to hang sceptical of that POV.

        • Ross says:

          I should know better but….Tell me about the serious personal evidential checking you did, spangles. Rule: regurgitated data from anti warming web sites doesn’t count. Conflict of interest, and all.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Yes, you should know better. If you have ever noted where king tides come to in relation to sea walls that were built to king tide datum long before you were born you would be aware that anyone can observe where the highest astronomical tide of the year actually comes to today. There are many properties, unaffected by any change in ocean hydraulics, positioned at sea frontages whose owners will tell you there is nothing happening. There are families who have been in the boat slipping and repair business for generations who would kill for a little SLR as it would double their business potential. There used to be an active “King Tide Watch” organisation who were trying to get people to panic at what was happening WRT SLR but it fizzled out because they suddenly discovered that less than nothing was actually happening.

            My own observations are much more detailed than this with BP readings included over more than 70 years but I wont bore you with them.

            Stick your head out the window Ross. There’s a whole new world waiting for you.

            Who knows, you may even absorb enough to become slightly sceptical.

          • spangled drongo says:

            IOW, rossie, you need to be as well informed as is possible to have a “mature discussion”.

            Lots for you to catch up on.

          • Ross says:

            Hmmm. This is odd Spangles. Every scientific site on the net completely disagrees with your observations. Even the ‘sceptic’ sites concur that sea levels are rising but argue that it is no big deal (9 to 10 inches per century). Yet here you are saying ‘nothing’ is happening. You appear to be totally alone on this. I appreciate that you don’t want to bore me with your BP readings from over 70 years, but perhaps the CSIRO would be interested. If not very surprised.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Ross, you can’t have a “mature discussion” based on adjusted satellite altimetry measurements with no long term data.

            Even though “sceptic’s sites” have to accept this “science” that comes from NASA et al. [you probably don’t remember the Euro satellite that also showed nothing happening until NASA talked them into adjusting it to agree with theirs]

            To accept this fakery at the bakery is just what non-sceptical warmists love as it suits their ideology.

            But you claim to be above this mindlessness. So….

            Our longest tide gauge at Fort Denison shows 65mm SLR for the last hundred years but a recently installed GPS chip shows the site to be sinking by a similar or greater amount.

            IOW, nothing happening.

            If SLR was happening it would be seen to be happening.

            There are many scientists who admit that without a full geodetic audit of the world’s tide gauges we cannot be sure of any change in SLs.

            Have you seen it happening or are you happy to be scepticism-free and embrace the blurb?

          • Ross Carnsew says:

            What can I say, Drongo?
            I went to scientific sites. They don’t agree with you at all. Then I went to sceptic sites, thinking I would get a counter argument. Like I said, other than disagreeing about the importance or severity, they agree that sea levels are rising.
            Now you tell me they ALL got their data from NASA (so, obviously frudulent, silly me).
            You say “There are ‘many’ scientists who admit without a full geodetic audit of the worlds tide gauges, we cannot be sure of any change in SLs”.
            Yet, you say you ARE sure! You say it can’t be happening.
            You appear to be the anomaly.
            Like I said, your observations run counter to all the accepted science. But there may be scientific reasons. Has the land shifted, perhaps?
            I don’t know, but I think you should share your observations with some other scientists and get their opinion. The CSIRO might be a good place to start.
            Yours in self examination,
            Ross

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            ‘Everybody’ agrees that sea levels are rising. The BOM asserts that sea levels at Tuvalu are rising at ~3mm/year. There are about 23 years worth of data available, which would show an overall rise of 7cm. If you look at their own data –
            http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO70056/IDO70056SLI.pdf
            – no such rise is apparent. No doubt there are arcane mathematics involved, but to a simple man, a straight line is a straight line.

          • spangled drongo says:

            I’ve already advised engineers and scientists of my benchmarks and taken them by the hand at highest astronomical tides and shown them where SLs were during HATs with similar BPs between 1946 and 1953 compared to what’s before their lyin’eyes. They didn’t disagree and said they would produce a permanent benchmark from one of those levels next to the lighthouse nearby.

            Yes Bryan, there is certainly no SLR at those coral atoll sites.

            Yes Ross, the alarmists are winning the politically correct, “mature discussion” on so many things today [mainly by banning sceptics, as witnessed by The Conversation and elsewhere] and using helicopter money to solve the “problems”.

            Our grandkids are in deep doo-doo but not from what the “experts” are claiming.

          • Ross Carnsew says:

            Okay then, spangled drongo. I’ll leave it there.

        • David says:

          Spang have you been able to share your findings with Neville? Perhaps you two could co-author a submission to NASA. Don’t send them everything at once, perhaps just the top-ten, to begin with.

          Name/Title
          Office (Division, Branch, Section, Unit)
          Office ID
          Attn: Receiving & Inspection
          NASA Headquarters
          300 E Street SW
          Washington DC 20024-3210
          United States of America

          • spangled drongo says:

            Never mind NASA, Dave, how about you? Have you ever paid any attention to what’s going on around you in your lifetime, SL-wise?

            NASA know how to acquiesce to the boss and keep the helicopter directly above the gravy train.

            But you don’t get that, hey?

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            David, exactly what do you hope to achieve by these ridiculous posts? If you indulge in troll-like behaviour, it’s no wonder people think you’re a troll.

    • BB says:

      I was a member of a sceptics Society but I found they were only sceptical of the paranormal. Their scepticism was not applied to anything else. So I’m all in favour of scepticism but many who say they are use it just is a label and don’t know what it’s about.

  • Nick Cater, who was opinions editor of The Australian at the time, mentioned that some publication he was involved with had run a type of structured discussion on an important issue. One proponent was allowed an article of 300-600? words on the first week. Next week his opponent was allowed the same. They alternated for the next 6 weeks. Nick thought the format worked well.

  • PeterE says:

    A mature conversation must certainly begin by an honest attempt to discover and understand exactly what the other party is on about. Make sure that you understand her terms as she understands them – come to terms with her. Don’t attempt to criticize until you can say ‘I understand.’ Don’t try to score points; be honest. Seek knowledge; don’t just spout personal opinion. Make sure that the proponent is fully informed and is nowhere misinformed or illogical. If you can find no error, be prepared to say ‘well; you are right and I must agree with you.’ Provided that the proponent of the other case is also playing by these civilized rules, it should be possible to reach a reasonable compromise, or indeed an acknowledgement that one side or the other has the better argument. These rules are for scholars and there is no point in looking for them in politics but even in that sphere the logical, polite case should win out when put with a Menzian flare. For more along these lines, I recommend ‘How to Read a Book’ by M J Adler and C Van Doren.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Spot on, Peter!

      • David says:

        So how does this affirmation of intellectual humility co-exists with

        “I have to confess to disappointment that there have been no well-argued contributions that are critical of what I have written about ‘climate change’, or indeed about anything else.”

        Not just an intellectual giant with respect to climate change, but indeed,…… anything else. I got to hand it you Don, you have got dollops of self-confidence.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I have chanced on something that George Orwell wrote as a proposed preface to his Animal Farm. It is so good, and so relevant to our problems today, that I will devote a whole post to it shortly. But this little section has a proper place in this discussion:

    ‘At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.’

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Maybe you should post this on “The Conversation’. Do you think it would be moderated (or bullied) out, as are most other unfashionable opinions?

    • Ross Carnsew says:

      Are you talking about the SBS reporter who spoke out of the official line about ANZAC Day, and got sacked?
      I hope so. Because the poor bloke didn’t get much support, did he? That was terrible.
      I’d hate to think you were claiming some sort of victim status for having an opinion about climate science.
      I think that would be a bit weak, Don.

        • margaret says:

          Anzackery is orthodoxy – way too much glorification. It keeps the hawks happy.

          • David says:

            I read that Australia spends more on commemoration of WW1 than any other country in the world. The Oz reported $500 million. I wonder if that is correct. It seems like a lot. It was quite rightly pointed out that this money could have been spent on the welfare of returned soldiers instead of glorifying dead ones.

          • margaret says:

            Agree. The AWM no longer a place of dignified reflection -sound and light shows attract potential young recruits.

      • dlb says:

        Ross C, disagree with your argument that the sacking of that reporter equates with the so called victimisation of climate sceptics.
        Imagine if the reporter made some disrespectful “tweet” about aboriginals or women he would have been sacked in five minutes. Nothing wrong with criticising the ANZAC celebrations, but someone in his position should have gone about it with more tact.

        As for climate sceptics being victims is a bit far fetched. We are certainly treated unfairly in Fairfax and deliberately ignored by the ABC, so I think we have a right to be annoyed. When a person gets sacked from their job for being a climate sceptic, well they may be a victim, or alternately their boss could be an idiot.

        • Ross Carnsew says:

          Feel free to be annoyed, dlb. I get annoyed with all the attacks on NASA, and climate scientists, generally. Are THEY being victimised?
          In my opinion, yes.
          Many people on this site have attacked me. Am I being victimised? No. I dish it. I cop it. It’s cool.

    • David says:

      Cry me a river.

    • David says:

      This comment is so silly. George Orwell was not thinking about privileged people like you when he wrote 1984. AGW is a scientific theory that has fought against orthodoxy for the first 80 years of its existence. Slowly its time has come. It has slowly gained scientific dominance one peer review paper at a time.

  • chrisl says:

    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  • Michael Dunn says:

    Don

    Being a relatively new reader to your well-written articles, today’s post and the various comments makes me wonder if ‘comments’ really can promote an effective discussion of the type you favour. Comments inevitably cross over each other, go up blind alleys and hardly offer the space for well-developed arguments. They may be useful to you: to check there are real readers out there, to get references to useful articles or ideas for things you’d like to write, but for serious readers it’s a hard slog through them. I just tried. The ‘comment’ medium in itself is too spontaneous and undisciplined.

    Maybe you could try explicitly inviting readers to submit something for possible publication on your blog with a set word length, that you publish if you find it an interesting alternative or useful point of view. Naturally there would be no obligation on you to publish anything ?

    Un itinéraire

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I have offered one or two of the frequent commenters an opportunity to set out their views, but nothing has come forward. I agree that it’s a hard slog.On other websites that have such people I just scroll quickly past. I’ll deal with this issue at the end of April. But thanks for enquiring.

  • Neville says:

    Don I’m interested in your debate with David Karoly. When did this occur and at what venue? Is there any recording of it and were you satisfied with the outcome? Did the audience include both sides of the debate and were there questions and answers at the end?
    Steve McIntyre and blogger Jean S wrecked the the Gergis, Karoly SH hockey stick study in a matter of hours at Steve’s blog. Karoly emailed Steve agreeing that their were problems and they then withdrew it. But their ABC , Fairfax etc trumpeted this nonsense for days and then said nothing about the withdrawal. Big surprise. BTW Jo Nova has a post about the elitist groups in the USA and there is little doubt they despise the opinions of the little guy.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2016/04/smugism-as-a-substitute-for-progressive-argument/#more-48577

    • Ross says:

      The little guy? The one who lives on struggle street?
      Elitist groups? ‘Know all’ Academics in ivory towers, and ‘progressive’ types?
      But what about those Washington ‘establishment’ goons?
      The story ‘they’ don’t want you to hear!
      Thank god for Jonova and her ‘citizen scientists’.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Neville,

      I’ve been away at a funeral (a scientist of high quality whom I knew well), and had only my iPhone with me, so could not answer your question. The meeting was in Melbourne, organised by (wait for it) ‘the Boston, Melbourne, Oxford Vancouver Conversazioni on Culture and Society’ and held in late 2008, and attendance was by invitation. I opened with a named Oration(!) in honour of a distinguished judge, the second speaker on our side was Andrew Robb, currently a Federal Minister. David Karoly and Julian Burnside QC spoke for the opposition. There was considerable debate. We were not allowed to question our opponents, which was irritating for me, as I spoke first.

      The venue was the Melbourne Club, and the attendance about 200. I would thought the meeting was roughly evenly divided. Dr Karoly w=said that he agreed with many of the points I made, but didn’t say which ones they way, and then banged the orthodox drum, which my speech had been countermanding.

      I did another one in Canberra at Manning Clark House, where my opponent was Dr Andrew Glikson, who simply would not deal with anything I had said, but kept banging the same drum. I would have thought that I was the sole sceptic in the audience, but the questions were polite, and afterwards people did come up and say things like ‘I thought it was all very simple, this global warming thing, but thank you for what you said. I’ll think much more about it.’

      • Neville says:

        Thanks for your response Don. I think that what you describe is not a debate, but a statement of claims by both sides. It’s a pity you couldn’t question them about their so called orthodoxy point by point. But you certainly had the courage to debate two true believers in Karoly and Glickson.
        If you could debate Karoly again after 8 years do you think you would have more ammunition today than in 2008? Thanks again.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Oh yes, certainly. The science is much less ‘settled’ than it was when Gore made that remark in 2009. The AR4 models projections are way higher than the observations, and of course governments have backed off. What we have now are mostly words, not deeds. And Bill Shorten is not going to win votes with his new ETS proposal, unless they are from Greens…

  • Fast Eddie says:

    Don, Belief systems are propelled by money. This has always has been the case no matter whether it is backed by a pre-enlightenment or a post-enlightenment religious establishment. Attempting to engage in a “mature discussion” about, say, the real cause of gender based salary differences with a women’s studies professor is about as futile as a fifth century Monophysite attempting to have a “mature discussion” with the Pope.

  • JimboR says:

    “…there has not been one rejoinder from anyone who is well-known in the orthodox camp”

    Don, have you considered the possibility that they simply have more pressing things to do with their limited time? Pick some other highly trained speciality and imagine you had an unorthodox view in their field. You might be unconvinced by the orthodox treatment for detached retinas, and you may not agree with injecting reactive power into the electricity grid as a means of regulating grid voltage. By all means write up your objections in essays here, but do you really expect the specialists in the field to engage with you in this forum?

    The more conventional approach is to write a paper and present it at a relevant conference. In my experience, the more unorthodox your paper, the more crowded the room will be and the more opportunity you’ll have to debate your findings.

    • Ross Carnsew says:

      JimboR. I’ve discovered that anti global warming sites don’t “roll” that way. Oh, and you’re a troll.

    • David says:

      Hi Jimbo.

      Welcome back. I also have some vague memory that when Bobo was close to accepting Don’s offer to publish last year Don then wanted to enforce some sort of editor’s “prerogative” about restricting re-publishing or something. Seemed a bit OTT to me at the time. Can you recall?

    • JimboR says:

      Thanks David. I drop back occasionally to see how the “science” has progressed. Alas, without Bobo’s contributions there doesn’t seem to have been much progress at all.

      I do find the inference of this essay, that climate scientists (or ophthalmologists or electrical engineers for that matter) should start their day searching “Don Aitkin Reflections on Australian Society” for critiques of their work pretty silly. Don’s conspiracy theories on why they wouldn’t seem pretty unlikely to me. I suspect most of them have never even heard of this blog (or Jo Nova’s for that matter).

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        With due respect to Don, the money matters are being fought out in different venues entirely.

        At some point, we, the people, will be informed of the price we have to pay to ‘save the planet’.

        • Neville says:

          Technical point Bryan. The trillions $ that will be wasted over decades that will have zero impact on the climate, SLR, extreme events, co2 levels, droughts, floods, polar bears or anything else that these donkeys care to dream up.
          Certainly won’t be saving the planet from anything bad anyway. Had to drive most of today and heard a report on their ABC that YES the earth is GREENING because of our use of fossil fuels. Yipppeeeee it seems that sooner or later everyone eventually wakes up.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Yes, Neville. I heard the same report, accompanied by the warning that it was a false dawn, and would inevitably be followed by death and disaster.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Yes, I have considered it, and I prefer my own explanation, as given above. There are about half a dozen AGW sceptics in Australia who write a lot, and I am one of them. None of us gets any engagement from the Karolys, Hugheses, Steffenses and Englands of the orthodoxy. Why should they? They have the authority.

      • JimboR says:

        “Why should they?”

        On that we do agree. If someone was out there blogging counterpoints in my field I doubt I’d even know about it. Assuming it did somehow come to my attention, I’d only engage if it brought something new to the field and would then happily give credit to the blogger if any advances came from it. Otherwise, I’d quietly ignore it and get on with my work; life is too short to spend it arguing with the blogosphere. Perhaps their lack of engagement is more a reflection on the quality of what they read here.

        I happened across this old review of your “A Cool Look at Global Warming” paper recently and it feels like not much has changed in the last 8 years: https://newmatilda.com/2008/05/19/death-rattles-climate-change-sceptics/

  • Neville says:

    Here’s a link to the study that the ABC was yapping about today. Fair dinkum they’re carried out more twists and turns than a professional contortionist . Just give these dummies enough money and they’ll definitely find something at fault with all the extra greening that is the equivalent of having two more USA sized GREEN countries to store more co2. No doubt about it Co2 is the greatest plant food known to man.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/04/25/inconvenient-study-co2-fertilization-greening-the-earth/

  • David says:

    and Don wonders why a reputable climate scientist would not come and share their analysis with someone like Spang, who thinks NASA have cooked their data.

    • David says:

      Spang it is OK have occasional thoughts like this. But if you find yourself feeling compelled to act on them, then you should find a safe space and seek out some assistance from people you can trust.

      • spangled drongo says:

        It’s marvellous how people can muster such conceit when they have lived their lives in complete ignorance of what the oceans of SL data are actually telling them.

        And instead, rely on a bunch of gatekeepers who have a serious conflict of interest.

        What an amazing thing consensual science is.

        Now tell me, Dave, have you ever bothered to seriously look at this problem you are pontificating on?

        There’s plenty to look at.

        It’s not hard, really. If you like I’ll hold your hand at the next king tide.

        I can take you to a place where a sea wall was built to AHD 100 [King tide level] in 1946 and show you how it is now 150mm above current king tide level.

        I promise you won’t even get your feet wet.

        • David says:

          Spang, we have all grown quite fond of you. When you start talking about NASA conspiracies, we just need to know that you will keep safe.

        • David says:

          “Now tell me, Dave, have you ever bothered to seriously look at this problem you are pontificating on?
          There’s plenty to look at. It’s not hard, really.”

          It is hard, Spang. Climate science is, like any science, full of challenges. If by “seriously look at the problem” you mean have I picked through a scientific paper checking all the references, the data sources re-run the models and re-considered the results. No I have not.

          But I don’t think the scientific process is systemically corrupt. I think most scientists are honest. And I accept their published results. But not without reservation.

          My intuition tell me that is were to burn a large proportion of the world’s fossil fuels (that have taken millions of years to accumulate as a carbon sink) in the space of 500 years there may be some environmental consequences. Human population has grown from less than 1 billion to 7 billion in a little over 200 years and projected to 11 billion by 2050. I think these trends are likely to have some environmental consequences that will require some thought and management.

          Not sure how it will all turn out Spang. But the issues appear complex to me.

          • David says:

            My intuition tells me that if we were to burn a large proportion….. [I hate that]

          • spangled drongo says:

            “Not sure how it will all turn out Spang. But the issues appear complex to me.”

            Agreed, but that’s about as “mature” as the science gets.

            It’s simply an interesting theory from which green ideology flows in spades. Not to mention all the other “fringe benefits” such as helicopter money but as Neville points out below that is bulk disaster, either happening already or just waiting to happen.

            We have to be mature enough to employ many Bjorn Lomborgs to get this right.

          • Ross says:

            “We have to be mature enough to employ many Bjorn Lomborgs to get this right.”
            Mother of Mary! There’s more than one?!?

  • Peter says:

    Where do we have mature discussions in Australia today?

    One might consider, on a few occasions only, the ABC’s Q&A, but that is the exception to the rule. The chairman’s interruptive comments or inability to give all panelists equal access to the mike, as well as the sparring between politicians of different parties, strike a discordant note.

    In Australia today, as well as in the US, UK and other countries, there is a disenchantment with machine politics, traditional forums, rigid party discipline, factional disputes, loaded peer-group review processes in academia, media activism, and ideologies that lock adherents into rigid orthodoxies and the status quo.

    As a member of staff at UC in your final years, I was present in the audience when you, as the VC, had some most interesting interactions and discussions with the Union General Secretary. One of the ideas I recall, all these years later, was the point that sometimes in enterprise and bargaining agreements, unions might forgo increases in pay for its members and work in a collaborative way with management to secure better conditions for its members. Instead of the lock-step wage increases there may be more imaginative ways to improve the value of workers’ conditions etc What made the discussions worthwhile and different was that there was a degree of respect on both sides and the issues discussed were more about the systemic issues and underlying conflicts that often underpin the day-to-day interactions. The capacity to listen with respect to alternative perspectives, analyse the big issues, explain one’s thinking and assumptions: this is not common in Australian forums. In fact, the reverse is applauded: Keating ‘doing Hewson slowly’, the shallow theatre of Question Time, aggressive media interviewers, politicians who just want to blather on about the ‘party line’ etc.

    At the core, though, of so many flawed forums is the inability to separate ideas from emotions, from lock-step processes, from fixed or factional positions, from one’s ideology or previous views etc. A long time ago, 1966, in fact, I studied Philosophy at USyd and had Professor David Armstrong as a lecturer. I still recall his probing analysis of complex ideas, his objectivity and systematic engagement with ideas then gradually refuting them with coherent logic. Universities should be the best places to have mature discussions but sadly the corporate university has arrived, with all its music and attendant lords.

    • Ross says:

      Almost everything in our modern world is oppositional.
      I remember in the 1980s there was the AIDS crisis.
      The labor government at the time, like all governments around the world was worried and confused.
      The main victims of this scourge were homosexual men and intravenous drug users. The wider community was scared. Who would be next?
      Most governments around the world took a punative approach. Nothing changed. HIV infections continued to grow.
      The then Federal Minister for Health, Neil Blewitt reached out to drug and health workers in the field, and peak NGOs. “I’m open to any ideas!”
      Their response was revolutionary, but in political terms, courageous. (suicidal)
      A healthy homosexual lifestyle was to be promoted. Good fun sex, BUT ALWAYS use a condom. Booklets, posters, and comics were to be used as common vehicles for this message. In a time of rampant homophobia, this was ‘brave’. No government logos would appear on any of the materials (brave, but not stupid)
      Heroin was cheap, and rife!
      An idea was put to have health workers hand out clean needles where drugs were commonly sold on the streets. Realising the impracticality of this approach, it was suggested the health department simply supply the drug dealers(!) with clean needles to hand out with each ‘hit’ being bought. All funded by the Federal Government!
      Which brings me to the point of this story.
      To succeed, Blewitt knew he would have to talk around a lot of old school, hard heads in his own party. But even more importantly the government would need the opposition on board.
      A very big ask, under the circumstances.
      Health Minister Blewitt had a private one on one meeting with his shadow counterpart. (It pains me that I don’t recall his name, for he is a real hero in this story). After explaining the reasoning behind this ‘out there’ approach to a public health emergency, the shadow minister (probably still a bit shaken, at what was being asked of him), agreed to try and privately get approval from each member of the opposition. (Yes, each member, from small L liberal to staunch conservative). But with one proviso, “play politics with us on this, in ANY WAY, and all bets are off!”
      Two (no doubt, trembling) hands shook, and the rest, as they say, is history.
      Whilst HIV infections continued to rise throughout the world, in Australia….they went down!!
      Australias response to the AIDS epidemic is now considered text book.
      But it took two opposing politicians to look each other in the eye, put aside ALL differences, dare to take an untried course and agree on a common goal.
      It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, it can move mountains.
      A happy political story.
      (Please, can someone tell me the name of the then Shadow Minister for Health? I do him a grave injustice. Don?)

        • margaret says:

          Or Peter Shack

          • margaret says:

            “His (Baume) work on AIDS with Neal Blewett and the then shadow minister Peter Shack fought against the rise of a scare campaign around AIDS both publicly and within his own party. The result was a bipartisan consensus that resulted in timely proactive interventions and mobilised a massive public awareness campaign, especially in the gay community. As a result of Baume’s and others’ work across the political divide, Australia was one of the few countries where AIDS did not become a partisan issue, which significantly improved patient outcomes and the overall public health of Australia.”

          • Ross says:

            Peter Baume!!! Thank you Margaret!
            Peter Baume, I salute you.
            And Neal Blewett…I spell your name correctly!

          • Ross says:

            For some reason Peter Shack eludes me. My bad.

        • margaret says:

          ABC news July 16, 2014
          Neal Blewett and Peter Baume honoured for bipartisan work against AIDS epidemic of 1980s.
          “Both warn that such a bipartisan approach to a crisis would not be possible in today’s Parliament.
          Mr Blewett says “the kind of negative opposition which has developed, that has debased Australian politics and made rational debate about some of the issues that society are facing much more difficult”.”

          • Ross says:

            Good quote. Good find, Margaret. Sad, but probably true.
            Slightly off topic…In the old (cramped) Parliament House, members would cross each other’s paths, drink and eat together every day.
            The new PH forces them to avoid each other. Probably doesn’t help the situation.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            Margaret, the AIDS campaign, including the ‘grim reaper ad’ was an all-out effort to placate the homosexual lobby, and persuade the rest of society that they were at risk, when they weren’t.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            … and the fact that Neal Blewett is homosexual might have influenced some of the more extreme reactions?

          • Ross says:

            Bryan, The grim reaper campaign (strange as it was) came out at a time when the direction of AIDS was still vague.
            Dr Neal Blewett was indeed homosexual. I don’t think Dr Peter Baume was. Like I said, my memory of Peter Shack is vague.
            Perhaps being homosexual meant Neal Blewitt could approach the issue with an open mind, but I would be guessing. I don’t know.
            What we do know, is the approach taken by the Government WITH the support of the Liberal National Party Opposition produced the most successful disease prevention and public health program in the world. It is still considered THE method when any country is tackling a public health and disease issue
            Perhaps the fact Neal Blewett was gay, did have some impact. If so, that had to be a good thing, right?
            Pretty graceless of you to think of it, as somehow a negative, Bryan.
            You may lack a little class, but don’t rush in to print, in order to prove it.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            My point was that the medical community KNEW AIDS was a disease dominantly present among homosexuals, transmitted by anal intercourse, and posed little or no risk to heterosexuals (at that time). The Grim Reaper campaign was designed to scare the public, and relieve the public and political pressure on the homosexual community. It was not a public health crisis. In Australia,the disease was limited to homosexuals, iv drug users, and prostitutes. Little girls did not get AIDS, and the advertised implication in the Grim Reaper campaign was completely absurd. Homosexuals were well aware of US findings that Kaposi’s sarcoma was far more associated with recreational drugs than HIV, and I suspect that that awareness had far more to do with the reduction in prevalence than any activities by Blewett and Baume.

          • Ross says:

            Well, Bryon, If that’s what you ‘suspect’ I’m sure it’s true.
            As I said, it was a time of rampant homophobia. The world is a better place now.
            But you can always reminisce, can’t you?
            I always assumed you were just a bit misguided, but you’re actually quite a nasty piece of work, aren’t you, Bryon.
            (And only because you obviously think about these things a lot …no, I’m married with two kids)

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Two little comments. Neal Blewett was surely bi-sexual, given that he had been married and sired kids.

            And the 1980s, at least in the view of one who wrote a weekly newspaper column, were a period in which homosexuality was written about and argued about in the media. If you want a blatantly homophobic time, try the 1950s, and the 10960s, where I received a lot of abuse for writing a column about the action of police who were peeping Toms trying to catch homosexuals in the act.

          • margaret says:

            The word – sired – off putting.

          • Ross says:

            In the 80s It may have been argued and talked about in the media. Things like whether gangs of off duty police were randomly bashing ‘poofs’ (normally a civilian pursuit), or whether those young gay men really deserved to be thrown off the cliffs to their deaths. Don’t even mention AIDS as ‘gods verdict’. Peeping toms? If only.

        • margaret says:

          I was around Bryan, I did see the ads. My kids were young. I knew nothing of Blewett’s sexuality and times were still behind – in an earlier post I commented on Alan Turing’s brilliant but sad life. He was made to believe there was something wrong with him yet contributed so much to England’s WWII intelligence.
          It really doesn’t matter about the person’s sexuality – it’s their contribution that is respected and anything else is pretty inconsequential as all of us have some sort of sexual weirdness even heterosexuals.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            I pointed out that the issue was NOT medical; it was political.

          • Ross says:

            Bryan, I think the families of all the dead people, would NOT agree that the issue was political rather than medical. Hence the search by all parties for a solution. Hence both POLITICAL parties putting aside all their personal ‘issues’ with homosexuality and illegal drugs to find one. They took the politics OUT of the solution.
            Hence, the decision to allow those most affected, as the best people to inform and educate. Hence the decision to abandon the top down approach to public health.
            It worked Bryan. Hit the net. Australia’s revolutionary approach was lauded and repeated throughout the world. For good reason. Again, because It worked.
            But it required people to put politics aside. It required people to put their prejudices aside. And so they did…for the public good. I salute them all.

  • Neville says:

    Don I asked up page about the David Karoly debate. Is this something you don’t want to talk about? Even a couple of lines will do if you haven’t more time. Just asking because I’m very interested.

  • Neville says:

    Yet another new study proves that using biodiesel increases co2 emissions . Of course Europe has been as stupid with this idiocy as it has been with so called renewable energy. Horrendous areas of rain forest have been destroyed at green left urging just to make matters worse.
    So how many 100s of billions$ has this cost the taxpayer and at what environmental damage in poorer countries around the world?

    http://www.thegwpf.com/eu-drive-for-green-biodiesel-has-increased-emissions-study-finds/

  • Neville says:

    Another pigs may fly fairy tale hits a brick wall. Sun Edison has collapsed and filed for bankruptcy in the US. But who cares if 16 billion $ has been lost, the barking mad left will still lie and tell you this is “free energy from the sun”. And they’ll still urge the govt to waste billions $ more during the election campaign for zero impact on the climate.

    http://www.thegwpf.com/the-collapse-of-sunedison/

  • Neville says:

    Viv Forbes explains why fossil fuels are the true green energy and includes a very interesting video.

    http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/PR-true-green-fuels.pdf

  • chrisl says:

    Meanwhile they had to stop the cricket in Surrey due to snow!

  • David says:

    Chrisil, I can see why Prof Quiggin does not engage with you.

    Here is a temperature time series that has been adjusted for el nino. Certainly more meaningful than that de-meaned time series that Dr Spencer generated earlier this year.

    http://assets.carbonbrief.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/correcting-gistemp-for-enso.png

    • spangled drongo says:

      Ya mean, dave, with “adjusted” being the operative word?

      Amazing how they agree with Spencer today but in ’98 the symphony conductors have charmed the temperatures much lower.

      Notice any pattern there dave?

  • […] a comment the other day I mentioned that I had come across a long preface to Animal Farm, George Orwell’s dystopian […]

  • Romano DelBeato says:

    I have found this website and Don’s article very recently, so pardon me if this has been explained before. Any answer to Don’s plea for engagement in discussions on AGW must include the fact that the subject matter is very technical and complex and so the number of competent contributors who have a grasp of the facts and can make valuable contributions is very small. The case for alarm about AGW is strongly based on climate models. As a meteorologist who has some appreciation of how those models work, I can say that the number of experts in the world who have a comprehensive grasp of the characteristics and limitations of those models is very small indeed, perhaps two or three hundred only. There is some genuine engagement in discussion of the models, but only those few experts can participate.
    So what is the intelligent non-scientist to think? Inevitably, people (the layman, opinion leaders, politicians, etc) will make judgments and take positions based on very limited and selectively sourced knowledge and be heavily swayed by emotional factors and political leanings. The classic response is to say that the facts (observations) will eventually speak for themselves without the need to understand all the scientific or modelling complexities, but this is not a solution for two reasons. First, the alarm is about a forecast for decades to come, so there is no data available to conclusively answer the problem now (although the ‘pause’ has come close). Secondly, the data as presented has been, and is being, so heavily massaged, redacted and selected by the scientific bodies that confidence in its integrity is severely diminished.
    In many ways we have a ‘perfect storm’ of ignorance.

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