Amazing! A Solid Journalism Academic

TONY THOMAS

The adage that ‘those who can’t do teach’ might have been uttered with our universities’ media faculties in mind. There is at least one exception, however, a Wollongong lecturer who gets students to check facts, especially about climate-change claims. Sadly, he is retiring

blackall smallCan you even imagine it! A  journalism lecturer  shows students how to fact-check the climate alarmists’ wild claims and doom-laden forecasts. And he publishes a peer-reviewed commentary, Environmental  Reporting in a Post Truth World,analysing how the media ignores research that runs contrary to the alarmist narrative.

Lordy! How can this fellow get away with it in our all-pervading Left-alarmist academic establishment?

Meet Dr David Blackall (above), senior lecturer in journalism at Wollongong University. His paper is in the journal Asia Pacific  Media Educator. But since he’s in the process of retiring after 25 years with the university, he can rock the boat without fearing for his career prospects.[1]

“I’m packing up my office right now,” he tells Quadrant Online. “I haven’t had any backlash, even though the climate debate seems to be getting increasingly toxic and nasty. Younger academics can’t call out the fake news on climate like I can, because they’d risk their jobs and mortgages.”

The Wollongong Bachelor of Journalism course takes in about 80 entrants a year, plus others from an allied course, Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies. Blackall’s first degree is a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture), and he taught senior HSC agriculture, biology, physics and chemistry for ten years into the 1980s. This broad science background advantages him over non-science journalism academics, and over scientists so over-specialised that they miss the big picture.

Blackall is an ardent conservationist of biodiversity. He has his own 16ha wildlife  refuge reserve ‘Nadjunuga’ at Cambewarra  Mountain, previously a university field station, which he has managed for nearly 40 years. He has also taught and practiced investigative journalism, and last year co-authored an FOI-based study in the Lawyers Alliance journal Precedent on the Ponzi-style fraud and collapse of the Trio Capital Group during 2003-10.

The Blackall Post Truth paper has been re-blogged by leading European sceptic Pierre Gosselin, who asks, “Would it be so difficult for journalists to actually seek scientific verification of their claims before publishing? Or is the pursuit of real-world scientific confirmation too much to expect from journalists and media sources bent on advancing an agenda in this ‘Post Truth World’?”

Blackall writes that journalism students can be defensive about climate because they want careers in corporate media where the “greenhouse warming” narrative holds sway. “Contrary but accurate science journalism  must be generated for balancing societal discourse and demonstrating the Earth’s natural variability,” he writes. Journalists fail to verify facts, including that polar bear populations are increasing, contrary to what he calls the ‘emotional propaganda’ and ‘fake news’ of alarmists.

To deflect being labelled a ‘climate denier’, he gives students assignments on hypotheticals such as the impact of deforestation on clouds and climate. “In previous epochs, CO2 levels were around 400ppm, as they are now, but never in human history has the Earth’s surface been as denuded,” he writes. He cites a study this year that CO2 emissions from land-use changes –  such as tree harvesting and clearing for shifting  agriculture – have been substantially under-estimated.

“However, as a journalism educator, I also recognise that my view, along with others, must be open to challenge both within the scientific community and in the court of public opinion,” he continues.

“It is my responsibility to provide my students with the research skills they need to question – and test – the arguments put forward by key players in any debate.  Given the complexity of the climate warming debate, and the contested nature of the science that underpins both sides, this will provide challenges well into the future.  It is a challenge our students should relish, particularly in an era when they are constantly being bombarded with ‘fake news’ and so-called ‘alternative facts’.

“To do so, they need to understand the science. If they don’t, they need to at least understand  the key players in the debate and what is motivating them. They need to be prepared to question these people and to look beyond their arguments to the agendas that may be driving them. If they don’t, we must be reconciled to a future in which ‘fake news’ becomes the norm.”

He alerts his students to fake climate pictures, such as the use by Reuters of a 2010 photo-shopped image of two Adelie penguins on a block of melting Antarctic ice. The same faked picture (below) had also been used in 2013 to illustrate arctic warming (notwithstanding that penguins aren’t found in the Arctic). He also directs students to look into the  dubious ‘pause-busting” paper by Tom Karl of NOAA, timed to influence the 2015 Paris climate summit. “There are many agendas at play, with careers at stake,” he says.

penguins on ice

Blackall’s paper queries why journalists fail to report the widening gap between climate models’ temperature forecasts and actual temperatures. Similarly, they don’t report the non-acceleration of sea-level rise, a big problem for the alarmist narrative.

His main argument is that human-caused greenhouse gases are not the main source of climate change, as claimed by the climate establishment.  The flat-lining of global temperatures in the past two decades despite massive CO2 increases is an obvious problem for the orthodox narrative, he says. There are multiple interacting and little-understood natural causes, but computer modelling is privileged over other relevant disciplines, such as geology. Alarmists play down the major uncertainties and use ‘consensus’ as a culture of gatekeeping  against contrary views. “Then, and dangerously, dissenters are silenced so that chosen and ‘necessary’ discourses arrive in journals, conferences and boardrooms,” he writes.

Blackall outed himself as a climate sceptic nearly a decade ago. In a 2010 paper also published in Asia Pacific Media Educator   (“Anti-terrorism, climate change and ‘dog whistle’ journalism”) he wrote of the compliant mainstream news media fanning fears on behalf of governments about imaginary climate catastrophes.[2]

Educators of journalists need to give students double skills – of integrity and fearlessness, plus the ability to maintain employability in the mainstream media, he wrote. The students need to become ‘highly adept chameleons’ to further their careers. They are given ‘hypotheticals’ requiring checking narratives against science literature. But the drafts must also be written conservatively. “No newspaper would run anything too removed from the dominant view on climate variability,” Blackall continued.

The media seemed unable to do routine internet searching to act as a ‘watchdog’ on government. This was reflected in its ‘advocacy journalism’ about the 2009 Copenhagen summit and downplaying of the Climategate email leaks, he wrote. [3]

In this paper he was prescient in highlighting the corrupted temperature  data relied on for the alarmist narrative and modelling –  including data from non-existent weather stations and stations affected by the non-CO2 urban heat island effects. In contrast, rural stations typically showed decades of consistent temperatures, he said. “News media have failed to explain or examine  these simple anomalies,” he complained. He also instanced floods being blamed by media on climate change when  the immediate cause was irresponsible local activities upstream, including tree-felling and mismanagement of dams.

He argued that without acutely educated scepticism, journalism graduates fall prey to the seductive and political tune of the dog whistle, such as believing the myth of a ‘climate consensus’.

Blackall’s arguments can be verified by  journalists’ climate ignorance in their use of the nonsense propaganda phrase “carbon pollution” when they actually mean “CO2 emissions”. Not one in a hundred journalists who quote the so-called “97% consensus” on climate alarm would be aware that the John Cook (UQ) study actually found that only 0.3% of 12,000 studies supported the IPCC line that more than half the past 60 years’ warming is human-caused.

Blackall’s critique of journalists can be tested against The Age (Garry Maddox) and The Australian(Rosemary Neill) stories last weekend about Al Gore marketing his climate-alarm film An Inconvenient Sequel in Melbourne.  Neither thought it worth mentioning that anti-emissions campaigner Gore inhabits a 20-room house (one of his three homes) whose pool heating alone uses as much electricity as six average US homes, and whose total electricity consumption is that of 21 normal residences.[4] The Age’s Maddox did not mention that Gore and his business partner from Goldman Sachs, according to Forbes, made nearly $US220m in carbon trading profits from 2008-2011.

The Australian’s Neill commendably reported the accusations of Gore’s enrichment via green schemes, and unlike Maddox, she drew attention to the UK High Court’s 2007 finding of nine scientific and other errors in Gore’s first film. The court also ruled that the film’s partisan stance made it inappropriate for UK school children unless accompanied by balancing  material. Neill should have queried why Gore had not corrected the nine errors or issued an errata, instead permitting the flawed film to mislead further millions of students. The film even asserts in its ignorance that some Pacific nations “have all had to evacuate to New Zealand.”

The Australian, via ex-ABC chair Maurice Newman, reported that Gore’s opposite number, top US sceptic blogger Marc Morano, was in Melbourne concurrently with Gore and promoting his own filmClimate Hustle. The Age and the ABC ignored Morano (while the ABC gave Gore blanket coverage) but Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun) gave Morano a prominent interview.

Dr Blackall’s retirement is a loss to journalist education. Let’s hope there are others like him out there, with the guts, smarts and integrity to take on the “kindergarten science” of climate alarm.

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here.


[1] He was previously an investigative documentary filmmaker with SBS, and an independent filmmaker, to which he is returning in retirement.

[2] Co-authored with Seth Tenkate, formerly of the NSW Transport Workers’ Union.

[3] This paper includes citing a 2009 ABC blog post by ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann – soon deleted – as follows:

“Climate science we are endless told is ‘settled’ … but to make the perfectly reasonable  point that science is never settled risks being branded a ‘sceptic’ or worse a ‘denier’…one of those words like ‘racist’ which is deliberately designed to gag debate…You can be branded a denier if you accept the problem and question the solutions.”

[4] Only 6% of Gore’s home’s electricity is from solar power.

COMMENTS [9]

  1. Bill Martin

    And in spite of all that, so many otherwise seemingly intelligent, rational people – including at least one QOL reader – continue to be obsessed with the false narrative. It boggles the mind!

  2. Ian MacDougall


    Blackall’s paper queries why journalists fail to report the widening gap between climate models’ temperature forecasts and actual temperatures. Similarly, they don’t report the non-acceleration of sea-level rise, a big problem for the alarmist narrative.

    Why should that be a ‘problem?’ Sea level has been trending upwards in a sawtooth pattern since 1993. Some years it rises sharply; some years not so sharply. But the overall trend is ever upward, indicating continuing ice and snow melt, and a global warming bad for coal and other established business.
    Journalists’ failure to report this or that is a problem for journalism; not for science.
    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

    • en passant

      MacBot,
      Still quoting the same tired mantra you always Omm! Omm!, but never answering the questions concerning the destination you seek?

      If CO2 is such a problem, what is the ideal concentration you would like? I know you cannot, will not, answer as that would provide the climate realists with an objective target to investigate and demolish – and that would NEVAAA do, would it? The answer is that it is easy to prove that we NEED at least 2,000 – 4,000ppm of CO2 to help the planet, plant-life and species generation.

      If increasing temperatures (by a horrendous tipping point of 2 degrees Kelvin {0.63%}) are is such a problem, what is the ideal global average temperature you would like? I know you cannot, will not answer as that would provide the climate realists with an objective target to investigate and demolish – and that would NEVAAA do, would it?
      The answer is that it is easy to prove that we NEED an increased temperature of at least 2 degrees Kelvin for life to flourish and for people to love more comfortably. This increase would help the planet, plant-life and species generation.

      We had a 3-day storm that required me to turn on the coal-fired electric air conditioners for the whole period and observe it through the panoramic plate glass window just metres. I have no idea how much wonderful life-giving CO2 we pumped out, but I hope it was a lot. Curiously, the sea was still where it was before the storm, and just where it was 47 years ago when I took a photo on the same spot. If there has been a rise at all, it is unnoticeable, which YOU, unfortunately, are not.

      Finally, I note in another pseudo-science alarm that we are in the middle of the 7th mass species extinction with 1 million species becoming extinct each year. Complete rubbish, naturally, but you can no doubt name five of them? No, I thought not. I wonder how many NEW species came into being last year?
      You really are an annoying racist troll, but if you did not exist, we (the only friends you have, except the Archangel Gabriel and some cattle you talk to) would have to invent you.

      As it is 300 degrees Kelvin today (plus or minus – 0.5K) the air conditioners are off.

  3. ianl

    Since 1807:

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/tide-gauge-sea-level

    Hard geological evidence dates trivial sea level rise from at least 12,000 years BP

    Tide gauges have had GPS chips attached for 20 years now to help account for isostasy.

    Next !! …

    • Ian MacDougall

      “Tide gauges may also move vertically with the region as a result of post-glacial rebound, tectonic uplift or crustal subsidence. This greatly complicates the problem of determining global sea level change from tide gauge data. Differences in global sea level estimates from tide gauge data usually reflect the investigator’s approach in considering these vertical crustal movements. Tide gauges also monitor meteorological factors that affect sea levels, such as barometric pressure and wind speed, so that these variable factors can be eliminated from long-term assessments of sea level change. Although the global network of tide gauges comprises of a poorly distributed sea level measurement system, it offers the only source of historical, precise, long-term sea level data.”

      http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/tide-gauge-sea-level

      This tide gauge stuff gives historical data on sea level where none better is available: ie from before satellite altimetry, the latter being far and away the most accurate: to +/-0.4 mm/yr (CSIRO)

      • en passant

        MacBot,
        “Accurate to +/-0.4mm/year”. OK, I will go with the -0.4.mm.

        Do you realise how stupid this level of supposed accuracy sounds given tectonic shifts, the fact that Earth is a misshapen block of cheese and the gravitational anomolies due to various orbits? You seriously think we should be Chicken Littling because of 4mm sea rise per year? Better send another few $Bn to the kleptocrats and kill every farting cow.

  4. Ian MacDougall

    Readers,
    I post the link below in the faint hope that it might enlighten Eyn Pyssant, trapped as he is in his mental dungeon of compulsive denialism.

    Remember, I did say hope. No guarantees.

    And faint. Please do not forget faint.

    http://www.snopes.com/nasa-data-global-warming/

    • en passant

      Clearly you have not been following the saga that is Snopes (being revealed through a nasty divorce case)?

      Now are you going to tell the world the ideal concentration of CO2 and the ideal average global temperature?

      Just joking as I know you cannot and therefore have no idea of the destination you seek for all of us.

      How about a challenge for you?
      You name seven benefits of +3 degrees and a doubling of CO2 and I (as I have an open, sceptical mind and no mantra) will list seven detrimental effects.

      I predict you cannot accept.

  5. Ian MacDougall

    The Mikkelson’s marriage problems prove something to what passes for the mind of Eyn Pyssant: probably including that the world is flat. Certainly that anything published on Snopes cannot possibly be taken seriously.
    That it appears to be how what passes for the Eyn mynd works.

From Ragged Centre to Flush Left

August 01st 2017 print

TONY THOMAS

The Australian has largely resisted the smothering green/left orthodoxy that banished all dissenting perspectives from the Fairfax rags and ABC. When age or ailment sees Rupert Murdoch’s guiding hand lifted from his paper’s helm, don’t expect things to stay that way. The Weekend Review is the sad preview

australianThe Australian is normally a voice for sanity in this country’s political debate. But Editor-in-Chief Paul Whittaker really ought to  take a look at what goes into the Review magazine inside The Weekend Australian – editor Michelle Gunn.

On the same day the paper hit the streets on Saturday, July 29, Sydney counter-terror operatives were arresting four Islamists over an alleged plot to bring down a domestic airliner with an explosive device. This alleged plot was the thirteenth thwarted in the past three years. Had it succeeded, hundreds of deaths would have traumatised the country .

Now turn to page 22 of Review (editor Tim Douglas, and Literary Editor Stephen Romei, who staff say selects the book reviewers)), in which fantasy novelist and journalist Claire Corbett reviews three books on counter-terror units, including Sons of God about the Victorian Special Operations Group and two about the US Navy SEALS, The Killing School and The Operator.  She writes,

“As historian Yuval Noah Harari points out in his 2015 book Homo Deus terrorists have almost no capacity to threaten a functioning state. The danger comes most from our over-reactions.

‘Whereas in 2010 obesity and related illnesses killed about three million people,’ Harari writes,’ terrorists killed a total of 7697 people across the globe , most of them in developing countries.’[1] He notes that for the average person in the affluent West, soft drinks pose a far deadlier threat than terrorists.” (My emphases).

Thanks for that, Claire Corbett, and thanks for your second-hand imbecility about soft drinks’ deadly threat. But no thanks, Review editors, for allowing Corbett/Harari to trash The Australian’s reputation for intellectual rigor, let alone common sense.

Let’s see what else Harari’s on about (not mentioned by Corbett) besides deadly soft drinks. He’s a history professor of repute and celebrity at the Hebrew University,  Jerusalem, “probably the most fashionable thinker on the planet right now,” according to the Daily Mail.

Writing only a month ago, after the Manchester slaughter, he claims that  Britons need to accept that terrorists may kill a few people a year.

‘The most dangerous thing about terrorism is the over-reaction to it. I mean, the terrorist attacks themselves are of course horrific, and I don’t intend to minimise the tragedy of the people who are killed, but if you look at the big picture it’s a puny threat…

For every person who is killed by a terrorist in the UK there are at least 100 who die in car accidents. Nevertheless, terrorism manages to capture our imagination in a way that car accidents don’t. You kill 20 people and you have 60 million people frightened that there is a terrorist behind every tree. That causes them to over-react. To do things like persecute entire communities, invade countries, go to war, change our way of life in terms of human rights and privacy, because of a tiny threat…

We have to give up this idea that we can completely abolish terrorism and that even the tiniest attack is completely unacceptable. You have domestic violence or rape and we don’t say, “Let’s have a curfew: men are not allowed on the street after eight o’clock.” If we could have such an attitude towards terrorism – “OK, every year there are two, three or four incidents of terrorism, a couple of dozen people get killed, it’s terrible, but OK, we get on with our lives” – it will be a far more effective response.’

In 2015, he was saying “Most terrorist attacks kill only a handful of people.”

“In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian terror campaign against Israel, when buses and restaurants were hit every few days, the yearly toll reached 451 dead Israelis. In the same year, 542 Israelis were killed in car accidents. A few terrorist attacks, such as the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, kill hundreds. The 9/11 attacks set a new record, killing nearly 3,000 people. Yet even this is dwarfed by conventional warfare: if you add all the people killed and wounded in Europe by terrorist attacks since 1945 – including victims of nationalist, religious, leftist and rightist groups – it will still represent many fewer casualties than in any number of obscure First World War battles…”

If in 2050 the world is full of nuclear and bio-terrorists, Harari wonders, their victims will look back at the Western world of today with longing tinged with disbelief: how could people who lived such secure lives nevertheless have felt so threatened?

A vegan, Harari  considers “industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history“  – an unusual claim by an Israeli. He lives with his husband, Itzik, in a co-op outside the city, is seriously into Vipassana meditation, and lacks a smart phone. He thinks superhuman cyborgs of the future will have the potential to live for ever – barring violent accidents, he says, but only the richest could afford the immortality treatment. People were happier in the Stone Age. Our biggest ever mistake was cultivating wheat, according to the professor.

Getting back to author Corbett’s page  last weekend, Review arts content over the years has stuck in my craw for its relentless ABC-style green/Left slant and selections.

Corbett manages to fill her page with 32 paragraphs about “the secretive world of special ops” without once mentioning the “I” (Islam) word. But by para three she’s saying, “No matter how stressful, no training can truly prepare soldiers for combat or police for shootouts with neo-Nazis”(my emphasis). Well, it was news to me that neo-Nazis (undefined by Corbett) are a shootout problem, but has this woman ever compared the threat of our ‘neo-Nazis’ with, say, ISIS?  I suppose she’s more concerned with  soft drinks’ deadly threat.

She ticks all the boxes: Abbott derangement syndrome, feminist, environmentalist, and drowning-city catastrophist (coached by one of Al Gore’s myrmidons/ambassadors).[2]

Corbett says she had been a policy adviser to a NSW Premier – cross-checking dates[3] indicates this was under Bob Carr, circa 2003. She’s dabbled in film-crew work, published two well-received novels and many short stories and done four or five long-form features for  Morry Schwartz’s The Monthly, the last in mid-2015.

Her first book When We Have Wings (2011) is yet another future dystopia where a malign regime has everyone under surveillance (maybe it’s a parable about Obama, who sooled the most advanced surveillance agencies onto his harmless opponents, even sympathetic journalists).[4]

Corbett’s plot twist is that elite people can acquire wings and fly like birds. But ominously, “only the rich and powerful can afford the surgery, drugs, and gene manipulation to become fliers.”  The down-trodden poor people remain non-fliers. No wonder  Bill Shorten is campaigning on inequality. Naturally the book was hailed by the literary set, and was even named “Highlight of the Year” by writer Lisa Jacobsen. [5]

In my office career, I was in plenty of flaps but not of  Corbett’s literal kind. She starts with heroine Peri doing circuits over Salt Grass Bay in a future climate-changed world. My first thought was that Peri was scavenging for discarded fish and chips. But instead she spies her shot-down winged pal Luisa dead in the surf. Peri lands and makes sure her own feathers don’t get wet. “No time to dry them, not now,” Peri thinks, bringing cormorants to my mind.

However, Peri’s take-off technique seems more pelican-like. “She starts her run along the sand, gulping air. It takes all her strength to run fast enough to get off the ground…  Peri’s flying now… Peri flies higher, banks, turning for home.”[6]

Peri should wear aviators’ L-plates. On landing on a clifftop house platform she bangs into the rock wall and beats her wings and rattles her feathers to recover. Once she’s inside the house, in a welcome touch of   realism, her wings tend to knock stuff over when she turns around.

I’d tell you more  but I only got a free read of  Chapter One. With a bit of further cribbing I found the nearest city was Sydney-like but rather taken over by Buddhists.  I couldn’t discover if these monks were also blowing up airliners and scheming to inflict megadeath on Grand Final crowds.[7]

Corbett’s avian expertise would suit her  for Review book reviews on the RAAF. But how has   she has morphed into Weekend Australian’s special-ops expert who thinks soft drinks are far deadlier than terrorists?

Turns out that from 2014-15 she did four features in The Monthly on the RAN,  the last in mid-2015. Three were about what was then the ‘which-submarine’ choice. Like some other fiction-writers, she can bring original touches. Her public service experience helped her winkle out some information.  And she commendably sat through two high level open conferences on the choice. Her features on subs are reasonable, although hindsight does not treat them kindly.

Her overview on perceptions of the RAN starts well and degenerates into an ABC/Fairfax-style rant about the Abbott iniquities of (successful) Operation Sovereign Borders and how navy people tortured African asylum seekers during tow-back  by forcing their hands onto hot engine pipes. I could find on-line in The Monthly no later clarification that the torture claims were fake, not even after the ABC’s then-boss Mark Scott said, “We regret if our reporting led anyone to mistakenly assume that the ABC supported the asylum seekers’ claims.”

Corbett also managed to condemn our intelligence people’s listening-in on the Indonesian President’s wife’s mobile, without mentioning it was done in the Rudd-Gillard era. “Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s handling of the fallout rubs salt into the wound,” she grouched.

None of this makes her much of a choice on special ops expertise, and she writes some really strange stuff – deadly soft drink consumption included. As the details emerge daily about the alleged  horrific airliner bombing plot, the Australian’s Review standards look increasingly tawdry. What’s up, Whittaker?

Tony Thomas, who has a UWA Master of Arts in Australian literature, has a book of essays That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, available here


[1] The Religion of Peace register says that in 2010 there were 2023 Islamic attacks in 48 countries, in which 9233 people were killed and 17461 injured.

[2] For example, she quotes a tweet, “Climate Change Could Lead to Disappearance 
of 1500 Indonesian Islands”

[3] Her name is on a 2003 NSW Health document

[4] See NYT best seller  Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkinson, ex-CBS investigative reporter.

[5]  Corbett short stories also made Best Australian Stories 2014 and ditto, 2015.

[6] “There is no magic in my book. I don’t ask the reader to believe anything that I haven’t researched. There’s nothing that breaks the laws of physics,” Corbett says. I don’t believe her.

[7] Her latest novel is Watch Over Me (2017), which is yet another  fantasy yarn about people under oppression by a malign regime.

Climate Science Comes Up Short

July 28th 2017 print

TONY THOMAS

Temperatures refuse to rise, exterminate polar bears, melt the icecaps, engulf coastal cities or make Tim Flannery seem rational. Not that there isn’t company in the upper ranks of ratbaggery. Meet Professor Matthew Liao, who yearns to bio-engineer smaller, drug-ready humans

shrinking manPeople unwilling to act on the climate-crisis narrative should be assisted with drugs that improve and promote conformity, according to eminent bio-ethicist Professor Matthew Liao, of New York University, who also wants to see parents dosing their children with hormones and diets to keep them shorter and less of a burden on the planet.

He wants such people to be given  the ‘love drug/cuddle chemical’ oxytocin. This would increase their trust and empathy and make them more ready to change to emission-saving lifestyles.

As his peer-reviewed study puts it, “Pharmacologically induced altruism and empathy could increase the likelihood that we adopt the necessary behavioral and market solutions for curbing climate change.” He emphasises there would be no coercion. The drugs would merely help those who want to be climate-friendly behaviour but lack the willpower

Once sufficiently drugged, parents would be less likely to reject notions of “human engineering” techniques that will be needed to create Humans 2.0. These amended species will be 15cm shorter than now, hence more energy efficient and less resource-demanding. His study,  Human Engineering and Climate Change, is in  Ethics, Policy and the Environment.[1]

Some US reaction to Liao has been adverse. Investor’s  Business Daily used the headline, “Global Warming Fever Drove This Professor Completely Mad”.[2] It said that warmists are “bummed they can’t find enough naive people to buy into their story”. The looniest tune yet played is Liao’s, it said.

Liao’s study theorises that shorter humans could be achieved through embryo selection during IVF, plus drug and nutrient treatments to reduce birth weights. (High birth weight correlates with future height; low weights obviously correlate with risk to the baby).[3]  Anti-growth hormones could be fed to toddlers by climate-caring parents to create earlier closing of their bubs’ epiphyseal (growth) plates. Oh, and he also wants ecocidal meat eaters bio-altered to induce unpleasant reactions if they put pleasure ahead of planet and tuck into a T-bone.[4]

His paper, although now five years old and sometimes mistaken for a sceptic hoax, features today on his personal website. It merited him a gig at a recent Leftist-stacked Festival of Dangerous Ideas at Sydney Opera House, where he spoke  in front of  a banner, “Engineering humans to stop climate change”. His compere was the respectful Simon Longstaff, boss of Sydney’s  Ethics Centre, who introduced his guest as a “really great speaker…He is on the up, this guy. He is on the up!”

Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Moral Philosophy, Liao is chair of bioethics and director of the Center for Bioethics at New York University’s philosophy department — ranked world No 1 for philosophy, Longstaff said. Liao was earlier deputy director in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences in the philosophy faculty at Oxford University. Longstaff said it was ranked world No 2. The mind boggles at what must go on those university philosophy/bioethics units ranked from third to 100?

Liao began his Opera House talk with a visiting speaker’s typical home-town warm-up, in this instance about Sydney being such a beautiful city. After that, warming to his topic, he fretted that the city “might go underwater” because of rising seas.

Many environmental problems, such as climate change, need collective action, he continued, but humans remain stubbornly individualistic, which why drugs that increase empathy and altruism might bestow the benefits of societal cooperation and engagement. Test subjects given oxytocin hormones were more willing to share money with strangers, behave in more trustworthy ways, and better read other people’s emotions, he said.

He continued,  “Making children smaller may be unappealing, but so is the prospect of having our children grow up in a world blighted by the environmental consequences of our choices and lifestyles…

“To combat climate change we can either change the environment or change ourselves.  Given the enormous risks associated  with changing the environment, we should take  seriously that we need to change ourselves.”

Liao insists his human engineering  is all voluntary, but should be incentivised by tax breaks and health-cost discounts. What he failed to explain is how toddlers could volunteer to restrict their adult height to say, 5ft (152cm).

Liao asked, “Is it ethical for parents to make choices that would have  irreversible effects on their children’s lives? Not all human engineering involving children is necessarily controversial. For example, many parents are happy to give their children [anti attention-deficit disorder] drugs, such as Ritalin, to concentrate better in school.

“Making children small is more controversial so proceed with care. But parents  are permitted to give hormones so a daughter likely to be 6ft 6in (198cm) could instead be 6ft (183cm). On what ground should we forbid parents who want to give hormone treatments so that children become 5ft tall rather than 5ft 5in tall? If climate change would  effect millions of children including one’s own children,  then these children may also later appreciate and consent to the parents decisions.”

Liao’s paper says tall people create energy waste by their food intake, extra fuel for their cars, more fabric for clothes, and more wear and tear on shoes, carpets and furniture.[5] “Think of their lifetime carbon footprint, it is quite a lot,” he told interviewers during his Australian sojourn (he must have arrived by row-boat).

To curb planet-hurting population growth, a  UK doctors’ group had recommended that Britons confine themselves to two children. Liao instead suggested each British family be given emissions targets and within that, be incentivised to have either two normal-height children or multiple smaller ones.[6]

“We think we now have optimal height, and that  we should not do anything to mess with our height, but the reality (can be) much more fluid,” he said, noting that everyone was much shorter in the 19th century with no harm done. He said height is seen by many as a social advantage but that was not a reason to scratch the shortness-creating idea.  As his paper says, bungee jumping, tattoos and running marathons are also minority tastes but legitimate activities.

Ever-hopeful, Liao believes that once a few people started shortening their children, others might be similarly inspired, especially if given tax breaks. He conceded that poorer people are already shorter on average, and should not be encouraged to further shrink their offspring.

He told his audience that many people wanted to give up eating meat but enjoyed the taste too much.  To assist, their immune systems could be  primed to react to meat “and induce some sort of unpleasant experience, very mild. (Laughter). Even if the effect was not for a lifetime, the learning effect could persist a long  time.”

A safe way to induce such intolerance could involve a “meat patch”, akin to a  nicotine patch, that people could wear before going out to eat, he said. Liao concedes that the present “tackling” of climate change by changing behaviour (less travel, LED bulbs etc) and by top-down emissions schemes are inadequate. This has led to drastic and risky geoengineering proposals like   mirrors in space and seeding oceans with iron filings. Better and safer to use existing bio-medical techniques to alter humans instead, he says.

Liao dropped political correctness to remark that US women “of lower cognitive ability” bred faster under 18 years. If they could be cognitively enhanced with Ritalin or Modafinil, which some parents already give their children to improve concentration at school, these women might have lower birth rates. He also pre-empted Pauline Hanson by saying various public health measures are similarly taken, despite risks. He said, “People routinely vaccinate  to prevent acquiring diseases even though vaccinations have sometimes side effects and can even lead to deaths.”[7]

He agreed that bio-engineering against obesity would be climate-effective, “but  I focus on height because the issue of obesity is very politically sensitive,  raising a lot of issues and, on top, some discriminatory aspects –  talk about obesity, you know…a tricky situation.”  So Liao put this planet-saving measure aside because of potential backlash from “obesity identity” activists. Anti-height measures, however, are politically safe because tall people are already advantaged.

Liao wants each person to become carbon neutral, otherwise we should spend more money on space exploration – presumably so mankind find a new home on some other planet. “Scientists tell us we are close to the point of no return,” he said, apparently unaware of the hundreds of failed tipping point predictions.

Question time produced one ripper from an elderly lady, Margaret, who seemed a warmist sympathiser: “What percent of the  population would need to adopt any of these measures before they became effective  in altering the rate at which we are going through climate change?”

Liao, hitherto a picture of confidence, fumbled and stalled, saying it was empirical and had no idea in lieu of further and needed research: “So right now I am just sorting out ideas … we would need to figure out these further questions.”

I can tell him now: if the 7.5 billion people on the planet all shrank by 15cm, it wouldn’t lower global temperatures one jot.

The   climate-catastrophe evidence Liao cites for his Humans 2.0 makeover is the notoriously-flawed UK Stern Report (Stern is now calling for US$90 trillion funding for climate change) and the melting-Himalayan-glacier 2007  IPCC report run by then-IPCC chair and Rajendra Pachauri. [8] This report was so howler-laced that the InterAcademy Council ordered a forensic audit. The report found “significant shortcomings in each major step of IPCC’s assessment process”.

Tony Thomas’s book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here.


[1] Two co-authors are from  Oxford, where Liao did his Ph.D.

[2] September 30, 2015. Broken link but text cited.

[3] The paper says, “Birth weight at the lower edge of the normal distribution tends to result in the adult’s being ≈5 cm shorter. Birth height has an even stronger effect for adult height. If one is born at the lower edge of the normal distribution of height, this tends to produce ≈15 cm shorter adult height.” It continues that certain drugs could potentially regulate birth size and weight.

[4] The paper says “While eating red meat with added emetic (a substance that induces vomiting) could be used as an aversion conditioning, anyone not strongly committed to giving up red meat is unlikely to be attracted to this option. A more realistic option might be to induce mild intolerance (akin, e.g., to milk intolerance) to these kinds of meat.”

[5] The paper says, “Reducing the average US height by 15 cm would mean a mass reduction of 23% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction of metabolic rate (15%/18%), since less tissue means lower nutrients and energy needs.”

[6] British children were singled out because they each put 160 times more demand on the planet than an Ethiopian child, his paper says.

[7] No Leftist outrage ensued

[8] Pachauri, then 74, in 2015 was charged in New Delhi with sexual harassment and stalking involving a woman staffer less than half his age.  He resigned abruptly from the IPCC, was fired from his own think-tank and   the trial has been delayed via   costly procedural stages.  Strongly asserting his innocence, he is also suing the staffer for defamation.

Who Earns What at Their ABC?

July 24th 2017 print

TONY THOMAS

Unlike its British counterpart, Australia’s national broadcaster insists that a right to privacy shields salary disclosure for the likes of Tony Jones, Barrie Cassidy, Jon Faine and all the well-heeled rest, not to mention their ABC partners, spouses and lovemates living well on the taxpayer dollar. Still, there are clues…

their abcThe country has Pauline Hanson to thank for winkling out some further particulars about how much the ABC’s top-20 on-air stars gets paid. ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has now provided written replies to Hanson’s written questions from the Senate Estimates hearings of last May.

In a nutshell, she says her five top stars are paid $375,001 to $450,000;  six pocket $300,001 to $375,000, and nine get $225,001 to $300,000.

“The remuneration information of ABC staff amounts to personal information under the Privacy Act,” Guthrie or her spokesperson says. “Responses to requests for information regarding ABC staff remuneration are presented [as pay bands only] to ensure that the Corporation complies with the provisions of the Privacy Act and that any individual’s personal information is not disclosed.”

Happily, we already have a ranking of the ABC’s top-paid as at 2011-12. This  came about thanks to a dim-witted ABC staffer mistakenly providing a salary spreadsheet to SA Family First Senator Robert Brokenshire. One of the senator’s staffers leaked the list to The Australian in late 2013.

Sure, a spot or three on the rankings may have changed. But it’s virtually automatic that those top people now inhabit the current bands disclosed by Guthrie.

Take Tony Jones, uneven-handed host of the ABC’s execrably Left-biased freak show Q&A. In the original list, he was top at $356,000. Surely ex-ABC boss Mark Scott, now running NSW’s school system,  or his successor, Guthrie, haven’t dragged him from the top spot? So he must now be skating close to $450,000. It’s only reasonable to conclude that if he were on only, say, $420k, Guthrie’s upper pay band definition would have been $375-425k .

The No 2 in the  current list has to be 7.30’s  Leigh Sales, in  2011-12 ranked only sixth on $280,000. Given Sales’ far greater exposure, workload and professionalism than Jones’, it would be odd if the ABC weren’t paying her $400,000-plus. Indeed, Sales’ predecessor Kerry O’Brien was paid  more than Jones in 2009-10, namely $365k. But Sales’ experience  doesn’t compare with O’Brien’s history and faux-gravitas, so I don’t think  Sales by now would have displaced Jones as their ABC’s numero uno.

That leaves three people to fill the rest of the $375,000-$450,000 band. If there’s any ABC rationality in relativity, one slot would go to Sarah Henderson, star of Four Corners and, coincidentally, spouse of Tony Jones. It’s one helluva household pay-packet that taxpayers provide this power couple. Ferguson’s Four Corners on the Lindt siege was great viewing, even if she couldn’t bear to mention how the top coppers were fixated about hypothetical backlash against hypothetical Muslims, even while one real Muslim was wielding his real shotgun within the real café.

The last two slots would have to be the ABC’s Sydney and Melbourne radio stars Richard Glover and Jon Faine respectively,  both on near-$300,000 five years ago. Glover does the afternoon Driveand Faine does Mornings and Conversation Hour.

This list requires a de-ranking of 2011-12’s No 2, NSW TV newsreader Juanita Phillips, who was then on an anomalous-looking $316,000. Let the heavens quake, but I’m sure she’s been nudged to the middle band $300,000-375,000.

This middle band of six can be rapidly populated with workaday stars (2011-12 pay in brackets), viz long-time Radio National Breakfast host Fran Kelly ($255k), political editor Chris Uhlmann ($255k) with his new specialty of anti-Trump rants, Insiders Sunday host Barrie Cassidy ($243k) and high-profile Annabel Crabb ($217k), especially with her Kitchen Cabinet.

Numerate readers will note there’s one $300k-plus slot unfilled, and I admit there’s difficulty here. It is probably a toss-up between News Breakfast co-host and Trump clanger-dropper Virginia Trioli ($236k) and Juanita’s Victorian newsreading counterpart Ian Henderson ($188k). Sorry, Ian, but Virginia’s my pick for the taxpayers’ $300k-plus gravy-boat, if only because of her advantages in gender and overt groupthink.

Hendo would thus go down to the ABC  stars’ paupers Band 3 of $225k-300k. The other eight there are the tough ones to sort out. If the ABC pays for hard work rather than show-pony looks, first in would be US bureau chief Zoe Daniel and London-based Europe chief Lisa Millar. From the past list, sports broadcaster Gerard Whateley  ($223k) would have to be in there too.   TV finance presenter Alan Kohler doesn’t come cheap.  On profile, add in Lateline co-host Emma Alberici ($186k). The last three places would have to be drawn from the likes of all-rounder Mike Brissenden, AM and federal politics’ Sabra Lane, Melbourne Drive radio’s Rafael Epstein, Sydney Afternoons radio’s James Valentine, Radio National’s Pat Karvelas, the lovable Waleed Aly ($187k) and Julia Baird, who did last week’s 7.30 about “Christian Women Told to Endure Domestic Abuse”.

To sum up, here’s Michelle Guthrie’s pay-bands, properly populated:

$375,001-450,000

Tony Jones, Leigh Sales, Sarah Ferguson, Jon Faine, and Richard Glover.

$300,001-375,000

Juanita Philips, Fran Kelly, Chris Uhlmann, Barrie Cassidy, Annabel Crabb, and Virginia Trioli

$225,001-300,000

Ian Henderson, Zoe Daniel, Lisa Millar, Gerard Whately, Alan Kohler, and  Emma Alberici, Plus any three of Mike Brissenden, Sabra Lane, Rafael Epstein, James Valentine, Pat Karvelas, Waleed Aly, and Julia Baird.

Of course, in Britain all such stars’ pay levels at the BBC are fully disclosed. If BBC director general Tony Hall so much as claims for a £7 train ticket, it gets disclosed too. But in Australia that would never do!

Tony Thomas’ book of essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here.

 

Deadline Missed by 50 Years

A young reporter of literary bent is sent in the late Sixties to cover a council meeting, subsequently filing an account that, much to the amazement of the chief sub, invokes Rabelais’ ‘Gargantua’. Spiked in 1967 and only recently re-discovered,  it deserves a run

reporter IIIMany journalists keep their scrapbooks of articles for inordinate periods. When cleaning out a cupboard, I found a volume of mine from The West Australian in the 1960s, the pages  browned with age.

Something unusual fell out, a “copy sandwich” of a story of July 1, 1967, that never got published. In those days we wrote each sentence on a separate half-page A5, so the subs could trim the story to length by throwing away pages. The stack of pages was called a sandwich.

On the top page was a note from the Chief of Staff, Viv Goldsmith: “Tony Thomas – see me about features and news cover (guideline for the future).”

Notes starting “See me” are seldom preludes to positive feedback.  Strangely, the story had traversed the sub-editors’ table and even acquired a note to the hot-metal compositors, “Urgent”. This sub-editor was a moron, turning   my choicest bon mots into the English of phone books and railway time-tables.

I suspect the chief sub had, in a spasm of caution, referred the sandwich upstairs to the editor, who sent it  down to the Chief of Staff with advice to counsel me against levity and disrespect in news reporting.

My aborted story is about a fiery meeting between the semi-rural Armadale-Kelmscott Shire Council and 500 of its electors. The council had summonsed and fined many of them for allegedly neglecting  their firebreaks. The electors had activated some clause in the shire’s constitution to hold their councillors to account.

To set the scene, you probably know that Perth sits on the coastal plain and 30km to the east,  running north-south, are the lightly-settled Darling Ranges, rising to 600m. They’re not exactly the Alps. Armadale-Kelmscott is one of the hillside districts. I probably reported this meeting with special avidity because I  lived  on a half-acre nearby, on Gooseberry Hill.

The sandwich shows signs of poor typewriter hygeine. Each letter ‘r’ falls half below the line and the ‘r’s’ stem is missing, leaving only a mark like a tilde or curly hyphen. But no-one in Newspaper House ever kicked me about my r’s.

Will I ever get round to the story? Here goes:

 Next Best Thing to the Stake

We don’t burn unpopular bureaucrats [subbed to read “we don’t burn people”] at the stake any more, but an electors’ meeting is the next best thing.

The smell of roasting councillors wafted through the Armadale Hall as 500 ratepayers asked questions and said things about last month’s mass fining of firebreak defaulters.

All the Armadale-Kelmscott councillors attended, sitting in a row before the velvet curtains and red drapes of the antique hall. The only cheerful one was Mrs Julie Bethell, who had been elected after the council’s fining sortie.

At 8 pm the meeting opened with the force of a wet match. President P. Kargotich announced that the sound-recording crew (who had decorated the fore-stage with teeming lianas of wires) had forgotten their microphones. Someone was speeding back to Perth (20 miles) to get them. The meeting would start when he got back.

This was like lashing the lions before the Roman games. The packed hall rumbled with discontent for 35 minutes. Some young blades started slow hand-clapping.

“Order,” shouted the microphone-less president.

“Time!” counter-shouted an angry woman.

At 8.45pm a runner panted   entered into the cheering hall carrying a box of microphones. The meeting started with a history of the controversy from the president, read fast and level. Then he called for questions and suggestions from the audience.

Here a misunderstanding arose. The shire thought the meeting had been called so that people could make sensible suggestions about how to reduce fire hazards in future. Most of the ratepayers thought the purpose of the meeting was to do the council over. This misunderstanding was never fully resolved.

The microphone fiasco was grist to the mill. Mr Kargotich disclaimed responsibility; Mr Hugh Leslie, of Kelmscott, said the equipment should have been tested long before the meeting started.

“What is wrong is the shire council, and the whole body of it,” he said, after giving a different history of the fining. “If you can’t lead, then get out and let someone in who can. And if they can’t, we will kick them out.”

Later, there was some confusion between Mr Kargotich and a red-headed youth from the sound crew about whose turn it was in the audience for a microphone.

“You’re an employee of the meeting, not running it,” Mr Kargotich said peremptorily.

Mr Chandler, of East Cannington, rose soon after.

“The way you treated that man gives an idea of how you treat employees…” he began.

Mr Kargotich (divining that this speaker may not be friendly):“Are you an elector?”

Chandler: “I’m a ratepayer.”

Kargotich: “Are you an elector?”

Chandler: “I am not of the district.”

Kargotich: “Well, will you sit down.”

Chandler: “I am being fined. Does that give me the right to speak?”

Loud cheering from the hall, and Mr Chandler spoke on.

Things got so hot after a while that Mr Kargotich had to remind a woman speaker that her remarks about a council employee were going on record and she might regret it if she continued (he was referring to the laws of slander).

Near the end of the meeting, the crisis point arrived, with a motion from an impassioned Mrs Mann of Roleystone that the whole council resign. Her family had collected seven summonses, reduced by the council later to one. The motion came unexpectedly, rather like the baby that popped out of Gargamelle’s left ear.

[At the time I was doing post-grad English literature at UWA, where I would have picked up this bit of anatomical fancy in Rabelais’ ‘Gargantua’ of 1550. In that pre-Google era, I must have had the book handy].

Mrs Mann first objected to the ‘bombastic’ manner of the chairman, Mr Kargotich. She thought he was paid by ratepayers and should be nice to his employers. Mr Kargotich said he drew no salary.

“What do the 3 per cents go to then?” she demanded.

Mr Kargotich explained that legally, this money could be spent at the council’s discretion, and his shire spent only half of it, and that half, on worthy ends.

“I was told that at each council meeting cigarettes were passed around. Is this little enjoyment from the 3 per cents?” she asked meaningly.

Shouts to “Siddown!” came from around the hall.

“I would like to see the whole council resign,” she finished.

This took everyone aback, but Mr Kargotich, unruffled, asked if she wished to move a motion. She did.

Mr Carlson, of Roleystone, tried vainly to cancel the motion, arguing that a vote against the council would be dangerous and that a vote for the council would be seized on by the council as evidence of popular support.

“If passed, the motion would be considered by ourselves,” Mr Kargotich said. “We make the decision.”

After a short speech or two against the motion, it lost by about 450-50.

Our next electors’ meeting on July 7 concerns Paul Ritter and the Perth City Council. I advise the council to look to its microphones.   Ends sandwich.

Understandably, I wasn’t assigned to report that Perth council meeting, a pity as it sacked its town planner, Mr Ritter, soon afterwards. Ritter gazumped the council by getting elected to it  for 16 years. He was runner-up as Perth citizen-of-the-year in both 1974 and 1976 but  got a three-year stretch in 1986 for a dodgy application for a Commonwealth export grant. Doing time is an occupational hazard for Perth celebrities.

Well, that ends my trip down memory lane. Reporting council meetings in those days was at least a step up from reporting the Magistrate’s Court.  The West’s policy was to include particulars of old lags who ‘committed a nuisance’ in the lanes of our fair city.

I’ve just realised: it’s the 50th anniversary of when I wrote the firebreak story. Spooky!

In this month’s Quadrant, Tony Thomas writes about Menzies’ affection for price-fixing cartels.

The Velvet Glove of Harry Knight

 

Harry Knight, from 1980 Sir Harry, was Reserve Bank Governor from 1975-82. He died in 2015 at age 95. His grandsons include brothers Dominic and Jasper Knight, who have high public profiles as an ABC Chaser Boy (Dominic) and an award-winning artist (Jasper).

I wrote this piece largely as relief from the tedium of sitting through evidence to the Campbell Inquiry into the Financial System. I also used The Age to publish my original research into the proportion of top-tier bankers who do actually wear pin-striped suits.

 

The Velvet Glove of Harry Knight

Tony Thomas, The Age, 17/11/79

Like an ancient king, the Reserve Bank Governor, Harry Knight, appears seldom in public, and then always with dazzling effect.

He dazzled everyone at the Campbell finance inquiry the other day, radiating charm, humility and a penchant for Hamlet-like introspection.

The face that launched a thousand suasions is lean and ascetic, topped by a tousle of wispy grey hair.

He clothes his slender form in a very nice suit, with broad black and grey stripes, somewhat like the convicts in Sydney Nolan paintings.

And answering questions from the committee, he chirrups away as if he has not a care in the world, but is merely bandying pleasantries with six long-trusted chums.

All that was lacking was a fireside glow and a glass of port (1905 vintage) in hand, little finger slightly raised from the stem.

In every way, he is a credit to Melbourne’s Scotch College.

Just once that day the velvet glove slipped. He was asked by chairman Keith Campbell how odften the banks came cap in hand to Harry to get a lender-of-last-resort loan.

“Perhaps you will tell me if I am too wordy,” Mr Knight began – his usual line of patter while he worked out a sensible answer, which was –

“Use of the last-resort facility by banks has been infrequent and [he smiles like a white pointer shark] excruciating to them.”

Mr Campbell: “You would be referring to the interest cost? – Yes, sir.”

The younger Mr Knight had an unusual war career. He began with the AIF as a gunner on sound-ranging duties, then transferred to the navy to do hydographic work. There was nothing effete about that job. He served on small ships that used to scoot ahead of task forces moving to landings on Pacific islands. His boat would take soundings, under the eyebrow of the Japanese, to chart the invasion route – fairly dicey work as one bank colleague put it, which won Lt Knight a DSC.
Harry Knight’s only publication is titled Introduccion al Analisis Monetariok an obscure work in Spanish not yet translated into English.

His friends in the banking world told me that it is a novel about a bullfighter’s love for a communist spy in the Civil War, who was posing as a flamenco dancer in Franco’s headquarters.

But a Reserve Bank spokesman issued a strong denial. He said it was a collection of ten lectures on central bankng that the Governor gave in Mexico while he was doing a stint with the International Monetary Fund. He’s still fluent in Spanish.

The chatty Knight style is illustrated by his denial to Keith Campbell of Reserve Bank responsibility for the reduction in trading bank share of financial markets. He said there was a tendency of people to wave the statistics at him, and while he was ‘reeling from it’, people would say to him [he raised his arm and pointed accusingly], ‘It is all your fault!’

But he had to say, ‘Now that is a bit thick’ because there were a lot of bright people in the intermediation game carving out their own shares in any event.

“If you press me and say, ‘Come on Harry Knight, tell me what proportion of non-bank growth is attributable to your activities’, I have to smile sweetly and say, ‘I have no idea’,” he said.

Like Dickens Mrs Gamp, he is prone to invent people who then argue with him, saying ‘Harry Knight this and Harry Knight that’. Harry, in the course of these bouts, awards himself the last word and the crushing retort.

‘Are you watching for squalls, Harry Knight? Squalls can hit you without your being aware of it and you have to handle them real fast’, he warned himself once.

When the Treasury’s Fred Argy threw him the usual trap question, he replied winningly, “Mr Chairman, that is a lovely question and I am very grateful for it’. It was like watching a gentleman debating with a footpad.

The initial burbling by Mr Knight is characteristic. He operates like a champagne bottle, giving off a lot of froth before any genuine liquor emerges.

Sometimes it is hard to know if he is being sarcastic or merely effusive, as when he described the State savings banks (which tend to dodge the Reserve Bank’s network of controls) as ‘lovely people’.

He would love to relax the Bank’s controls over foreign exchange, but because of the disorders abroad, he would have to say with St Augustine, ’God, make me pure, but not yet’.

He agreed people might say to him: ‘It’s a fair while, Harry Knight, since we’ve had a wave of new foreign banks here’.

“Like the Presbyterian elder, I’d reply, “That is a great difficulty. Let us look it squarely in the face and pass on.” #

 

 

The New Hiroshima

I wrote this piece when I was 36.

Tony Thomas, The Age, 21/7/1976

 

“Rest in peace, for the error shall never be repeated.” This is the official translation on the script of the A-bomb cenotaph at Hiroshima sited directly below the explosion point.

You normally find an English subscript but the cenotaph has none. It’s the same with the other major monument, the twisted structure of brick and concrete that was once the rotund and rather pompous Hall of Industrial Promotion.

Standing beside the ruins late in the afternoon, I got talking to three of those unfailingly polite Japanese students and asked for a translation. The most fluent of the trio, Noriake Ishizu, read haltingly.

“The first atomic bomb was dropped above this building, 600 metres above. At that time, 200,000 people were killed by the atomic bomb and at the same time…”
He broke off for consultation with his friends. After all else failed, he drew a geometric picture and we realised the next word was ‘radius’.

“Radius of two kilometres was destroyed. This accident was very sad, so that many people in Japan saved a little money and repaired this building as a monument forever.”

As we wandered through the park, past the memorials to children, the statue of a family inscribed simply, ‘Pray’, and the pond of peace and the flame, we came back to the cenotaph. He translated the inscription, less elegantly but just as movingly as the official version.

“We do not repeat again this fault. Please sleep softly and easily, because we really should not repeat this sadness.”

Many of the statues are decked with ‘sembatsuru’, swathes of colourful paper flowers, strung on string like the tail of a kite.
At the children’s monument, the sembatsuru has some cards written in English. ‘War is not healthy for children and other living things. Peace. Shalom.’ That card was from a group of doctors in Okayama.

We talked with an old taxi driver, Hajime Kanmori, who said he rescued people in his truck the day after the bombing; he particularly remembered how the dead had to be burned with kerosene. He came through with strong health, but his fellow truck-driver Zenichi Tateishi was badly burned and fell ill by the ‘bad disease’.

At dawn, dozens of middle-aged and elderly people were doing exercises in the park. There was a burst of martial music and shouted ordered when someone switched on an exercise routine on a tape recorder, waking up a pair of alcoholics on a park bench.

The dome was singularly eerie that morning, with its rubble covered in weeds. I had been reading eyewitness accounts of how the bomb’s radioactivity had germinated weed seeds within days.

“Over everything – up through the wreckage of the city, in gutters, along the riverbanks, tangled among tiles and tin roofing, climbing on charred tree trunks – was a blanket of fresh, vivid, lush, optimistic green. Especially in a circle at the centre, sickly regeneration…”

My third and final visit to the park was at about 10am to see the Atomic Museum. There is a model there of a family wandering in the holocaust, which is sheer horror. But most of the other items seemed fairly clinical, except for a familiar kitchen curtain that was scorched to a uniform brown color.

The final tablet in the museum reads, “So that was how Hiroshima perished in the disastrous explosion. Men and women, young and old. For the souls of the fallen victims let us pray, rest in peace.”

In the visitors’ book, a sailor from, the USS Bonefish had added, ‘Why knock a winner? Go to Hell.’ In similar vein, a Filipino had written: ‘Millions of Filipino soldiers and civilians died too.’ Someone from South Yemen wrote, ‘A sorrowful sight’ and a Latvian wrote, ‘I hope God will forgive us.’

I was especially uneasy that morning because I had requested Ichiro, my Foreign Affairs Department guide, to arrange an interview with someone in the hospital for atomic bomb victims.

This was scheduled for 11.30am but I had no idea how I should do such an interview, had forgotten to buy flowers, and was inwardly wanting to call the whole thing off.

We drove through Hiroshima’s bustling city centre, which has the same frenetic, even manic, exuberance of downtown Tokyo or Osaka, and stopped abruptly outside a dingy building that looked more like a block of old flats.

But the waiting room, with the wooden benches and scattering of old, silent people, was unmistakably hospital-like. We were ushered into a conference room, served iced tea and told about the person we would meet by a cheerful and friendly doctor.

This was useful because the time allotted for the interview was short. Mrs Sato (not her real name) was standing outside the Hiroshima station when the bomb dropped, the doctor said, via Ichiro and above the racket of a commercial broadcasting van that was cruising down the road.

There were terrible scenes and she saw a lot of people fleeting and she followed them. She walked and walked and finally came to a farm where she had her first rest. That was the time she realised how badly she was burnt. Her skin was peeling off and she found that her lips were swollen and injured. She was terribly thirsty and suffering from shock.

Her parents came but could not identify her, so she had to identify herself to them and they took her home to Iakaya-cho where treatment began.

The doctor broke off as Mrs Sata herself was shown in. She was wearing an attractive pink lacy dress with long sleeves and showed no signs of facial scarring. She was somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion, giving deep bows to Ichiro and myself, and laughing in an embarrassed way – behind her hand.

We talked about her family for a while, but at Ichiro’s suggestion came quickly to the point.

“It was a very hot day that day,” she said. “I was going into town under military orders to help clear away demolished houses.

(Hiroshima had been hardly touched by the B29s, but in anticipation of ‘incendiary raids’ housing had been pulled down at right angles to the river to form escape lanes and to localise fires. All able-bodied girls from the secondary schools had been summoned the day before to help the work. About 20,000 of them perished and are commemorated in a memorial in the park.)

“I was standing with classmates outside the station in the open about one kilometre from the epicentre waiting for a streetcar, and quite unprotected by anything. There was a flash ten times or 100 times brighter than lightning in the sky, enough to damage your eyes, it was so bright.”

(The eyes of many people, such as anti-aircraftmen looking directly at the bomb, melted.)

“I instantly lay down on the ground, as we had earlier been told to do if anything menacing happened. I heard no sound. When I raised my head again, after about ten minutes, everything was a very dark grey with suspended ashes, like when you turn an old fire in a stove upside-down.

“I was no sure if I was in the same spot where I lay down. There was no way to tell. But I think I was about 15m from that spot.

“I was hit and burnt from the right side. Because I was a girl I had instinctively protected my face with my arms.

She rolled up a lacy pink sleeve to show the disfiguring. It began on the upper arm where a short sleeve had ended, and was more prominent about the elbow. Her ankle, where her wartime trousers had ended, was also burnt, she said.“Many people were crushed down under wreckage. I got up and followed people who were walking along the railroad. In the river, lots of people were floating. I heard cries for help from people in buildings. Most probably they were crushed down too.

“Finally I reached a primary school that was packed with suffering people, and I saw many people dying in front of me. I lost consciousness.

“Afterwards I did my best to keep my arms as clean as possible, so no germs would cause a deep infection. I did not have any grafts but the doctors had to cut my elbow and stretch it back. The moment any skin formed the doctors peeled it off again so no germs would stay inside. I was fortunate because my parents could look after me. They were living outside Hiroshima.

“Many people in Hiroshima who suffered from radiation and burns don’t like to talk about things. There are so many people nowadays who don’t know anything about what happened then, and they get scared when they see the damage to people.

“I never fail to go to the memorial service every August 6. My classmates all died that day, all 240 of them.

“I am quite confident about the Japanese Government policy for peace. There is no question about it. But if a country tried to attack us from outside, I am not sure what is the right thing to do. There may be some people who would say Japan should stand up and fight back. That is what I am afraid of…but I am not sure. Because of my bitterest experience, I pray that things such as that should not happen. I am very conscious that H-bomb tests are still being conducted and I am worried about it.”

I asked about her attitude to peaceful use of nuclear power. She said it was very hard to judge what ‘peaceful use’ meant in modern conditions, but with that proviso, she did not object to ‘peaceful’ uses.

Our time was up. Mrs Sato had taken time off from her clerical job with a construction firm to meet us. We offered her a lift back but she declined.

She had seemed quite willing to tell her story but at many points I judged she was close to tears.

Next Friday morning at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, Mayor Takeshi Araki will add to the cenotaph the names of 101 more people who died of radiation diseases in 1975-76.

At 8.15am, the same time that bombardier Tom Ferebee dropped the bomb from the hatch of Enola Gay, two relatives of victims will toll the peace bell to start a one minute’s silence.

We now live in the atomic age. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. #