Change Everything? You Bet. Spectator 14 October 2018

Tony Thomas Oct 13



Naomi Klein from Canada oversees courses for tens of thousands of Australian high school students.

She’s an anarcho-environmentalist mobilising grass-roots mobs like Occupy to overturn capitalism. She never finished her Bachelor degree but made a hit with her 2014 book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate”. As a New York Times reviewer hyper-ventilated: “[It’s] a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable.” Klein cites a 2012 author of a paper, “Is the Earth fucked?” who  tells her, “Yeah, pretty much!”

Klein has collaborated with tax-free charity Cool Australia to provide no fewer than ten discrete lessons based on “This Changes Everything” for our Year 9-10 kids. Each lesson certifies, “Produced in partnership with ‘This Changes Everything’”. Other lessons are co-partnered with lobbyists WWF.

Cool Australia has hundreds of free environment lessons  in ready-to-go format. From Cool’s start in 2008, the modules are now used by 89,000 teachers in about 80% of schools. It claims 1.7–1.9 million kids took lessons in 2017, though I dunno, its 2016 figure was only 1m.

Cool is the creation of the Jason and Craig Kimberley family, which sold its Just Jeans chain for $64m in 2001. Independent charity watchdog ChangePath fails Cool on transparency (zero Stars out of three). Who knows where Cool’s $1m revenue in 2016 came from? Donations were only $162,000. It’s got other mega-rich pals like wotif$140m beneficiary Graeme Wood.

Bendigo Bank departed last year as Cool’s big sponsor since 2014. The bank explains guardedly that both parties had moved on and agreed to split. New sponsor is Teachers Health, covering 300,000 educators.



Jason Kimberley says Cool’s goal is for students to be empowered change agents able to identify and solve world issues. Maybe they should pass their driver’s test before they fix the Middle East.

Teachers require kids, as per Cool lessons, to mobilise to improve society and harangue parents, small businesses, MPs, councillors and the public. With every child in class required to state his/her view, any kid would need outside knowledge and a hero’s courage to buck the teachers.

The climate zealotry in schools – also enforced by teachers unions – contrasts with polls of Australian adults showing 43% sceptical of the human-caused warming doom (Climate Institute, 2017).

Much of Cool’s urgings are harmless, like picking up plastic and conserving tapwater, though it admits to kids’ growing message-fatigue. But Cool’s climate gospel is driven right down to pre-schoolers, or tiny-trots.

“Early Learning Hot and Cold” lesson for pre-schoolers: “Using less electricity and finding alternative and greener sources of electricity – such as wind or solar – is essential to addressing climate change.” The material adds helpfully: New words for children to learn: “Electricity”, “Energy”.

Recommends one teacher: “Great ideas that we can use with the children  on the importance of sustainability at kindy and at home.” At kindy? It’s not as though we out-pollute Nigeria.

Klein is a master (or mistress) of videos brainwashing kids with her messages like,“Our economic model is at war with life on earth.”

One film depicts Greek villagers battling an Eldorado Gold project start-up. They chant, “The birds are welcoming us. Everything is blooming. We are one with this mountain. We won’t survive without it. To victory!”

Interviewer: What is the core problem? Peasant woman– “It is the economic system, capitalism I guess… They will go away and leave a desert behind.”

Narrator: Squeeze the earth, squeeze the people.

Mining equipment was torched (not shown in film), while demonstrators are shown being tear-gassed. Eldorado last year mothballed its billion-dollar mine, citing delays with permits. As if Greece needs such projects.

Another movie finishes with Germans – including a rabbi – literally sobbing for joy over new wind and solar plants.

The material harps on imminent economic collapse, hat tip to Karl Marx.“Thought starter: How do you think climate change would be affected if the global economy collapsed?”

Klein’s nostrums include higher wealth taxes and “basic income for all”, carbon taxes, fracking bans and anti-trade ‘re-localising’. She promotes worker and community ownership and “community-controlled” clean energy (tell that to AGL).

Teacher: “Do students have their own strategies for how to develop a clean and just economy?”


Her courses time-travel to the future where all  climate horrors have come true, including Sydneysiders expiring from dengue fever.

A strange graphic includes such Tim Flannery-style Gaia worshipping as “Consider everything alive and animate. Create a personal dialogue with your environment. Talk to it.”

Cool lists the Human Rights Commission among its “guys [that] get our creative juices flowing.
They are our daily go-tos and our funnest (sic) playmates.” Ex-HRC head Gillian Triggs pops up “fighting for freedom, equality, fairness and Justice”, except for persecuted QUT students and those, sadly, still saying what they like around the kitchen table. Other “funnest playmates” are  teachers’ unions and the Victorian Democratic Republic’s Education Department.

(Here’s a factoid: the Victorian Essential Learning Standards up to 2013 prescribed “Climate Change” lessons in seven different subjects for the small kid in Years 1-2, even including “Health, Physical Education – Movement and Physical Activity”).

Klein concludes disarmingly: “What if global warming is not only a crisis? What if it is the best chance we will ever get to build a better world?Change or be changed!”

A 2017 survey found 15-20% of Cool-registered teachers – particularly coordinators – were using the website 10 to more than 30 times a year. Most sought lesson plans which they used four times each. Cool has become a free, popular substitute for teacher-centred input.

Cool’s asylum seeker coverage is just as one-sided – with at least 12 “lessons” based on activist Eve Orner’s 2016“Chasing Asylum” film with such commentary as: “Staff would have to be trained how to use a Hoffman’s knife. The knife would be used to cut people down when they are found hanging.”

Learning Intentions: Students will recognise that human rights and social justice are core in issues relating to seeking asylum. Students will identify ways to take action at their school or in their community…


Teachers love the stuff. “Wow! I’m vibrating with joy after going through your gazillion lessons and resources… this is gold,” testified Terrina Phelan, sustainability teacher at St Mary’s Primary, Echuca, on the website. A coordinator (hopefully not of English courses) wrote that the lessons gave her “piece of mind”. Maybe parents could give their local school a piece of mind too. #






















Xavier Herbert’s One-Man Cubbyhouse

Variously hailed as literary hero or scorned as a verbose hack, I’ll leave the merit of his books for others to debate. What I know of the man, rather than the writer, I learned firsthand when he visited the WA of my youth and carried on as egomaniacal ratbags are wont to do

xavier herbertXavier Herbert (left, in his later years), author of door-stopper Poor Fellow My Country, granted me an interview when I was a callow Perth reporter of 24. Herbert is the only Australian author to have literally disappeared up a gum tree, of which more later. That temporary disappearance must have occurred a few days before my interview.

Poor Fellow, which he published 11 years later in 1975, is a third longer (1463 pages) than War and Peace and weighs  two kilograms. It’s much-mocked as ‘Poor Fellow My Typewriter. Critics say his 510-page Capricornia of 1938 is better. Both depict the unjust pre-war race relations in the Northern Territory and promote land rights. Geraldton-born, he’d been sponsored for a three-week Adult Education Board tour in early 1964 of his old WA haunts. But he publicly called the tour off and high-tailed it back to the East, pausing only to slander – via myself –  the board’s director Hew Roberts, a gentlemanly chap of academic mien.

Herbert seemed in a rage when I arrived for the interview, unless he was just posturing for publicity. Maybe he’d been overdosing on his steroids and methyl-testosterone, though of course I didn’t know about  the injections at the time. Truth is, he hadn’t sacked the board: the board had sacked him.

Why bring it up now? Last month I happened across a letter from Roberts to then-State Librarian Mollie Lukis, setting out Roberts’ side of the story. The egomaniac Herbert (1901-84) was up to his old tricks of betraying friendships and picking fights, Roberts explained.

This fracas, though interesting to me, ranks low on the Richter scale as Xavier Herbert stories. So I’ll consign it to the end of this piece and start with more entertaining stuff. The first tale is about him circumcising himself at 45 as a wedding present for his Jewish bride; the other concerns his failed effort at 79 to recruit a 24yo rabid feminist (her own description) as his live-in secretary and bed-mate, in exchange for  authoring his official biography. This lady, Ann McGrath, is now an ANU history professor with an OAM.

Herbert had been running an affair since 1930 with an uneducated Cockney woman Sadie Norden. They married in 1946. For nearly 50 years she took a role as servant to his genius, while he flaunted his affairs and treated her like dirt.

herbert pointsXavier Herbert was reluctant to trim his brick-like tomes, not so the staff of his manhood.

The circumcision saga, chronicled by academic Russell McDougall,[1], has origins in the epochal Fremantle wharf riots of 1919, where one striker was killed when rival unions went to war.  A young scab, Herbert jumped in to help a besieged constable and a striker landed a punch that broke his nose. Herbert became an ardent advocate of the Left after that and dubbed himself Broken-Nosed Sam. As decades passed, he began theorizing that his creative writing emanated from “the body” and his busted schnoz was giving him writer’s block and maybe suppressing  his virility. In addition, he subscribed to a view that male Jews have big noses, but with an inverse relationship to penis size. (Author McDougall uses the tactful term “Jewish nostrility”). Herbert also wanted to match his bride-to-be’s Jewishness, but he was uncircumcised. There’s a lot of symbolism going on here. He started his new life with the nose job.

McDougall writes,

Herbert wanted Sadie’s wedding this time to be sensational, and he determined to give her an unbeatable gift, a surprise on her wedding night, by appearing to her fully undressed – that is, circumcised. Over the years he had developed quite a psychological complex over not being ‘pruned’ as a child, exacerbated by his knowing that, according to Jewish law, his uncircumcised penis was the sign of a barbarian. He had gone into the House of Israel by the back gate, uncircumcised, but he was determined not to leave it that way.

 “In his heart he clung to Catholicism, for he loved the True Church even as he could not believe in Jesus, who in his view was a ‘phoney.’ … Still, he was ashamed to present himself uncut to his bride, and he determined to reshape himself. It was his way of making his wedding day the Day of Atonement and claiming the higher innocence of those who are forgiven their sins. He presented himself to Sadie streamlined, wrapped in gauze.

“It is hard to say if she were impressed, and of course there is no way now to prove beyond doubt that the story is even true. But for him it had the imaginative truth of art; and it would appear that, recalling the power he had gained from the straightening of his nose, he was encouraged to think that, once circumcised, he might also become more decisive. Thus, on July 1, 1953, he recorded in his log, ‘the beginning of the great days of my life — my Great Days, let me call them — in which I am able to do anything I want to do.’

None of this makes the cut (no pun intended) in Frances de Groen’s dispassionate biography of Herbert.[2] Maybe she didn’t believe it.

When Sadie became terminally ill, Herbert treated her as a nuisance[3], and when she died he wasted no time casting about for a worshipful younger woman as servant/slave. Women found his literary fame and apparent hyper-masculinity enticing, and in short order he had fetched up a middle-class Melbourne divorcee half his age to his home in Redlynch, near Cairns. She had imagined Herbert as a kindly protector and took off down south again when confronted with her bed duties. The overtures repeated, with  Ann McGrath among the refuseniks. He finally gravitated to a platonic and professional relationship with a young Cairns bank clerk as his secretary. He left  her his whole estate, which he had long pledged to Aboriginal rights, Israel, and aspiring Cairns writers.

Now for that tale by Ann McGrath.[4] Around 1981 she was a new-minted lecturer at Darwin Community College. She much admired  Herbert’s writings and activism for Aborigines, the environment and the republic. From 1977, she said, he was her “great man”.[5]

She initially didn’t like the macho elements of Capricornia. “It was the era of high 1970s feminism, with me busy reading writers like Doris Lessing and Kate Millett” she writes. But  researching cattle workers, she was struck by the book’s 1920s frontier tales of cruelty, race and class division, pretension, snobbery, and violence.

She was an expert witness on the Finnis River Kungarakany land claim and awed to learn that Herbert would also give evidence at the venue, a Darwin church.  McGrath dressed in a ‘school marmish’ way, trying to look conservative and mature for the court case. She had dropped the tie-dyed hippy look in exchange for a very prim retro linen dress and jacket, and put her hair in a bun.

“Xavier Herbert invited me out to dinner. I suggested that I also invite Mickey Dewar (1956-2017), a history graduate from Melbourne University who was undertaking a Diploma of Education.”

McGrath was 24,  Dewar 25, and Herbert was 79. For the dinner McGrath wore cream and maroon printed Indian harem pants, perhaps the wrong choice. Herbert was bereft of female comfort, as he had been since Sadie’s death a year or so earlier.

Over the meal, Xavier made a proposition for both of us to consider.  He explained that he lacked a muse, which was essential to his ability to continue to write. To finish his planned last great novel — one that, if I recall correctly, would see Australia transformed and become a successful and fair republic, a ‘True Commonwealth’ — he needed a helpmate. This woman would be essential in enabling him to meet his last writing challenge. She would also gain the right to author his official biography. It sounded attractive in a way and unpleasantly subservient in another. So the deal was – you got to write his biography in exchange for looking after him in a devoted way –  to replicate the role that a ‘traditional’ wife was supposed to perform. We were not given details.

Despite being a rabid feminist, I could not help but feel excited by the idea of writing the biography of the ‘great man’ I so admired.

Mickey was also a fan. She was absolutely gorgeous, plus brilliantly flirtatious and sexy.

Mickey had read Poor Fellow My Country five times. As a dedicated Herbert fan, she was equally dizzy at this unexpected privilege of dining with Xavier.

When he put the muse/biography proposition to us, I was willing to think about it, albeit sceptically. I was a young PhD student, with much yet to do on my thesis, yet the idea of being the one to write the biography of a famous, still living, ‘outback legend’, Indigenous rights activist and patriotic reformer was exciting and tempting.

Mickey was much more sensible than me. Without much ado, as the dinner neared its end and the proposition was to be considered, she proclaimed: ‘I’m not the one. I have already found my great love.’ Mickey was one for dramatic moments, and although taken by surprise I was much impressed by her decisiveness.

I prevaricated, we had letters going to and fro about my duties, and so the story goes on. [But she never took up his offer].

One of the reasons my younger self was fascinated by Xavier was because he seemed to embody ‘the Australian legend’ – the ‘real bushman’  … To understand Australian history better, I wanted to understand an exotic, probably dated, form of Australian masculinity… I later realised that his was a carefully self-constructed character that he enjoyed conveying to the public, especially urban audiences. 

herbert and kylieIn a modest footnote about the muse role, McGrath records, “When I later tried to get more specific details it included secretarial duties such as answering the phone and all the other support and services a husband could apparently expect of a wife. Sex was optional but clearly on his mind.”

Kylie Tennant catches a lift with Herbert aboard his BSA in 1964, about the time of his visit to WA.

Subsequently, she accepted his invitation to a camping trip, with Aboriginal artist Dick Roughsey and rock-art expert Percy Trezise. She slept in a separate “lady’s tent”. Herbert and Trezise talked incessantly and she was understandably glad to bug out early. Both she and Herbert kept diaries and when she read his after he died, “his version of events is rather different from mine.” Duelling diaries, she called it, sparing us the details.

Now for my own Xavier encounter when Herbert aborted his speaking tour of WA’s northern and eastern wheatbelt. I have dim recall of a nuggetty blue-eyed bloke in irascible mood. His career was at a low ebb, with his latest novel Soldiers’ Women dubbed by critic Geoffrey Dutton “an appalling  and embarrassing flop”. My report included,

He was sick of being treated like a  naughty schoolboy by the Adult Education Board. He said that he had had a row with AEB director Hew Roberts, on Monday. Mr Roberts, he said, had criticised him for having criticised WA in the press and had said he was making everyone wild with his unbridled criticism.

“He went on like a  schoolteacher, nag nag nag,” Mr Herbert said. “He said he was not going to allow Commonwealth money to be spent for me to go around abusing WA.”

Mr Herbert said he had assured Mr Roberts that he would only talk about his writing in his lectures but Mr Roberts had asked for an assurance that he would not upset people who asked him questions after a lecture.

“I said I had better go home where I belong and Mr Roberts said, ‘Do’”.

Mr Roberts had since made four requests and had written him a letter asking him to stay but he had ignored all of them.

He would have been quite happy to do the tour alone on his motor cycle, talking to people whenever he felt like it, but the board had kept arranging and delaying things, and wanted him to go with a driver and organiser.

“I’m not a man like that,” Mr Herbert said. “It drove me mad.”

Hew Roberts in my report responded diplomatically and mentioned that Herbert had refused any Commonwealth money. Roberts’ real feelings are in this letter I recently turned up, written three years later. He was forwarding to Molly Lukis at the State Library some press clippings about Herbert’s visit which he found when cleaning up his house.[6]

“It occurred to me that [the clippings] represent a portion of the biography of Xavier Herbert as he saw himself.

In  the short time he was with us, Molly and I developed a great affection for Xavier, slightly tinged with pity. While abusing the board and me in the press,  he virtually lived with us. He loved anomalies and would let our cat  eat from his plate while having his meals and talking with the boys. He was quiet in speech  and a warm personality, but he was entirely shut up within himself.  He would ride away on a powerful motorcycle he had borrowed, and of which he was obviously scared – all part of a deep fear of growing old – old and undramatic.  He was the only person we have met who was genuinely an egomaniac.

Do you remember Herbert McClintock [Communist artist], who painted under the name of Max Evert and used to exhibit in the West Australian Newspapers Gallery, and was the first “modern” painter living here? He was somewhat the same. The moment he began to be well-established he would feel trapped in his own style. He would then hate his previous work as Xavier hates Capricornia with an almost vitriolic hatred. McClintock could have been as great as Dobell or Nolan, but for McClintock. I suppose Xavier Herbert could have been as great as Patrick White, or greater, but for Xavier Herbert.

Best wishes, Hew.”

Herbert’s WA trip makes it into Francis de Groen’s biography, which sheds further light on Herbert’s dummy-spit:

Few people knew or cared who he was or what he had written and he felt both snubbed and isolated.  He responded by quarrelling publicly with the Board of Adult Education  over his accommodation and itinerary then going into hiding, emerging only to denigrate his home state.  Fluctuating between exaltation and depression, he spent his days wandering alone around Fremantle and Cottesloe, haunting the sites of his youth and reminiscing about the happier moments spent there … Except for Henrietta Drake-Brockman and Mary Durack, the WA literary community also ignored him and he reciprocated in kind.  He arrived late and drunk to a party organized by Mary Durack and disappeared up a gum tree into a cubbyhouse where he sulked…In late April the Adult Education Board terminated his contract. He pretended that he had withdrawn his services to protect his right to criticize his home State.

This isn’t an article about Herbert’s literary merit. I’d just mention that to 1960 Herbert garnered three Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowships and in 1963 he got a CLF Literary Pension for Life, at 7 pounds a week [$200 in modern money] and indexed to inflation. Today’s supplicants: eat your hearts out.

Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be ordered hereTo get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.


[1] The Materialization and Transformation of Xavier Herbert: A Body of Work Committed to Australia.McDougall, Russell.Cross / Cultures, suppl. Literature for Our Times; Leiden Iss. 145,  (2012): 187-200,409.

[2] University of Queensland Press, 1998.

[3] When she asked him to cook potato chips for dinner, he whinged “I was to end my days as housekeeper to a sick old lady.” At a literary wake for Sadie, he threw punches at guests and stormed off into the street.

[4] Ann McGrath is the 2017 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University. She has published numerous articles and books on gender, colonialism and most recently on deep history.

[5] Xavier Herbert: Forgotten or Repressed? Conor, LizMcGrath, Ann.Cultural Studies Review; Carleton Vol. 23, Iss. 2,  (Sep 2017): 62-69.DOI:10.5130/csr.v23i2.5818

[6]  Lukis is justly famed as WA’s first archivist (from 1945) and first director of the Battye Library of WA History (from 1956).

Fear and loathing in Ultimo

29 September 2018

Apropos Michelle Guthrie’s sacking, and the bitchy tweet ‘Excellent decision’ by Four Corner’s Sally Neighbour, the ABC has always been a snakepit for management-staff relations and the sisterhood. Science Show guy Robyn Williams in his just-out memoir Turmoilsays he’s called a couple of senior managers ‘vermin’ in internal emails, and others ‘galloping mediocrities’. He writes, ‘I am usually in deep loathing of someone in the ABC and it’s usually someone in charge.’ And later, ‘Hatred…invariably consumes the hater. But I still want to murder that smug bastard in TV management.’

Sadly, Williams has bowel cancer and his memoir deals with that unflinchingly. He snaps that the ABC’s HR minions are all over him about cutting resources, but no chums from the ‘ABC People’ department have ever in 47 years come downstairs to ask about his health.

Managers are also mean to managers. Williams still mourns one of Guthrie’s predecessors, Talbot Duckmanton, general manager from 1965-82. Well-regarded by staff when they weren’t on strike, he was consigned by management post-retirement ‘to the ash can of history’ for his last 13 years, not even beng sent an  annual report.

Williams’ history reads like a caricature of an ABC presenter. His Welsh coal-mining father and union executive Gwyn Williams was not just a Stalinist but a 1950s Vienna-based communist spy, albeit ‘amateur in the extreme’. The family’s sumptuous Russian-zone top flat  (marble staircases and chandeliers) came with two servants. His father’s spy career was ‘brief and, apparently, ineffectual. I’d love to see his files from MI5,’  Robyn Williams writes.

He spent his youth on left-anarchist adventures but then turned his back on Reds, their dull meetings and Stalin’s nuclear fist. Like Media Watch’s Jonathan Holmes, he affirms that the ABC crowd are left-leaners, but says that so are ‘most tertiary-educated folk one comes across. This does not constitute a conspiracy. It constitutes a cultural mix and intellectuals (don’t panic – I mean those who work with their minds) more commonly sound like Reds than do manual workers. It used to be the other way around.’

Leftists are akin to Christ, actually. ‘It is traditional for the Left to have an over-optimistic regard for humanity, as Jesus did, oddly enough, and the right, let’s call him Nigel [Farage?] or Osama [bin Laden?], to think we’re all a step away from villainy and must be thwarted.’

He was a bully at his 1950s London state-grammar school, but we can allow that he was only 15. ‘We learned our Stalinism young,’ he writes. Just to show off, he beat up a ‘weak’ and ‘hopeless’ boy, who was ‘as pugilistic as Bambi’. Williams ‘hit him hard in the face. He turned without resistance and so I pummeled his kidneys as if to break his back, simulating a cold frenzy.’ Williams’ pals, initially gloating, got frightened and intervened at last to rescue the collapsed and coughing student. Williams never apologised to his ‘miserable, crushed victim’ but did resolve to eschew such shameful violence henceforth.

He may have dumped Red dogma, substituting ‘science marches’ for ‘peace marches’, but not the attitudes. He nominates as ‘evil’ the US Tea Party small-government lobby (along with ‘men who beat women’) and Trump for being nasty to climate doomsters. Saying Margaret Thatcher was wrong, he needs to ask, ‘But was she evil?’ – ‘Not ultimately.’ But he is in no doubt Republicans were ‘evil’ to thwart the agenda of Obama, whom he describes as charming and naive. The cohort not called ‘evil’ is Islamist terrorists, who are  just called ‘truck drivers’, ‘zealots’ or ‘fanatics with a purpose’.

His rants must go down a treat in the ABC staff canteen. ‘The newspapers are little more than propaganda sheets and words like “left-wing”, “taxpayer funded”, “elites” and “expert” are constant insults. Even now “inner-city type” as disparagement reminds me very much of the way “international type” was once used as code for “dirty Semite” in Der Stürmer.’

Nations must shun war, he says. ‘Otherwise we shall simply have to take out our babies and line them up to be killed before taking our turn to do likewise to the enemy. Otherwise we shall inherit a whirlwind.’ (A stylist with gravitas, he ain’t).

In his world upside-down, he believes that Rights have captured the Internet via search algorithms (Google chiefs would be amused) and Trump wants to ‘invade North Korea’.

Williams doesn’t come across in Turmoil as a nice guy, but his Science Show of 42 years duration has fostered young scientists and educated the community on the joy of science affairs, give or take its warming-catastrophe hysteria. On Williams’ show a year ago, UNSW Professor Andy Pitman predicted 55 degree Celsius for Sydney-siders. Williams claims that some ABC departments are abjectly downplaying the warming threat to avoid ‘offending financial interests’. Wow.

He frets that blue-collars, jobless factory workers and ‘Mr and Mrs Ordinary’ are tilting to Trump, Nigel Farage and Pauline Hanson out of innate stupidity. He brackets them alongside Neanderthals.

Williams likes to humble-brag. ‘Yes, I have seven doctorates, but if you live long enough most people in public life get lucky, they get doctored…’.  At a Boston ‘dinner of the stars’, he felt embarrassed at being the only one ‘without a Nobel Prize or a book selling more than 5 million copies.’ His real degree is a BSc (Hons) from London University, but we discover that he cut lab work and his BSc was ‘a pretty ordinary one, a gentleman’s degree’.

He’s quirky, retaining his post-Vienna poverty habits. This is notwithstanding annual ABC pay for the Williams couple for decades at maybe $300,000 in total in today’s money, and I presume dual membership of the ABC’s gold-plated defined-benefit super.

But Williams has no car or mobile phone, still uses a typewriter and scrap paper, has a house 3.6m wide and hasn’t bought any clothes for ten years, preferring hand-me-downs. He likes to budget $15 for three days’ food, such as two chicken drumsticks for 80c and a $4 loaf. (He sheepishly admits to buying wine from a separate account).

Instead, he has spent up on his 30-40 global flights, mainly to Greece and Balliol, Oxford. He evinces no sympathy for those hit by green-energy price rises – turn unused devices off, he says, instead of ‘whingeing about the hefty bills’.

I dunno, Guthrie may be well out of the ABC snakepit. #

Ex-BHP Chief: Scrap Paris Now

The company he once led continues to pleasure the warmists by bowing and scraping before Gaila’s carbon-free altar,  but ex-chief Jerry Ellis has had enough: the Paris accord is “a farce” and a sane government would exit the pact in a heartbeat

jerry ellisEx-chairman of BHP (1997-99), Jerry Ellis  (left) ex-chancellor of Monash University, and an ex-director of ANZ Bank, has called for Australia to dump the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Ellis’s intervention puts cat among climate pigeons. 

The alarmists like to lie that sceptics are a fringe group. Ellis is hardly fringe. His former BHP continues to promote the story about human-caused catastrophic CO2 warming, as does Monash University. Ellis is an awkwardness for both.

By coming out against climate alarmism, Ellis, 91,  is giving added respectability to scepticism, much as ex-PM Tony Abbott did with his London sceptic speech of last October.[i] The credibility of the sceptic case, of course, rests not on authority figures but data such as the  more than two-fold exaggeration of warming since 1980 by the climate models on which the CO2 scare is based.

Here is Ellis’s statement on Paris.

Why Australia should Clexit Paris Treaty

It is clear that the push to meet the Paris carbon dioxide emission targets is leading to higher power costs, and hence prices, and unreliable supply.

It is also a fact that the predictions of the warmists have not happened.

The IPCC scientific reports are stated in possibilities, yet the guidance for policy makers is written as certainty. A farce.

I hope the new leadership of the Australian Government has the courage to guide our country in a rational manner on this subject. as Angus Taylor seems keen to do, and abandons the Paris Treaty.

Jerry Ellis AO

Ellis’ intervention comes on the heels of calls from Green Climate Fund supporters for Australia to add another $400m to its $1b plus commitment and $200m contribution to date. The fund under the Paris accord is supposed to parcel up $US100b a year in developed country donations to help the third-world combat climate change. The fund peaked at  $US10b – thanks particularly to President Obama – but has only $US3b left. Its July meeting of donors and third-worlders   disbanded in chaos with no decisions made and  the resignation on the spot of its executive director, Australian ex-climate bureaucrat Howard Bamsey.

The policy of Ellis’s former BHP on climate change reads:

BHP accepts the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of climate change science, which has found that warming of the climate is unequivocal, the human influence is clear and physical impacts are unavoidable.

Climate change is a global challenge that requires a collaborative market and policy response. Playing our part in responding to climate change is a priority governance and strategic issue for BHP. Our Board is actively engaged in the governance of climate change issues, supported by the Sustainability Committee. Management has primary responsibility for the design and implementation of our climate change strategy.

Our climate change strategy focuses on reducing our operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, investing in low emissions technologies, promoting product stewardship, managing climate-related risk and opportunity, and working with others to enhance the global policy and market response.”

Former One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts has replied to Ellis,

“A pity that your [BHP] successor in Jac Nasser, his CEO Andrew Mackenzie and his Coal Division President who is now Minerals Operations President Mike Henry lack your understanding.

What holds them back? Is theirs a lack of basic knowledge, a lack of integrity or a lack of courage? Or do they simply not care about humanity and the environment. Coal saved the whales. Coal saved the forests. Coal gave us cheap, clean energy that raised human productivity, prosperity and wealth that enables us today to care for the environment better than at any time in human history.”

Ellis is Chairman of MBD Energy, a director of Iron Road and on the Advisory Council of The Sentient Group. He is an ex- chairman of auto brake company Pacifica Group Ltd, and has chaired Australia’s premier environmental advocacy group Landcare Australia.

Ellis’ statement is published on the website of the Clexit [Climate Exit] Coalition.

The coalition was set up in 2016 by Queensland’s Viv Forbes, who runs it as secretary. A semi-retired geologist and current  livestock  breeder, he put in 40 years’ work for   coal, minerals and petroleum companies including as a director of Stanmore Coal.  The coalition committee includes ex-Czech President (2003-13) Vaclav Klaus , who is patron, Professors Will Happer  (US) and Ole Humlum (Norway), Chris (Lord) Monckton and leading blogger Roger Tattersall (UK) and astrophysicist and geoscientist Dr Willie Soon (US).

Forbes this month invited members  to add a statement on why their country should quit the Paris Accord. Ellis, an original coalition member, responded with this week’s statement. Others came in from more than 20 people representing Sweden, France, US, UK, Canada, Germany and others.

Ellis is now in the same camp as Hugh Morgan, CEO of Western Mining 1990-2003 and a Reserve Bank director 1996-2007. Morgan said today, “Ellis is absolutely right. People think the Paris Accord is just about commitments to lower CO2. It is really about transferring wealth through the UN to the so-called Less Developed Countries. It’s about advancing centralised control of people’s lives on a global scale.”

Morgan believes the alarmist movement has got so far because of backing by Western millennials who have been indoctrinated during their education. Enjoying living standards unprecedented in world history, they have embraced alarmism as a new secular religion, he says.

Ellis’ intervention could encourage other Paris sceptics to come out, including some top figures in Australia’s premier science bodies.

Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered hereTo get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.

[i] With hindsight,that speech could have lit the fuse for last month’s ousting of climate-alarmist PM Turnbull.

[ii] The “Bloggies” annual awards


  1. Geoff Sherrington

    Many people from mining and exploration are among the strongest critics of the global warming scare. We became used to the large scale and long time periods of geologic processes as opposed to alarm because, for example, Arctic ice extent fell for a few years arcade ago.
    We are also critics because we have realistic targets. Ore bodies are either present or absent in exploration terms and they are mostly economic or not to mine. When we use science to discover and characterise deposits,there is no gain from creative processing of data or invention of data, such as is widespread in climate work, where the target changes to fit the theory and the non-rigid goalposts.
    You do not have to be eccentric or in a minority to arrive at this view. When global warming first started, its backers were the odd ones out. Failure to make a scientific case for global warming was always present, offset by massive advertising expenditure that convinced many of the gullible. Geoff

    • Peter Sandery

      Well and succinctly put, Geoff, I cannot understand why so many educated Australians cannot see the scientific logic to your argument but accept the chants of the modern day alchemists who turn words instead of base metals into money.

    • ianl

      C’mon Geoff – “mining hurts Gaia”. This widespread sentiment cannot be displaced with logic or facts. All that is needed to carry the myth is a photo-shopped picture of water vapour from cooling towers being deliberately and dishonestly portrayed as evil, black carbon smoke.

      For well over two decades now, I’ve harangued those who control the capital in mining circles to go public with fightback. They have persisted with the cowardly view that soft, back-room lobbying would suffice. Only in the last 12 months has there been some minor admissions that this was silly, but the green blob had well and truly won by then. As Ian Plimer pointed out (a statement of the bleeding obvious, unfortunately): there has to be much more pain yet.

      The ALP Govts of Q’ld and Vic plan to inflict that pain increasingly. The Lib SA Govt is as bat-crazy as the ALP. Liddell’s closure in a year or so will aggravate the destruction, probably a tipping point. As precise as Jerry Ellis is, he will be dismissed, shouted down, as a senile, old (white) man. Emotional power plays need no logic, evidence or common sense. In fact, such concepts are seen as inimical and will be squashed.

  2. Jody

    Uh oh, sorry, but corporate Australia has jumped in significant numbers onto the virtue signalling bandwagon. For their trouble they’re going to end up with gender pay issues, quotas and now Paris and renewables. They needed to be smarter in the first place, instead of putting their feet in the door and preventing it from being shut.

  3. Davidovich

    Thomas writes “Morgan believes the alarmist movement has got so far because of backing by Western millennials who have been indoctrinated during their education.” Hugh Morgan is quite correct, our education system has been overtaken by ideologues who teach only their view of climate and brook no dissent.

    I recently gave a necessarily short talk to my local Rotary Club on the facts about carbon dioxide which included the graph of average global temperatures produced by Prof Spencer and Dr Christy from NOAA satellite data showing the global hiatus in warming over 18 years or so. The talk also had graphs of ice core data illustrating that, for millennia, atmospheric carbon dioxide lagged hundreds of years behind global temperatures. A recently retired school principal was furious that such ‘fringe’ material should be shown as fact and was contrary to the orthodoxy on anthropogenic global warming or climate change. He called for me to be censured and to be ashamed of myself for such an error of judgement as to present such material. Sadly, this intolerant and doctrinaire attitude is prevalent within our education system from kindergarten to university and the damage being done to science and scientific process is huge.

The ABC, Witness for the Persecution

Democrats sat on a fact-lite accusation of sexual assault against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, then summoned US media allies for a last minute  pile-on. From this melange of innuendo and pearl-clutching horror, the ABC’s Zoe Daniel extracted only the worst to ‘inform’ her Australian audience

daniel IIZoe Daniel is the ABC’s Washington-based North America bureau  chief. In other words, her ABC daily mission is to bash Trump using the Democrat storylines. She sometimes finds a storyline of her own, such as interviewing her own children, Arkie, 10, and Pearl, 8, when Trump was elected. That story began,  “Donald Trump’s victory has provoked fear and concern for some children…”

Her ‘shocked’ Arkie thought Trump should be given a chance despite his alleged racism, sexism, assaults on gay people and Latinos, “and all those people who have done nothing in their life for Trump to hurt their feelings that way,” he continued, claiming to quote his primary-school pals. Pearl, who had switched from backing Bernie Sanders to Hillary, was convinced Trump was going to “kick out” Mexicans en bloc, including her Mexican school buddies, which would “just be mean”. Pearl found consolation and inspiration in Hillary’s concession speech.

To get inside the mind of Daniel mère, pull on the gumboots, as you’ll be wading in ABC progressive-left-liberal mush. For example, on Friday Daniel  was writing on ABC News about embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, 53. “Can he really sit on the US Supreme Court dishing out morality now?” said the headline, under the ABC’s standing banners “Trump’s America” and “Planet America”. (There was never a standing ABC banner “Obama’s America”).

Scene-setting is that the minority Democrat senators want to delay Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court until the mid-term elections on November 6, when they might attain a majority and be in position to block’s Trump’s current pick and foil any further nominations of conservative jurists.[i] If the Democrats can’t block Kavanaugh appointment they face the prospect of a right-leaning SCOTUS for the next 30 years. Daniel speculates this could mean anti-abortion rulings.

The Republican majority could simply ram his appointment through. Instead, they are being fastidious about protocol (as is Trump in this case) to avert any female voting backlash over  perceived disrespect to the sex-assault claimant, psychology professor  Christine  Blasey Ford, 51, a registered Democrat and donor. She claimed, initially anonymously and this month on the record, that a drunken Kavanaugh groped and assaulted her at a school-brat party 35 years ago, about summer 1982, when she was about 15 and Kavanaugh 17.

Daniel’s arguments are hard to follow (do Supreme Court judges “dish out morality” or just interpret the law?).  She supposes that even if, as is likely, Christine Ford’s story is never verified, her mere allegation taints Kavanaugh forever and would make him look a moral hypocrite on the bench. Daniel claims her inane supposition is “roiling the nation”.

Daniel knows the big question about senior Democrat panel senator Dianne Feinstein producing the allegation a fortnight ago is that she’d had the material since July but never mentioned it despite many opportunities during the regular hearings. This manifest abuse of process is, in Daniel-speak, “some superb timing in all of this for the Democrats”. She uses the oft-practised ABC reporters’ trick of reciting anti-Trump material with the ABC’s authority, but putting contrary and unwelcome facts into quotes from the malign president and his supporters.[ii] In this case, she says Trump is “joining a GOP chorus suggesting that Democrats are using the allegation to delay confirmation hearings”.

Well they are, as they all but openly admit, so she got that bit right.

Daniel makes no secret of her partiality towards the complainant. After the “alleged” assault, she writes, the young Ford “got away but has provided medical notes from therapists showing she’s struggled with men and relationships since. A polygraph test found she was telling the truth.” Two points: Ford didn’t “get away”, she alleges she got away from the alleged assault. And the polygraph didn’t find she was “telling the truth”, it found that she believed her own story, whether it was truth, fiction or anywhere in between.[iii]

Another hallmark of ABC bias is strategic omission of key facts. Sure, there are word limits but Daniel might also have mentioned the 65 women who knew  Kavanaugh at school and thereafter and have attested on the record to his good character.

Instead, Daniel provides a link to purported corroborative “detail and worth a read” from the anti-Trump Los Angeles Times. The link, in fact, is to an opinion piece by a Clara Hall who pushes even more strident anti-Kavanaugh lines than Daniel and provides no corroborative detail whatsoever for Professor Ford’s case. That case, so far, has scant or no detail anyway — no date, no certainty of place, or how she arrived there and made it back home. Democrat Senator Feinstein herself says she doesn’t know how much of the complaint is true. Feinstein is 85 and tends to make embarrassingly contradictory remarks. The LA Times’ Hall says that Ford’s allegation includes graphic detail about her ordeal. “That doesn’t make her story automatically true,” she writes, “but the details make the allegation serious enough to be worth investigating [by the FB I].” A fallacy there, surely? Hall then cranks up the dial to 11:

“Am I setting too high a bar?…All you men out there – when you were in high school, how many teenage girls did you pin down on a bed after a pool party and cover their mouths so they couldn’t scream? Right. Doesn’t sound like something you’d do.”

Alleged victim Ford says she told no-one of the alleged assault because her parents would discover her forbidden partying. She first disclosed the matter in marital counselling in 2012, but she did not name Kavanaugh. In further therapy a year later, she referred to an alleged traumatic rape attempt.

A classmate of Ford, Christina Miranda, in an attempt to bolster the case, came out saying, “This incident didhappen. Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christina’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.”  The friend scuttled back into the woodwork when she realised she was contradicting Ford’s version — ie., that she had told no one.  When this contradiction was noted and began to cop pushback on Facebook, she deleted her post and admitted she didn’t really know what had taken place. She explained that she had felt “empowered” making the post, but couldn’t defend it as TV interview requests poured in.

Complainant Ford alleged that Kavanagh classmate Mark Judge had watched and laughed, then jumped drunkenly on Ford and Kavanaugh and thus terminated the alleged sexual assault. Daniel never raises a sceptical eyebrow, instead directing her readers to a Washington Post character-assassination of Mark Judge. Post reporter Avi Selk  combed Judge’s high school yearbook of about 1983 and finds Judge put a caption on his  page, “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.” It’s a quote from the gay Noel Coward’s Private Lives (1930). In pre-Google 1983, Judge had a better handle on theatre than I did (zero) at his age. What 17-year-old boy in that era wouldn’t be a smart-arse about females? And why do women still flock to Coward’s comedies at the theatre?

If Daniel wants mature-age men to be held accountable for schoolboy misdeeds, she could also monster her colleague, ABC science guy Robyn Williams, who in his 1950s London state-grammar school beat up a “weak” and “hopeless” boy, who was “as pugilistic as Bambi”. Williams “hit him hard in the face. He turned without resistance and so I pummeled his kidneys as if to break his back, simulating a cold frenzy.” Williams’ pals, initially gloating, got frightened and intervened at last to rescue the collapsed and coughing student. Williams never apologized to his “miserable, crushed victim” but did resolve to eschew such shameful violence henceforth. [iv]

I’m not judgemental about Williams as a teen and he was brave to make the cathartic disclosure. But this whole distasteful Kavanaugh accusation involves schoolboy teens. All civilised states have separate, anonymous and sealed court jurisdictions for children (usually to 18th birthday) because of their immaturity and better prospects as adults. That said, it is arguable that a Supreme Court nominee is a special case, if the assault allegation is correct.

Post reporter Selk’s desperate search for incrimination also finds in Judge’s yearbook, “’Ebony and Ivory’ beneath a photo of a white and a black student”, and “’Do these guys beat their wives?’ beneath a group photo of several boys.” Judge, a recovered alcoholic, wrote two memoirs about high school hi-jinks,  where students attended “masturbation class,” “lusted after girls” from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupours at parties.  No sexual assaults are mentioned. The worst to be found about Kavanaugh (dubbed “O’Kavanaugh”) is that he got drunk, puked and passed out as a car passenger.

However, Judge became a columnist and the Post has found much in those columns to complain about. In what might be called “SafetyRazor-gate”, it found that  in 2006 (yes, 2006) Judge had written in a piece, “Shaving like a man”, that safety razors were “girly” and he liked using the masculine classic razor. For the Post this was rampant misogyny. The paper then collapsed on itself – it had to correct that Judge’s “girly” reference was to disposable razors, not safety ones.[v]

Getting back to the ABC’s Daniel, she finishes with a circular flourish that if  Kavanaugh is guilty of that nasty assault, he would also be guilty of having “simply denied it ever happened”. Hence he would not have learnt from his mistake.

“The whole thing has cast doubt on his character, and that will be hard to shake when the allegation will be impossible to fully prove or disprove so long after the event,” she writes. “In short, the judges need to be squeaky clean to dictate everyone else’s behaviour.”

To get inside Daniel’s head, as well as wearing the gumboots, maybe take a torch. It’s dim in there.

Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered here. To get tickets to the launch in Carlton at 6pm on October 10, click here.

[i] 35 of 100 senate seats will be contested.

[ii] Sub-text: Well they would say that, wouldn’t they.

[iii] The Washington Post story breaking the news said, “The results concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.”


[iv] Williams, Robyn, Turmoil – Letters from the Brink. UNSW Press, 2018. Kindle 1583/2500.

[v]An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Judge considered safety razors too feminine. He took issue with disposable razors, and considered safety razors very masculine.”

Global Climate Fund Scam Collapses (Spectator August 2018)

Can you feel sorry for a climate bureaucrat? Well I do. Look at my fellow-Aussie Howard Bamsey. He’s been implementing climate policies abroad for the past decade, after a dep-sec stint in Kevin Rudd’s Climate Change Department in 2008-10.

Then he ran the Seoul-based multilateral Global Green Growth Institute and 18 months ago became executive director of the UN-created Green Climate Fund (GCF), now the financial muscle of the 2015 Paris Accord.

At the 24-member board meeting last month at Songdo, South Korea headquarters, the chaos was such that he finished the meeting by tabling a surprise resignation effective immediately (“pressing personal reasons”). He walked out of the room a free man.


The 24-person board at the four-day meeting  spent the first two days quarrelling about the agenda, and the next two days in such acrimony that it never approved the intended $US1b for 11 new grants to help its basket-case client States “mitigate and adapt” to climate change. Nor did it get around to solving where its desperately-needed top-up funding would come from – it’s only got $US2.8b free funds left from an original $US10.3b.

The previous board minutes  ran to 111 single-spaced pages plus 130 pages of appendixes, in total about 100,000 words. Maybe poor Bamsey couldn’t face another 100,000 word write-up, especially as this meeting could well precipitate the GCF’s collapse or a split into separate donor and recipient entities.



We Aussie taxpayers have so far contributed $A185m cash to the Green Climate Fund, with another $A15m due before Christmas: total $A200m. This is as pledged by PM Tony Abbott in December 2014 (what was he thinking?). It could be worse: Sweden  ($US580m) and Norway ($US270m) have peed more against the GCF wall. Those canny Kiwis across the ditch “invested” only $NZ 3m. The Danes stopped at $US72m. Canada put in $US275m but $US100m of it was just a loan.

Our $200m is just the tip of an iceberg – Turnbull pledged “at least” $1b in Paris fealty in 2015 just as Trump won office, and the billion’s now more-or-less delivered.



At last month’s GCF meeting, Howard Bamsey’s dummy-spit was not the only sensation.   Co-chair Paul Oquist, National Policies Minister of the nasty Nicaraguan regime, was a no-show, citing the civil unrest  at home (so far, 500 protesters shot). But he actually skedaddled to London, complaining to The Guardianthere about demonstrators’ looting, fake news and “quite depraved killings”.


Logjam and stalemate are built into the GCF constitution. Board decisions must be unanimous. Equal power goes to those who provide the cash (ourselves) and those who enjoy it, mainly African shit-holes – Trump’s words – and lying low-lying islands like the Maldives, Nauru and Tuvalu which  pretend they’re drowning under climatic seas.  Once mendicants get their paws on the funds, no-one else is allowed in to check and audit.

The GCF third-worlders couldn’t work out how to replace Oquist and the first-world’s co-chair Lennart Bage (Sweden) was left in limbo, lamenting what he called a “very difficult and disappointing” meeting. Our man Chris Tinning of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) is on the board but hasn’t piped up publicly.

Various green groups attended the meeting, like “Action Aid USA”. Its director Brandon Wu reported that some third-world board reps were out of their depth:  “Many of these people did not know how to navigate the minefield and the dynamics of the board, so there were a lot of little things that triggered people — and then those things spiraled into an hour long argument that could’ve been very easily avoided.”

Other board members protested about the meetings continuing past dinner-time, 6pm. Mr Wu lamented,  “Even if those comments were made in good faith, they were just denying the reality of what a democratic decision-making process looks like.”


The big player at GCF used to be the US. Obama had pledged $US3b and put in $US500m. During his last three days in office in January 2017, the feline president handed over a further $US500m by executive order as a so-there to his successor. Trump pulled out of  Paris six months later, making clear that GCF could go whistle for the missing $US2b.

The gap between Copenhagen/Paris money aspirations and reality is the stuff of farce. Australia via Kevin Rudd in 2009 agreed on this:

“In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries…A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.”

GCF’s  previous executive director  Hela Cheikhrouhouhad  chirruped about a need for $US450b a year after 2020, $US350b for fewer emissions and $US100b for adaptation.


So it’s tighten-belts time at GCF. There seems some fat there. Its 250 bureaucrats’ pay is  virtually tax-free and in US dollars. Staff get “a  rewarding benefits package” to meet the “growing global competition for talent.”There’s 26 days annual leave and 10 public holidays, plus 15 sick days, and up to 20 days can be worked at home or remotely. Not to mention special  living allowances, dependency and schooling aid for three children, and that delectable quasi-diplomatic passport. Candidates of all “gender identity and/or expression” are welcome.


As for  contributions to the fund after 2018, let’s hope PM Turnbull doesn’t get that generosity vibe at the next climate confab in Katowice, Poland in December. DFAT tells Spectator: Australia, with other developed countries, is committed to playing its part in achieving the goal of mobilising US$100 billion a year by 2020 from a variety of sources to support developing countries’ climate action.”Who knows what new commitments to GCF Turnbull could pull out of his hat?Recall his $444m  last April to a six-person Barrier Reef group, and $230m for Julia Gillard’s Global  Partnership for Education in Washington DC. Generosity can take a toll. #













The Scientific Method: Hate, Spite, Spleen

As all who browsed the infamous Climategate emails will know, the men and women of science can go to almost any lengths to suppress, harass, slander and deride those whose theories are at odds with their own. Well guess what? It’s not just climateers who are at home in the gutter

dead dinoIn the trillion-dollar global warming controversy, how objective is the science community? Scientists claim to be a priestly and virtuous caste  concerned for truth and for the welfare of the planet. Ex-PM Kevin Rudd’s formulation went that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was the work of 4000 “humorless guys in white coats”.[i] Human-caused global warming is so contentious that it’s hard to step back and look objectively at the white-coated practitioners. So let’s switch to a less important science controversy and observe how scientists behave.

Here’s the case study: Was it an asteroid or volcanoes that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?  The topic doesn’t get anyone emotional. The arguments have nothing to do with electricity bills, there is no cause for dumping prime ministers, capitalism is not at stake, and world government is not required. My dinosaur-debate text is a 9000-word blockbuster by Bianca Bosker in the latest (September) issue of The Atlantic. which informs us that the dinosaur researchers’ behavior is appalling. Name-calling. Blackmailing over academic careers. Data-tampering. Boycotts. Grant-snaffling. Peer review corruption. Consensus-touting… As you discover the details, you might notice parallels with the climate wars. Just one tiny example: $444m taxpayer money thrown to purported Barrier Reef saviors, while James Cook University sacks Professor Peter Ridd who challenged the reef alarmists’ data.

Now back to dinosaurs. In 1980, Luis Alvarez, who had already won the 1968 Nobel Prize for physics, made his claim that an asteroid’s hit finished the big lizards. This pitted the “Impacters” against the “Volcanists”, who blamed eruptions. The Impacters say a 9km-wide asteroid hit at Chicxulub by the Gulf of Mexico with the force of about 10 billion Hiroshima bombs, creating fireballs, earthquakes and a long darkness: an Old Testament version of hell, as The Atlantic puts it. These Impacters insist the science is now settled to near-total certainty. It’s as settled as evolution, they say, “The case is closed.”

But the minority Volcanists continue to argue that colossal eruptions of volcanoes in Western India’s Deccan Trapscaused the extinctions. Their leader is Gerta Keller, 73, who has published about 130 papers on the extinction (and a similar number on other specialties). Her disruptive data has caused some Impacters to have second thoughts about Alvarez’s theory. The Atlantic’s Bosker writes,

 Keller’s resistance has put her at the core of one of the most rancorous and longest-running controversies in science. “It’s like the Thirty Years’ War,” says Kirk Johnson, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Impacters’ case-closed confidence belies decades of vicious infighting, with the two sides trading accusations of slander, sabotage, threats, discrimination, spurious data, and attempts to torpedo careers. “I’ve never come across anything that’s been so acrimonious,” Kerr says. “I’m almost speechless because of it.”

Keller keeps a running list of insults that other scientists have hurled at her, either behind her back or to her face. She says she’s been called a “bitch” and “the most dangerous woman in the world,” who “should be stoned and burned at the stake.”

Keller endured decades of ridicule. But as one colleague told Bosker, “It’s thanks to her [Keller] that the case is not closed.” In the bitter feud’s most ugly aspects, dissenters feared for their careers. Bosker quotes other scientists complaining that “the feverish competition in academia coupled with the need to curry favor with colleagues — in order to get published, get tenure, or get grant money — rewards timid research at the expense of maverick undertakings…” Bosker puts it this way

Ground down by acrimony, many critics of the asteroid hypothesis withdrew — including two of the most outspoken opponents, [Dewey] McLean and [Chuck] Officer. Lamenting the rancor as ‘embarrassing to geology,’ Officer announced in 1994 that he would quit mass-extinction research.

Though McLean did ultimately get promoted, he said Alvarez’s ‘vicious politics’  caused him serious health problems and that he couldn’t research Deccan volcanism without ‘the greatest of difficulty’ because of fear or a health relapse… “I never recovered physically or psychologically from that ordeal.” Impacters had warned some of Keller’s collaborators not to work with her, even contacting supervisors to pressure them to sever ties. Keller listed numerous research papers whose early drafts had been rejected, she felt, because pro-impact peer reviewers “just come out and regurgitate their hatred.”[ii]

The Impacters pushed their “consensus” — that word again — attested by 41 of them signing a paper to Science in 2010. But Bosker writes, “Although some might consider this proof of consensus, dozens of geologists, paleontologists, and biologists wrote in to the journal contesting the paper’s methods and conclusions. Science is not done by vote.” A blind test of fossil samples was organized for six researchers in 1997. They disagreed 3-3. Further, polls of scientists involved in the debate variously went 60-40 (Impacters) or 30-70, merely demonstrating that it’s a live issue. Keller’s group accused  Science of bias, favoring Impacters’ pieces by a tally of 45 to four articles. The editor denied bias.

The vituperation spread as different disciples, such as physicists got involved, and people couldn’t agree on standards of evidence. From The Atlantic

“Where the physicists trusted models, for example, geologists demanded observations from fieldwork. Yet even specialists from complementary disciplines like geology and paleontology butted heads over crucial interpretations.”

Keller claims Impacters tried to squash debate before dissidents could get a hearing. The acceptance of the Continental Drift theory of Alfred Wegener took 60 years but Alvarez was claiming settled-science within only two years, she said.[iii] Keller in her research suggests an analogy with Iceland’s Laki eruption of 1783, which blanketed the Northern Hemisphere with fumes and ash, causing three years of famine. She argues that a single eruption of the Deccan era was thousands of times worse, and those eruptions happened many times over 350,000 years before the dinosaur die-off. Bosker writes:

As Keller has steadily accumulated evidence to undermine the asteroid hypothesis, the animosity between her and the Impacters has only intensified. Her critics have no qualms about attacking her in the press: Various scientists told me, on the record, that they consider her “fringe,” “unethical,” “particularly dishonest,” and “a gadfly.” Keller, not to be outdone, called one Impacter a “crybaby,” another a “bully,” and a third “the Trump of science.”

Meanwhile the impact theory solidified, and volcanism was largely abandoned, Bosker writes. The dispute, she says, shows how the science process, while “ostensibly guided by objective reason and the search for truth, is shaped by ego, power, and politics.” Both sides claim their respective camps will win only after their opponents have literally died off.

I have no idea which of the dinosaur theories is right. But I’ve certainly learnt from Bosker that scientists, like everyone else, don’t deserve automatic trust. For what it’s worth, Keller is a CO2 warming catastrophist, believing the dinosaur-extinction story is template for our own demise. This notion “terrified” her interviewer.

Afterthought: Like to know more about Gerta Keller? Try these biographical details:

  • She grew up hungry with 11 siblings on a farm in Switzerland. Her mother stewed a pet cat and another time gave Keller’s older sister some “mutton” comprising Gertha’s pet dog.
  • When Keller came to Australia in 1965 as a young woman an “Australian official” tried to put her in a rag-trade sweatshop, attempting to negotiate a cut of Keller’s pay “in perpetuity”, Keller claims rather implausibly. She stayed here three years.
  • Returning from a picnic near Sydney’s Gap cliffs, she crossed paths with a fleeing bank robber who casually shot her near-fatally through the chest. She woke in hospital with a priest administering the last rites. The SMHheadline was, “Woman Shot for No Reason”.

Tony Thomas’s new essay collection The West: An insider’s tales – a romping reporter in Perth’s innocent 1960s, can be pre-ordered here.

[i] For the crucial chapter of the Fourth IPCC Report (WG I chapter 9), which claimed to attribute warming to human activity, there were a mere 53 authors, 40 of whom were either work or academic associates, or were joint co-authors of published papers. The crucial second draft was reviewed by just 55 reviewers and seven governments. The other 2900 authors and reviewers (not 4000 as claimed) largely accepted chapter 9 at face value, the other authors doing so before chapter 9 was written so they could write their own chapters in parallel.  As Donna LaFramboise has shown, not all IPCC authors were recognised experts in their fields, some were yet to obtain their PhDs.”

[ii] Compare with two of the most famous Climategate emails between scientists Phil Jones and Mike Mann when sceptics were published in peer-reviewed journals. Mann to Jones, 11/3/2003: This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a    legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate    research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal…

Jones to Mann, 8/7/2004: The other paper by McKitrick and Michaels is just garbage—as you knew. De Freitas is the Editor again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well—frequently, as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC Report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the “peer-review literature” is!

[iii] The global warming scare got under way only a few years after the end of the ‘global cooling’ scare of the 1970s, long before any serious research was undertaken.


  1. Lewis P Buckingham

    The last thing I saw on the Dinosoar extinction event controversy is that they could both be right.
    A bolide triggered volcanoes.

    Although the birds made it out of the flames.

    • ianl

      Yes, the combination of a massive meteorite impact triggering extensive mid-ocean ridge and subduction zone vulcanism has been offered as explanation for quite a while. Ffrom the collected empirical evidence, I tend to credit it.

      Another example is the mass extinction that marked the end of the Permian and its’ interface horizon with the overlying unconformable Triassic is ascribed to widespread vulcanism. Perforce, I’ve mapped a great many kilometres of that horizon – absolutely barren of fossils (especially plant imprints) but remnant eroded “pools” of claystone (lithified volcanic ash) are often found. The proximate cause of the massive eruptions is still keenly argued, although perhaps not as vociferously as the dinosaur extinction.

      My own explanation for the psychology of the dinosaur extinction issue with its’ intense rivalry as detailed above by Tony Thomas is simply the fame and worldwide acclaim attached to the resolution of the issue. Dinosaurs have become big Hollywood – yet another Jurassic Park is currently filling the cinemas – so world attention is easily focussed on the drama of their demise.

      Imagine then the intensity of “saving the planet”. Separating hard scientific fact from noble cause corruption is now impossible, as Climategate shows us.

  2. en passant

    Gerta almost persuaded me until she praised someone by calling them “the Trump of science.” (thus mistaking commonsense for an insult. Also, as she is clearly so stupid as to believe the ridiculous hoax that CO2 is a problem, her credibility and reasoning powers are suspect.

    Two years ago (when I had nothing better to do) I took a course in Paleontology through Hong Kong University. I don’t know what killed off the dinosaurs so rapidly, but it was unlikely to be an asteroid. There are several other super volcanoes that are contenders from Yellowstone, to Siberia and the Deccan Traps.

    I won’t take up the space, but the composition of the atmosphere is another possibility as CO2 plummeted, plants died off and the dinosaurs might just have starved.

    • ianl

      Reptiles are poikilotherms, as I’m sure you know. A deep and long-term drop in temperature, such as may be caused by large scale air-borne ash or dust from vulcanism and/or massive asteroid impact, would contribute to reptilian metabolic failure. That is, they may have slowly frozen to death, unable to forage efficiently, while food became increasingly scarce ?

      After 11 years of legal slugfest, the Uni of Arizona has finally agreed to release huge email tranches from scientists heavily involved in Climategate (notably Overpeck and Hughes). A measure of the depth of rancour is that the release has been ordered to be in easily readable, searchable format. That has not always been the case. These emails are expected to contain information on essentially successful attempts to sideline published papers, the magazines and editors that published those papers and destruction of the authors’ reputations, if such papers disagreed with “consensus”.

      [Pixels consume electric power, but space ? Oh well …]

  3. AlanIO

    It seems Volcanoes can provide lots of history. Mt Hekla comes to mind in SO2 studies. Woods Hole core samples and so many others provide good evidence. There are so many differences between people and humans. AlanIO