PAUL MURRAY: ABC’s ‘verification team’ just got schooled on renewables pipedream cementing its bias

Paul Murray
The Nightly
7 Min Read
While Smith admirably drew attention to the long-standing abuse of the organisation’s purportedly-journalistic process as just another form of thought police, he also established an important proposition that deserves much wider debate.
While Smith admirably drew attention to the long-standing abuse of the organisation’s purportedly-journalistic process as just another form of thought police, he also established an important proposition that deserves much wider debate. Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Businessman Dick Smith’s recent win over the ABC’s discredited fact-checking unit was much more than just another well-deserved kick in the backside for the biased national broadcaster.

While Smith admirably drew attention to the long-standing abuse of the organisation’s purportedly-journalistic process as just another form of thought police, he also established an important proposition that deserves much wider debate.

It’s this: “No country has ever been able to run entirely on renewables.”

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Smith’s simple truth is finally dawning on the Albanese Government — despite the best efforts of its deluded Energy Minister Chris Bowen. But that realisation will come at a heavy cost.

The predictions this week of former union boss Greg Combet, the outgoing head of Labor’s Orwellian creation, the Net Zero Economy Authority, should chill all Australians.

Climate Change & Energy Minister Chris Bowen.
Climate Change & Energy Minister Chris Bowen. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

Combet exposed what the government has so far hidden: the real cost to taxpayers of the renewables transition.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars in investment will be needed to achieve net zero in Australia,” he said. “Neither government funding nor private capital alone can meet this challenge.”

That’s green-speak for massive, but as-yet-undisclosed, taxpayer subsidies. But back to Smith and his recent service to the nation.

Many journalists who keep a critical eye on the ABC have long held the view that the fact-checking job outsourced to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology media studies faculty was neither independent nor fair. Too often its findings bear the obvious taint of ideology.

The unit over-reached when it published a finding last month on something that Smith said not on ABC, but in an interview on Sydney commercial radio 2GB on March 18, when he advocated for nuclear energy.

That 2GB was the source is in itself a bit of a zealotry giveaway. The ABC’s interest in a body it part-funds at taxpayer expense should self-evidently concentrate on matters raised on the ABC’s networks.

On March 22, the “RMIT ABC Fact Check”, as it is officially named, rushed to judgment on Smith’s proposition that wind and solar alone could not achieve Australia’s energy transformation towards net zero emissions.

Most sensible and well-informed people would regard that as a fairly uncontroversial comment, given the vagaries of sunshine and wind strengths, even with backup batteries.

But it didn’t suit the ideologues running the fact-checking unit under the cover of advancing journalism.

By butchering its attack on Smith, it provoked the ABC Ombudsman’s highly critical finding last week — and the apology the broadcaster was forced to make — handing him vindication on his basic proposition.

“Experts consulted by Fact Check disagreed with Mr Smith’s statement that no country could run solely on renewables,” the ABC reported.

The RMIT unit went to what might loosely be termed as “the usual suspects” for its contrary views instanced in several countries, and Tasmania, which all had an undisclosed high reliance on hydropower.

Smith easily dealt with those comments in this simple refutation: “I am referring to a country running ‘entirely on renewables’ not merely ‘for their grid electricity’.”

That is not sophistry in terms of net zero. Smith rightly identified that those chosen by the RMIT unit were cherry-picking. And in doing so, they got right down in the weeds.

One expert identified four countries allegedly existing on renewable energy alone, specified as wind, water and solar. We are meant to believe these nations are comparable to Australia and provide refutation of Smith’s assertion we need nuclear power to fill the gaps in renewables generation.

The four countries to which we can aspire are listed as Albania, Bhutan, Nepal and Paraguay. Dinkum.

Smith admirably refrained from any impulse to ridicule such an offering. Dunno how. “These are very poor countries where the people mainly rely on firewood for heating and cooking, and all use large amounts of fossil fuels for transport,” Smith complained to the ABC.

But the Fact Check had blithely offered this pap as an argument against Smith’s basic proposition — and then began digging an even deeper hole.

Forced to pick up Smith’s valid point about a country’s total energy needs, RMIT reported that renewables accounted for only 33.7 per cent in Albania, 37.5 per cent in Paraguay and 6.1 per cent in Nepal.

Poor old Bhutan didn’t get a mention, but the Fact Check did report that Australia’s “total” energy contribution from renewables in 2022 was just 5.4 per cent. Gulp.

What’s that old saying about comparisons being odious?

The Fact Check studiously offered that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had forecast that renewables would be able to meet the entire demand of the national electricity market (NEM) by 2025.

And then came the caveat, almost as an aside: “Albeit for short periods of time (for example, 30 minutes).” Seriously.

Shame about plugging in the hair dryer during the remaining 23.5 hours of blackouts.

The logo for the RMIT-ABC unit carries this slogan: “Fearlessly follow the facts no matter where they lead.” Even when it’s up your own fundamental orifice.

In his complaint to ABC managing director David Anderson, Smith furiously said the corporation had set out to discredit him “so people will not trust me.”

ABC Managing Director David Anderson.
ABC Managing Director David Anderson. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

He was particularly aggrieved that the report said he had been “pouring cold water on suggestions that wind and solar — and renewables more generally — could instead lead the nation’s energy transition”.

What Smith got was the standard treatment dished out by green zealots to anyone who questions the renewables transition. We all get labelled “deniers”.

“I am pro-renewables,” Smith said in his letter. “I have never said or believed that wind and solar could not lead our nation’s energy transition.”

Last week, ABC ombudsman Fiona Cameron issued a damning finding that the broadcast of the RMIT Fact Check “breached the media organisation’s editorial standards for accuracy”.

Cameron found the fact checkers “had inaccurately asserted that Mr Smith’s support for nuclear-generated power meant that he rejected renewable-led electricity generation in the process”.

“We think the RMIT ABC Fact Check should have exercised more caution before fact-checking a potentially equivocal statement.”

She was also highly critical that ABC did not approach Smith before it published the Fact Check contesting his views, given “the premise of the article was not entirely clear.”

What this episode highlights is the totalitarian nature of green ideology in Australia. The fact that our $1.1 billion taxpayer-funded national broadcaster gets so easily and regularly swept up in it is ignored by the Albanese Government.

As for ABC, the RMIT fact-checking unit is now so discredited that its continued funding makes it complicit in what is ideology-overpowering journalism.

Looking more broadly, the resort of green activists to high emotion in attacking their opponents has now become the way the environmental debate is conducted.

Sadly, this episode alone won’t change that. The die is set. Younger generations who regurgitate platitudes about “following the science” while merely succumbing to social media-induced anxiety and their “feelings”, have been indoctrinated since kindergarten.

While Smith’s win is to be applauded, arguments about nuclear energy miss the much more immediate crisis Australia is facing in the move away from coal as our main baseload power fuel.

I gave up banging the drum about nuclear power many years ago when it became obvious there was no public appetite for it. The Liberals under John Howard bear a big part of the blame by agreeing to Greens blackmail for a nuclear ban in 1998.

Over time that pandered to public fears even when it became apparent that we should consider if our decarbonised future might need nuclear power.

If Peter Dutton was really serious about advancing the nuclear argument he would, as a first step, be using the Parliament to rescind that ban.

Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton.
Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

So here’s this week’s bucket of cold water.

AEMO — ridiculously cherry-picked by RMIT to show that renewables could soon fuel the nation for just 30 minutes a day — has found utility-scale wind and solar capacity would need to triple within six years and increase ­sevenfold by 2050 to avoid massive network power shortfalls. That won’t happen.

The recent intervention of a group of Labor grandees — sadly including WA’s own Kim Beazley — attempting to stop the expansion of the Burrup Peninsula gas facilities on spurious grounds underlines the nation’s dreamy disregard for our looming energy crisis.

Submissions to AEMO in recent weeks from leaders of some of our biggest renewables projects called for increased gas supplies and for coal plants to be kept open longer.

“(They) said they faced ‘significant challenges’, as they responded to a 20-year blueprint for the power grid that pulls forward the exit of coal from the market and requires a 50 per cent hike in the level of ­renewables to be built by the end of this decade,” The Australian reported.

We’re sleepwalking to a green disaster. Dick Smith was wrongly skewered for stating the obvious.

Take off the blinkers.

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