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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

confession time at News Ltd « Previous | |Next »
July 15, 2011

News Ltd frequently claims that its newspapers are an example of balance and objectivity and, they are quick to add, sound ethical journalism.

News Ltd's newspapers are well known for them providing a platform for the denial of climate change, opposition to a carbon tax, hostility to making the polluters pay for the greenhouse emissions that heat up the planet, and their antagonism to using renewal energy. They are also partly responsible for the low standard of public debate on the need for Australia to shift to a low carbon economy. News Ltd basically want the taxpayer to pay the polluters big money to keep on polluting.

solarpanesVH.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, solar panels, Victor Harbor, 2011

So it is a bit of surprise that Dennis Shanahan, their top political reporter who fronts News Ltd's war on The Greens confesses to having installed solar panels on his roof. Its confession time at News Ltd. How then does Shanahan embracing what The Australian rails against?

Well it has nothing to do with clean energy. Shanahan is anxious to inform us of this. He says:

For myself, the outlay, while sizeable, was more modest than many and was directed towards ameliorating my electricity bills in the years ahead when I become a self-funded retiree. Well, the truth of it is I wasn't acting to save the planet and it was arguably against the interests of my grandchildren, who have to have heating during Canberra's chill winters.

To make sure that you get the point Shanahan criticizes the mandatory renewable energy targets (MRET) for market distortion whilst he is taking advantage of the subsidies that enable him to install the photovoltaic solar panels on his roof and the gross (not net) feed-in-tariff offered by the Labor-Green government in the ACT. He adds that South Australia's achievement of a target of 20 per cent renewable energy raises questions about the extent of the sustainable contribution of renewable sources and where those sources can be concentrated in the national grid.
The valid reason for this [the MRET should be scrapped when an ETS comes into force] was that artificial or mandatory targets for renewable energy distort the carbon market and the ability of the national energy supply market to deliver an orderly and cost-effective system for power...What's more, I can afford PV cells to offset my electricity bills but, through the years, the little old lady across the street, the university students renting flats around the corner and my grandchildren's parents, none of whom could afford the cells, will be paying higher prices to offset my offset. That's why I feel grubby doing something legitimate, legal, encouraged, green-friendly and financially helpful for me. It distorts the market and is inequitable.

Shanahan, of course, makes no mention of the variety of government of the R&D and deployment subsidy programs that are to be consolidated under a new agency – the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Or that a carbon tax set at $23 is insufficient to drive investment in renewable energy.

He doesn't seem to realize that the state government subsidies have enables pensioners to install small scale solar photovoltaics on their roofs to cut their electricity bills in half ( eg., its very extensive in Victor Habor); or that rising electricity prices are changing his behaviour in that he has decided to decreasing the electricity that he uses from the fossil fuel industry.
Shanahan's objectivity and balance, and his commitment to ethical journalism, is such that it allows him to omit that he is benefiting from the gross feed-in-tariff in the ACT, when everyone else has to work within a net feed-in-tariff.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:17 PM | | Comments (10)


The comments on Shanahan's column are hilarious for their contortions to justify the anti-renewable energy stance that is taken to be de rigor for conservatives. An example:

The mish-mash of Green schemes does muddy the waters and is a result of the triumph of ideology over good rational decision-making in energy sector policy. While it may seem appealing to have solar panels on the roof householders don't have a crystal ball to predict how the whole Climate Change debate is going to resolve itelf (sic) and what return exactly they will be getting down the road. Any extra holes in the roof are always a worry (a house leaks from the roof down), the solar cell technology is rapidly improving in energy efficiency and prices are dropping so why jump the gun?

Good conservatives cannot have solar panels on their roofs! Its Labor/Green utopianism! Anyhow climate change is crap. Tony said so.

the comments to Shanahan's column say that genuine conservative populists who are morally outraged at the hypocrisy of the reforms and its inequities should take direct action and destroy the solar panels on people's roofs.

Shanahan could always "ease his guilt" by investing the savings he is making on his electricity bills in the shares of companies that own the coal fired powered electricity generators.

poor Dennis. Such a martyr. It's so hard being a properly consistent conservative today. The world is changing so fast too. They'd rather freeze than have a solar panel on their roof!

Last night and tonight I watched a minute or two of TV news. Accidentally of course, just passing through the room with the TV.
Both times they had a mention of Swan [and then tonight Brown as well] mentioning the bias by Ltd News against the carbon price.
One channel, 7 I think, showed a brief, fleeting actually, vision of the Daily Tele front pages with their hysterical headlines etc..
And then, tellingly, placed it in context with the NotW scandal in the UK.
Bob Brown's comments about Ltd News accusing Fairfax of hacking was cut by the other channel [can't remember who].
But at least they showed him calling for an investigation even if they didn't show why. They then had Abbottt uttering inanities.

Am I being overly optimistic if I suggest that this UK scandal may spread here?
And actually undermine in some small degree the bile of Ltd News and its allies [eg ABC/Fairfax]?
Tell me I'm not.

a more interesting story will come along soon

Oh, I don't know Les.

The narrative of freedom and openness over the past three decades has been continually and consistently undermined by News Ltd's newspapers.

betcha the ALP backs off from a full blown media inquiry called for by Bob Brown.

" News Ltd's war on The Greens "

Andrew McIntyre, editor of The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences (Connor Court Publishing Connor Court Publishing) writes in The Australian that:

The Greens have an uncontrollable urge to spend and tax, almost everywhere and for everything; a mania for control through legislation and regulation of institutions and individuals; a disturbing and unwarranted confidence in central planning and belief that government knows best; an antagonism to initiatives by the private sector or individuals; and, at best, a systematic and naive understanding, historically and practically, of how the world works.

He adds:
In these policy formulations there appears to be a profound lack of appreciation or understanding of why our society is the way it is. All the fruits of Australia's prosperity, with its brilliant scientists, economists, farmers, technicians, talented workers and thinkers, our leaders, our institutions, our democracy and our constitution, count for nought. The Greens want to change everything and, like spoilt children, destroy what they don't understand.

This group with its ill-thought-out policies ever gets its way, will be a disastrous return to a new primitivisation.

There you have the right wing view of The Greens.

Hi Gary,

I couldn't find an email address on here so I thought I'd post a comment.

I run the Daily Wire (an Australian political discussion forum & blog site -, and have recently put together a site to help fight against the tide of misinformation and obfuscation in our nation's media surrounding climate change and the government's plans to put a price on carbon. The site supports the government's plans, and can be found here -

I'm wondering if you'd be willing to link to this site in your blogroll and perhaps refer to it in your latest post? I'm, of course, happy to post a reciprocal link in the site's blogroll.

I plan to contact as many blog owners as I can and ask them to do the same. With what I know about search engine optimisation, there isn't much competition out there on carbon tax related keywords. If enough blogs link to the site, I'm certain it can climb very high in the Google rankings. The internet presents one major way we can bypass our short-sighted media.

If you do feel like linking, the best anchor text to use in the link is "Carbon Tax", although you may find that not descriptive enough, in which case "Carbon Tax Facts" or "Carbon Tax Australia" would be good too. By anchor text, I mean the text that the html link tags are wrapped around, or the "name" of the site in your blogroll if you're using wordpress.

I realise that the phrase "carbon tax" is contentious, and actually clarify the difference between a carbon tax and the government's plans on the site. However, as most people refer to it as the carbon tax, it's useful from a search engine perspective to target those keywords.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the site, I'm all ears.