Maurice Newman and climate change

You may have seen in the media on the Mothers Day weekend that Maurice Newman, Prime Minister Abbott’s ‘business advisor’ claimed that climate change was a ruse by the United Nations to instil a new world order.  While everyone is entitled to an opinion – does anyone else find this opinion, publicly admitted by someone with considerable business and political clout, scary?

Newman in the past has been the head of a number of  ‘household’ organisations, including the ABC and the ASX.  Clearly he is not a silly person and he does know what happens when he opens his mouth.  If instilling a new world order is based on reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels and creating an emphasis on the population of this planet ‘living with the means’, Newman is probably right.  The problem is the ‘logic’ that Newman uses to underpin his argument.  Newman claims that:

"It's a well-kept secret, but 95 per cent of the climate models we are told prove the link between human CO₂ emissions and catastrophic global warming have been found, after nearly two decades of temperature stasis, to be in error. It's not surprising," Mr Newman wrote on Friday.

"Why then, with such little evidence, does the UN insist the world spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on futile climate change policies? Perhaps Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN's framework on climate change, has the answer?"


Mr Newman continued that global warming was a "hook" to install a new world order."

Lets face it – Newman is wrong as there is substantial proof that human emissions of CO₂ are causing change to the climate. 

You see, unlike Newman (who has economic and business qualifications) and his pronouncements in the Australian media, climate modelling published in scientific papers has to undergo a ‘peer review’ process.  Effectively the process entails another group or groups of scientists with similar qualifications looking at the same data and coming up with the same result.  Others use the ‘peer reviewed’ data to support or disprove their own theories.  If it is found to be incorrect by subsequent research or peer review; the theory is discredited.  Newman should know this – he was the Chancellor of Macquarie University from 2002 to 2008.

In the case of human influence on climate change, Namoi Oreskes and her researchers examined nearly 1000 peer reviewed papers on this subject in 2004, specifically looking for papers that did not support the view that mankind was having an influence on the earth’s climate.  She found nothing.  As the link to the Sceptical Science website discusses, some have later claimed to find some papers that do not support the position.  One objection was withdrawn later on and the website which is run by scientists argues that the other objection does not used peer reviewed material.

Dr John Cook is the “Climate Communication Fellow’ at the Global Change Institute working at University of Queensland.  Cook also has formal science qualifications and is one of the ‘staff’ on the Sceptical Science website.  He and a number of others researched a paper published in 2013 that followed on from Oreskes work in 2004.  The paper –  available here – reviewed 11944 papers that discussed ‘climate change’ or ‘climate warming’ published between 1991 and 2011.  They found

that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

Cook claims that the abstracts that expressed no position were based on the premise that ‘everybody knows that’; in a similar way to people know to wear additional clothing if it is cold.

Newman’s opinion on climate change has as much evidence behind it as yours or mine.  The scientific consensus does not support his view.  It is concerning when it seems that Abbott’s Business Advisor claims the reason his view is not supported is basically a conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theories are pretty common.  There are theories that ‘explain’ a number of historical events including Lee Harvey Oswald had nothing to do with the assassination of John F Kennedy; the 1969 moon landing was actually done on a Hollywood sound stage, Harold Holt didn’t drown off Portsea Beach and more recently the reasons behind the loss of MH370.  Wikipedia publishes a (long) list of conspiracy theories – and to finish off there are always conspiracy theories regarding countries with different political systems to the one you operate in – such as ‘reds under the beds’ or the state sponsored isolation in North Korea.  Newman’s claim of the UN attempting to instil a new world order needs to be assessed against the almost unanimous agreement amongst suitably qualified scientists that global warming is real and humans are doing it.

While a lot of conspiracy theories are just plain illogical others are not as harmless.  Why would someone spend probably millions to fake a landing on the moon?  Why would Harold Holt not just resign if he wanted to either go back to China or live with a mistress in France?  Newman clearly has the ear of a number of the business and political elite in Australia.  If his dismissal of climate change is based around a fear that ‘the greenies’ are planning a world takeover – it’s a problem, as well as being unsupported by reality.

As Newman doesn’t seem to be the type to be taking mind altering drugs, his determination to start yet another debate on climate change is concerning.  If the reason for discarding the almost unanimous scientific agreement on human induced climate change is based on a conspiracy theory – how good is the 'business advice' that you and I as taxpayers are paying for going to be?

What do you think?

The saga of Billy Gordon - update


This week's article on The Political Sword’s main site is discussing the witchhunt surrounding the alleged behaviour of a Queensland State Member of Parliament – Billy Gordon.  The story so far is that Mr Gordon was elected on 31 January as an ALP MP, sat in the Parliament for the first 3 day session and resigned from the ALP (before he was pushed by Premier Palaszczuk) due to the release of some information that alleges Mr Gordon had an expunged criminal record for various offences, perpetrated domestic violence and was in significant arrears with some Child Support payments for the children of a previous relationship.  All of these claims were made in the media.

In the week or so since the article was submitted for publication, some additional reporting of the ‘affair’ begs the question, 'How low can they go?'

Queensland LNP Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg demonstrated that Mr Gordon was in arrears with his child support payments by releasing the records from the Child Support Agency.  Apart from the confidentiality around the records being breached – surely the private financial affairs of Gordon’s ex-partner and their children should not be the subject of media releases to prove a political point?  After all, Gordon is the one that chose to become a public figure by going into politics – not his children.  If a formal complaint is made and Springborg is found to have released the material without approval he could spend up to 12 months in jail.   Springborg however claims he obtained the records honestly.  As Gordon is reported to be considering a formal complaint, it is unlikely he gave the records to the LNP.  If his ex-partner released the records, Springborg might be right legally, however the morals and ethics displayed in doing so are questionable.  .In any event, the ex-partner, has claimed during an interview with Channel 9’s A Current Affair she wrote to various political figures in Queensland and the LNP were the only ones that helped her.

One suspects that the LNP wasn’t getting the result they wanted when they wheeled Deputy Opposition Leader (and the leader that stood aside for Campbell Newman) John-Paul Langbroek out to demand the emails that Premier Palaszczuk relied on when looking into this matter. There is a history in Queensland Journalism of media outlets printing press conferences verbatim when it proves a point.  Langbroek’s conference was given this treatment and the record finishes with

Journalist.  OK. You know that went terribly.

JPL: Yeah, thanks.


So Queensland Parliament goes back to work on 5 May and Gordon will be sitting as an independent.  There are claims of domestic violence involving Gordon with a second ex-partner – again through the court of media.  Both domestic violence matters have been referred to the Queensland Police for investigation; however you would have to wonder how well a ‘nothing to see here’ decision from the Queensland Police would be reported – leaving Gordon’s reputation tattered.  Most will tell you that domestic violence is to be deplored – however there is a presumption of innocence at the foundation of the legal system in this country.  Gordon has not been afforded this presumption – probably for political ends.

Interestingly, the political party that was happy to release the personal details of Gordon, his ex-partner and their children's Child Support Agency records is also complaining about the ALP Government reversing the Newman Government’s change in reporting political donations from $1000 to $12500 (and making the change retrospective).  So it apparently is ok to publicise the private life of a Member of Parliament and his children to try and regain power – but the rules are different if someone doesn’t want their sizable donation to the LNP to be publically reported.  Am I the only one that can see a double standard here?

On a somewhat stranger note – former LNP MP Peter Dowling who achieved ‘notable’ status as a ‘plonker’ through sexting his mistress is reported as feeling sorry for Billy Gordon!

We live in a strange world.

What do you think?