House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020


Media Freedom

12:42 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Freedom of speech, academic freedom, and a free media are the most important pillars of our democracy. In the time permitted today, I would like to set out what is actually a misfeasance—and I don't use that word lightly—by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in their findings against the broadcaster Alan Jones. I'll start with their press release of 21 May. In the very first paragraph it states that the licensee of radio station 2GB was in breach of broadcasting rules due to 'inaccurate comments he made about climate change.' Let's put that first statement by ACMA to the test that they use themselves: what did the material convey to the ordinary, reasonable listener, and was the material factual in character? What does 'an inaccurate statement about climate change' mean? The definition of 'climate change' by the Australian Academy of Science is:

Climate change is a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer.

That's what we mean by the words 'climate change'. Let's have a look at the 'inaccurate' statements made by Mr Jones about this. When you go to ACMA's conclusion, it says he made an incorrect assertion that ' biomass is a fossil fuel'. What does the classification of biomass as a fossil fuel or not have to do with climate change? Absolutely nothing. ACMA's very first paragraph in their press release is misleading and deceptive. It breaches the very same tests that they apply themselves.

Let's go on to the finding where they found the assertion that Mr Jones said that biomass is a fossil fuel. This is nothing other than a stitch-up. This is what you would expect from a star chamber or a kangaroo court. The point Mr Jones was actually making was that biomass is incorrectly classified as a so-called renewable. Biomass is simply the burning of wood. There are many expert commentators around the world that are waking up to the fact—as we have seen in the recent movie by Michael Moore—that biomass actually releases more carbon dioxide and more particulate matter per unit of energy than coal does. Yet we have many nations peddling out their renewables qualifications by counting biomass as a renewable.

That was the entire point that Mr Jones was making. What he said was that, when it comes to fossil fuel generation, he says that's coal and oil and gas and biomass—biomass which is dirtier than Australian black coal, I might add—If you read that as it's transcripted down from someone speaking on radio, it seems as though he said that biomass is a fossil fuel. But what he actually said, because you do not put brackets in a transcript when you're speaking live to air on radio, was:

When it comes to fossil fuel generation—

Open brackets—

(that's coal and oil and gas)—

Close brackets—

and biomass—

He was talking about fossil fuel generation and biomass, and giving a definition of that fossil fuel generation. So he simply did not make the allegation or the assertions that the Australian Media and Communications Authority have made up. Yet for that they have railroaded him, made up a false accusation, nothing more than verballing him, and then taken that verbal and misrepresented what it was in their opening statement.

This is shameful. It is absolutely shameful. We have a situation in this nation where we have a government authority acting as arbiters of truth in a free media. This is absurd. We do not need government authorities to be doing this. Why should taxpayers pay to have government bureaucrats sit down and go through the entrails of a speech made in the free media and be the arbiters of truth, when they themselves cannot meet that standard? We need to make changes to this act, the broadcasting and communications act, to take away this power from ACMA, because they have shown that they are incompetent, inefficient and engaged in misfeasance in the use of this power.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 12:47