A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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What does an Australian farmer have to do to make the news?

What has The Australian got against a destitute farmer? Compare their coverage of one farmers protest with other hunger strikers:

When a sex offender protesting his innocence went on a hunger strike, it only took 6 days for The Australian to write about it. Taiwan’s former president went on a hunger strike which was reported as it ended after 5 days. Serial killer Ivan Milat only had to wait a couple of days to make the Australian with a hunger strike that only lasted for five days all up, and its conclusion was noteworthy too.* When three Australian Tamils went on a hunger strike they made headlines after 3 days, and also here. Some Sri Lankan asylum seekers agreed to end their hunger strike after 2 days and the story was covered sympathetically.

This is not to detract from the seriousness of some of the above claimants. But compare the reportage about Peter Spencer who started his hunger strike on November 23, 2009. For 25 days there was not even a short note to alert other farmers or landholders that there was a hunger strike underway by an Australian citizen, on Australian soil.

It was Day 26, before [...]

Monckton & Plimer tour Australia: dates & venues

UPDATE 3: Extra  events in Perth and Sydney due to demand – see this latest post.! You must pre register to avoid disappointment for the Sydney final event on Friday. (download PDF!) The email to use is: ‘’ OR FAX: (02) 4861 2029

There is no one quite like Christopher Monckton, with his background in Latin classics, journalism, work for the Thatcher government,  and dogged persistence to analyze the numbers. Last year he spoke in New York, Washington, Copenhagen, and across Canada (and that’s just the ones I know of, off the top of my head). Monckton is a gem of a man, and this is a rare opportunity to see him in action. He’s been storming the world for years now, a constant thorn in Al Gore’s side. Monckton challenged Gore to debate in March 2007. Al Gore claims “he want’s to convince the world”, but he’s had almost three years and still can’t find a single day to explain the “overwhelming” evidence on TV with Monckton present.

Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at The University of Adelaide, has made a huge impact around the globe with his book Heaven and Earth which has gone into its [...]

The carbon market blinks — $130b trainwreck slows

For the last five years the carbon market has been doubling year after year. But in 2009, the exponential growth trajectory paused. Point Carbon issued a report this week estimating that the world wide market in carbon trading in 2009 totalled around $136 billion dollars, which is not much higher than the 2008 figure. After years of living in a rapacious bubble, prices are about 60% below the peaks of 2008, carbon traders are starting to peel out into other commodities, and the sails are looking decidedly flat on the Maxi Yacht known as Carbon-Credits Inc.

The size of the market in gigatons of carbon grew nearly 70% over 2008, but the falling prices meant the same amount of money churned through the system and the total dollars were very similar year on year.

How times have  changed. Back in May 2009, emissions traders were feeling confident that a US market for emissions would be approved. Not surprisingly, the low carbon prices and the non-event of Copenhagen mean that carbon traders are becoming frustrated. Some are even expanding into… markets that are based on real commodities like oil, gas, gold and steel. [Reuters]


Investigative journalists work hard to… protect the government from the people?

We would hope that The Australian would stand up for … Australians. Instead our National masthead is not investigating the claims of an Australian farmer against our government, they’re not interviewing constitutional law experts, they’re interviewing his brother.

Peter Spencer is on Day 47 of a hunger strike and trying to get compensation for all farmers whose land was effectively expropriated. Journalist, Paul Maley could have investigated the veracity of the $10 billion dollar claim, but instead he tries to assess Peter’s mental health and personal finances. While these might be a relevant part of the big picture, the big-picture itself is missing.

“Family Financial dispute helped send hunger striker Peter Spencer Up Pole”

The Australian sub-heading is: “SERIOUS doubts have emerged about the case of Peter Spencer”,… but the serious doubts amount to a 40 year old story, and the fact that Peter owes money to his family, rather than to the banks. Serious? Not on the scale of billion dollar carbon commitments.


The red tape protest has started

James Loring in Tasmania has had a great idea to support Peter Spencer. He took something known as “flagging tape”, added a scarecrow, and a slow moving sheep and created this message for the world to see.


Peter Spencer’s story is getting media (finally)

What’s interesting is that finally–after 45 days without food–Peter Spencer is starting to get some serious national attention. Today Tonight is a prime time “current affairs” show and this cover was fairly sympathetic. The British Financial Times has also run a story, both of these were serious enough to actually interview Peter Spencer. Finally it seems there is some investigation. A few new facts have been filled in, and also a very strong theme linking his actions to the Kyoto agreement.

The saddest point is that Peter Spencer has been trying to get some attention for at least three years, and probably over a decade. He wrote The War On Farmers in January 2006 and it lays it all out. He was already facing foreclosure in 2006.

The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been [...]

Time to celebrate, & Oops! The price of success

Meet other skeptics and celebrate!

With the ongoing battle for logic and reason, it’s easy to forget that saving Australia from an ETS, and slowing the train-wreck in Copenhagen were major successes. Even though the battle to save Peter Spencer is still very much on our minds, it’s time to celebrate.

It’s not often humanity collectively “misses a bullet…”

I’m happy to post contacts in different cities around the world to help connect people who live near each other. If you are willing to be a central point coordinator for your region and to post some contact details please use the thread below to organize events in your area. I’ll update this post with any events or contacts that are generated. Even if it’s just Friday afternoon drinks after work. There is strength in numbers.

See below for: Germany, France, and Australia


How not to do journalism

Watch the whitewash– so white it’s Green. The Peter Spencer story has finally broken into the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Two “journalists” paired up to put together almost identical stories as a joint effort, and do their best to add doubt and smear to every part of the Spencer story. It’s a text book case in PR. These two journalists might make passable press secretaries for a Labor government. (Which is a well worn career path).

The big-picture situation, where farmers are asking for $10 billion in compensation for land that was stolen from them, was turned into a story about how the Coalition might be split by a guy on a hunger-strike over land-clearing laws. In reality Peter Spencer could drive one heck of a wedge into the Labor Party, who paint themselves as “helping the little guy” and simultaneously claim they are good economic managers. The Labor government can’t find $10 billion easily anymore, but less than a year ago they gave out $42 billion fairly randomly as a supposedly “clever” economic policy and another $43 billion to get into the broadband business.

Here’s how these major dailies “carried” the story: The Age’s version


Peter Spencer rally a big success

Over 300 people have rallied in support of Peter Spencer outside Parliament House today, and the ABC* have covered it (at least on their website).

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce also addressed the crowd, calling for a Royal Commission into vegetation laws. He says the state laws have robbed farmers across Australia of their assets.

“It might have been legally possible but it was totally unjust,” he said.

Senator Joyce says Mr Spencer should cease his hunger strike but the fight for justice should continue.

“This is obscene,” he said. “The Government became the thief of an asset and when the Government becomes a thief of an asset – when the individual is divested of an asset without payment – there is a word for that and unfortunately without being too dramatic the word is communism.”

Some of the protesting farmers are now travelling to Mr Spencer’s property to offer their support.

Unmentioned on the ABC story was that there are allegations that the interstate chartered buses for this event were targeted by Road Traffic Authority (RTA) inspectors. Bus inspections were suddenly arranged, which can take up to [...]

The CommonFascism of Australia

NEWS: PROTEST IN CANBERRA Mon 4th (see below)

It’s Day 43 without food, and Peter Spencer grows weaker. For those who don’t know, Peter Spencer’s farm has been stolen from him by our government through Native Vegetation Legislation — which locked up 80 – 90%  of his entire farm but paid him no compensation. The regrowth on his farm holds “carbon credits” of supposed value to the Commonwealth, yet Peter has been obliged by law to pay the rates on that land-that-holds-these-carbon-credits, and the mortgage for the right to do nothing with this land that really belongs to the Commonwealth. Is this not an extortionate tax?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declined all requests to meet Peter.

In a grand failure of journalism, our largest dailies apparently think angry tweeting travelers is more important than that a $10 billion dollars crime, and a life in the balance.

Peter Spencer tried ingenious means to work within the rules. But he has been driven into bankruptcy. The 200 days he spent in court, with all costs associated with just trying to have his case heard, added to the burden. (200 days!) After there was no other route left open to [...]

Unthreaded #1: evangelical flavour

There’s obviously a desire to debate and discuss religious leanings. It’s not science. But if it helps some people grow their climatic world view or it reaches a new audience it has a use — perhaps just as a form of mental-tennis. Though even the most illogical recalcitrant commentors sometimes bring out brilliant replies (and there are a few, especially far down). Like minded comments from other threads will be moved here as it is off-topic on every other post on this site. This whole topic breaks basic rules of logic and reason. But in the interests of free speech and to declutter other important threads, this is home to those comments that do not belong elsewhere.

Is there any evidence?

UPDATE, Feb 2011. This post, this question has been out for over two years, and yet still remains as valid as ever. Most of the evidence still cited is irrelevant. — Jo

The all important question that rises above and before ALL other questions is the one of evidence.

Is there any evidence that carbon dioxide causes major warming?

In science, “evidence” has a very specific meaning and for a very good reason. In a court of law or a game of football, the label “evidence” can be plastered all over the place. If 500 footballers signed a petition to change a rule, that would be “evidence” the rule needed changing. But if 5 billion people signed a petition to make it rain in Mumbai on Thursday, that’s a waste of paper.


Thanks for the clicks, links, tweets and stumbles

Where would we be without the internet?

The Skeptics Handbook II was released on Nov 20. If you google the phrase “Skeptics Handbook II”, there are 19,200 hits. Even I am surprised. That is a very specific phrase.

Site traffic has been spectacular in the last two months. Thank you for your help.

For the full year of 2009:

Visitors:       238,435 Page views:  868,491 Comments:      11,852

For December: 66,000 visitors, 270,000 pageviews. About 3000 people each day.

To put this in perspective, New Scientist has 170,000 subscribers, but when I hit back at them I’m reaching 15,000 a week, and it’s salubrious company. Ex-IPCC reviewers, NASA-Apollo program people, DoE experts, Engineers in California (and Florida, and Norway, and Canada) Surgeons in Sydney, Lawyers in London and a whole host of independent thinkers and people who are searching for answers.

Thank you to all those who have helped to inform me, add research, or edit my work. Apologies if I don’t always manage to thank people, sometimes it’s because I’m swamped by the emails.

Thanks to all the people who emailed their political leaders, and just as much to those who emailed their friends. It’s sometimes more [...]