Dr Jennifer Wilson

The coalition hid negative emissions data behind Murdoch’s paywall

Yesterday, the long-delayed update on our greenhouse gas emissions was exclusively given to a Murdoch publication, who hid it behind a paywall. Clearly, we’re weren’t meant to see it.

 

 

In what can be interpreted as a blatant expression of contempt for the public, Angus Taylor, minister for energy and emissions reduction, yesterday released the latest Quarterly Update of National Greenhouse Gas Inventory in an exclusive interview with The Australian newspaper.

The interview is not available to anyone who is not a subscriber to that newspaper, as it is pay-walled.

The Quarterly Emissions figures are hardly the topic for an exclusive ministerial interview. They’re a regular report similar to those made on the inflation rate, or current national accounts. It is astounding that Taylor chose to release the Quarterly Emissions figures not to the general public, but to the Murdoch press where they are inaccessible to non-subscribers. Apparently, this had to be done in the form of an interview, as giving the actual report to The Australian would be a tad blatant, even for this government.

Taylor gave the interview to the News Corp publication just two days after Sun-Herald journalist Annika Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police as part of an investigation into the leaking of classified documents in an article Smethurst wrote in April last year. News Corp reacted vigorously, labelling the raid “outrageous and heavy-handed” and expressing serious concerns about the government’s undermining of the public’s right to information about decisions that impact the lives of ordinary citizens.

The emissions figures are extremely disappointing, with emissions reaching record highs in many sectors. Emissions increased by 0.8% seasonally adjusted, compared to the previous quarter. Burying the report in The Australian on a day when the public’s attention was transfixed by the AFP raids on Smethurst and the ABC might have seemed a good way to delay the dissemination of news that can only bring criticism. The Australian’s report of the interview is certainly less stark than subsequent commentary from other sources.

The government may have needed to engage in some bridge building with News Corp after setting the AFP on one of their journalists, a move that many found surprising, given that organisation’s reputation as the LNP’s propaganda arm. An exclusive interview with the energy and emissions minister and the opportunity to present what is bad news both for the government and the Murdoch press in the best possible light, might go some way towards resolving injured feelings.

There is also the matter of the Government’s tardiness. Under a Senate order, the deadline for the publication of the update was Friday, May 31. When the report did not appear on the Department’s website by Monday, Green’s Senator Richard Di Natale wrote to Senator Simon Birmingham, who represents Angus Taylor in the Senate, to remind him of the government’s obligations to produce the report within the agreed time limit. Di Natale also alleged contempt. The Government has considerable form in delaying the publication of these figures.

The government appears to have denied the public our right to information in releasing the emissions report to a publication that is not accessible to ordinary citizens without taking out a subscription. Attempting to force us to subscribe to a media corporation in order to access information to which we are freely entitled is yet another alarming and repressive action from a government that in the first three weeks of its incumbency has exerted, through the employment of draconian legislation, control over the media landscape the like of which is unheard of in other developed democracies.

There is nothing to stop the Government from releasing other reports, paid for by the public, to private corporations. This privileging of mates and the commodification of information that should be freely available to citizens is disturbing. It creates a two-tier system in which those who have the means have access to knowledge earlier than those who either do not have the means, or choose not to financially support particular media outlets. It is the government attempting to control the dissemination of vital public information through its favoured outlet, where there is the opportunity for that information to first be presented in the least critical and analytical light.

The Quarterly Update should be published first on the department’s website where it is available to everyone.

Clearly, the Emissions figures are regarded by the Government as entirely political, and as having very little to do with the wellbeing and future of Australians and the planet.

 

Dr Jennifer Wilson

Dr Jennifer Wilson an independent scholar, freelance writer and political junkie. She blogs now and then at https://noplaceforsheep.com. She was once an academic, which was fun until it wasn’t. She has published fiction, non fiction, book chapters and conference papers, mostly on human rights, and state and domestic terrorism. Do no harm and take no shit is my mission statement.

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