Fun at the Walkleys

My wife alerted me to these Amazing scenes at the Walkley Awards. Stephen Mayne (founder of Crikey) was presenting an award when Glenn Milne (subsequently described by Mayne as “the former Sunday Telegraph political correspondent Glenn Milne, sponsored by Fosters”) rushed on to the state and pushed Mayne over, calling him a disgrace before being dragged off the stage by security shouting insults.

Meanwhile, sticking to more traditional modes of stoush, I have a piece in the latest Walkley magazine criticising the opinion pages of the “quality press” for giving equal time to global warming denialists. Reading it, it’s striking how radically the Australian debate has changed in the time since I wrote the piece (early October). The denialist position has collapsed so completely in Australia that my analysis is primarily of historical interest now, as an example of how the media can be manipulated by notions of ‘balance’.

38 thoughts on “Fun at the Walkleys

  1. I watched the whole awards and you could practically feel the aggro that must have been in the air. All those narky little comments directed to Eddie McGuire, getting “boned” and ageing female journalists. Why isn’t there an award for independent journalists, and why on earth wasn’t ‘Jonestown’ nominated for best non-fiction book? I was feeling very disheartened and just about to change channels when Stephen Mayne bobbed up to present an award – hoorah! Seeing Milne lurching about the stage was the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV for a long time! Wonder if Rupert will cut him loose?

  2. For those of us who don’t follow the social lives of Australia’s op-in-yon classes, what did Mayne (or Crikey) do to so irk Mr. Milne?

  3. John, as one of the few Social Democrats in this country with ideas, I was a bit shocked by your call to deny climate change denialists a run in the media. This entire debate I find to be governed by the extremes on the right who will not even look at hard data and extremes on the left who have taken on the prophetic power of Nostradamus to predict the end of the world in 95.6 years. Having said that, surely individual owners of media companies have the right to run whatever they want just as John Quiggin has a right to run whatever he wants. Personally I find all the coverage given to David Hicks excessive considering all the other much more substantive issues in the world such as the genocide in Darfur and the treatment of human rights activists in China, but that is their right to run with it. The media would be a boring place John if all we read were people in furious agreement with each other!

  4. For having the temerity to challenge the opinions and “reportage” of Milne and his ilk.

    FYI Crikey have just sent an email to squatters to say they’ll have more details about the “dust-up” in today’s edition – including a response from Milne himself!

  5. To take your examples, Matt, do you think it would be appropriate if the opinion pages were dominated by pieces on China/Darfur that were produced by PR agencies of the Chinese/Sudanese governments, and were full of lies?

    As regards the rights of media owners, they’re free to run what they want, and I (as the owner and operator of this very small medium) am free to tell them they’re making bad choices, which will reflect on their future credibility.

  6. Milne – another example of that journos can deal it out but can’t take it – they swarm over the misforutunes of others but as soon as it’s turned around on them it’s all emotional and defensive. Crikey takes the piss out of the media just as media take the piss out of everyone else – I don’t see any problem with that

  7. Here is the footage, it is fantastic to see someone like the poisoned dwarf get roasted. Mark Latham would be having a chuckle.

  8. “Watching the girly Mayne jump off-stage, frightened of the tubby penguin Milne, was hilarious.”

    What should he have done? Have a punch-up with a drunk old man on stage? Mayne looked to me to be significantly younger, fitter and massively more sober than Milne was. Should Mayne have beaten Milne up? Of course not. He did the appropriate and decent thing and tried to avoid the confrontation.

  9. The collapse of climate change denial as a mainstream political position has been equally rapid in New Zealand. The National Party, whose climate change policy at the elections last year consisted of some vague expressions of scepticism about the science and a pronounced reluctance to do anything about mitigation, had a change of heart at the beginning of October, eg:

    http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2006/10/climate-change-symposium-stealing.html

    I am rather at a loss as to what caused such a rapid change? Al Gore?

  10. JohnQ – you have a book to write, a history book, about climate change and denialism – you have done the hard yards and you know the background intimately. I’m waiting…

  11. “JohnQ – you have a book to write, a history book, about climate change and denialism – you have done the hard yards and you know the background intimately. I’m waiting…”

    Are you trying to destroy the poor Professor’s reputation as a “hard” economist? If he goes off writing science policy history, he’ll never be taken seriously by the maths-nerd neoclassicists in their spindly world of utility curves and production functions. 🙂

    OTOH, aside from my worries about the deleterious impact on John’s career, I think a history of denialism would be a great idea.

  12. If you want to understand the media uturn on global warming consider the below quote from Rupert Murdoch.

    “I have to admit that until recently I was somewhat wary of the warming debate. But I believe it is now our responsibility to take the lead on this issue.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1785926.htm#transcript

    That’s a real quote, not made up satire. You can even hear the audio of it at about 30 minutes and 30 seconds into the podcast. He made that statement about a month ago. Compare that with the timing of the turn around in Howard’s position and the media narrative on this issue. Maybe we should just lobby Murdoch personally to get all the other world’s problems solved too.

  13. “Watching the girly Mayne jump off-stage, frightened of the tubby penguin Milne, was hilarious.” C.L.

    “What should he have done? Have a punch-up with a drunk old man on stage? Mayne looked to me to be significantly younger, fitter and massively more sober than Milne was. Should Mayne have beaten Milne up? Of course not. He did the appropriate and decent thing and tried to avoid the confrontation.” Atticus_the_Lawyer

    I watched the footage closely and Atticus is right, Mayne did exactly what he should have done. Step back and let others intervene. Milne’s unqualified apology today proves that Mayne’s response was right.

  14. Milne came off looking badly because Mayne responded in an adult manner. He maintained his calm manner although he was assaulted and could have been hurt when pushed off the edge of the stage.

    However his couple of jokes afterwards were well delivered, apt and funny. He came off looking urbane and in control. Milne damaged his own credibility in a remarkable fashion. He may not be fired but he is definitely on a downward slope.

  15. “Mayne did exactly what he should have done.”

    Exactly so. Mayne was a young, fit and sober young man. Milne was a florid, lurching garden gnome. Both men were standing on the edge of a stage more than a metre high.

    One rash move and the Gnome could have been crashing noggin first on to the floor below.

    The man in control of himself took responsibility to defuse an embarrassing, ugly, and potentially fatal situation. Well done Steve Mayne.

    Hasn’t CL heard of David Hookes?

  16. JQ in Walkley: “In the last year, the Australian quality media have published articles attacking climate science by former UK chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson, Alan Moran, the head of the Institute of Public Affairs deregulation unit and Canadian drama critic Mark Steyn among many others. One might well ask how these writers came to be experts on abstruse scientific issues and how they all reached the conclusion that the vast majority of scientists who have worked on the topic are wrong.” That cuts both ways, what qualifies you to determine the scientists are right? In fact there remain large areas of uncertainty as even the IPCC acknowledges (eg net feedback effects, net growth/decline of Antarctic ice etc). But let’s assume the scientists are right, what is to be done? George Monbiot’s new book Heat demands that in order to achieve 90% cessation of carbon emission, ALL air travel must end now, only power generated by renewables should be allowable, with zero nuclear, so the 55 reactors in France need to be shut forthwith. Not likely, as Germany’s example shows: the success of the Greens there in getting nuclear phased out has resulted this week in approval of a new US$2.4 billion coal fired power station in the Saar (critically dependent on not having to pay for emission credits as it implies an increase of emissions above the current quota for Germany). Clearly the scientists are having difficulty in getting anybody except JQ and Monidiot to take them seriously, including Stern, yesterday patting the Chinese on the back for talking climate change while still opening new coal power stations on a weekly basis. Meantime McKinsey Global Institute’s latest report does not accept JQ’s assertions that energy demand has greater price elasticity than 1, showing that a 66% fall in oil price (from $50 to $30 per barrel) has only a 0.2% impact on total energy demand, for an elasticity of 0.5.

  17. Matt said:

    “Personally I find all the coverage given to David Hicks excessive considering all the other much more substantive issues in the world such as the genocide in Darfur and the treatment of human rights activists in China”

    Yes, trying to get the Australian Government to look after the rights of Australians by doing nothing more than a phone call is such an insignificant issue.

  18. That cuts both ways, what qualifies you to determine the scientists are right?

    So in a scientific matter, it is now controversial to ascribe to scientists more credibility than to drama critics, economists and journalists, Tom O’Shanter?

    One does not need to be a plumber in order to work out which tradesman to call when the dunny’s overflowing into the hallway.

  19. Katz: Not for one second is anybody suggesting that Mayne should have squared up to Milne & got stuck into him.

    However he flinched. *pussy*

    Bad form to show fear, especially when the world is watching, and there are security officers aplenty frogmarching the culprit away. When Milne wriggled loose, Mayne looked as if he didn’t know which way to run. *pussy*

  20. wbb: touche! yet why not address the issues? what is depressing is that so many economists have given up on applying their own skills (with the honourable exceptions of Richard Tol and Ian Castles on this blog and David Henderson) to evaluating both the scientific AND the ECONOMIC scenarios that underpin IPCC and Stern. If your plumber tells you to knock down your house and/or give up on waterborn sanitation (a la Monidiot), you might think of getting a second opinion. The IPCC JQ and Monidiot tell us we have to give up our lifestyle to save the planet on the basis of some widely different economic scenarios none of which as Csstles & Henderson show have any plausibility. Stern famously fudges the difference betwen risk and uncertainty, for the former implies known distributions of possible outcomes, and the latter does not; but to promote panic, he claims that we do have known probabilities of the uncertain outcomes of whatever warming might lie ahead. Computer models should not be used to generate probability distributions of uncertainty, so how come Stern and IPCC are already wrong about the methane which Stern relies on to enhance his scariest scenarios? The same applies to the other aspects of the “science”. Ironically JQ disbelieves the “urban heat island” effect on measured temperatures, despite peer-reviewed papers demonstrating it not to mention the infra-red photography showing it (and Channel 9’s cricket coverage!), even though it is the infra-red spectrum that explains the so-called greenhouse effect. Selinger (5th edition p.419) shows this effect,clearly indicating the relatively minor importance of CO2 relative to H2O (in terms of bandwidths), as well as the wide spread of wavenumbers where neither plays a role. Where are the regressions quantifying the relative importance of different wavenumbers in terms of radiation out and radiation contained in absorption units?

  21. “However he flinched. *pussy*

    “Bad form to show fear, especially when the world is watching”

    There are ways of life for which this is a true statement. Nightclub bouncers or professional sportspeople must demonstrate this kind of physical bravura.

    However, journalists inhabit a different world, as do most of us. It is said, for instance, that a large part of the population would rather die (literally) than make a speech. The bravest sportsperson is often reduced to a shambling ruin by a microphone and a large audience.

    People in Mayne’s world are going to think much more highly of him for his one-liners than question him because he didn’t instinctualy shape up to Milne.

    Just as a reality check for SATP, assault laws cover not merely physical attack, but reasonable fear of physical attack. No one can be prosecuted for the smartest, most cutting, devastating one-liner.

    The law encourages Mayne. The law frowns on pugs, except in the most narrow and ritualised settings.

  22. I agree with Katz’s last post, but I’m also not so sure Mayne “flinched”. When Milne came at him on stage he stood there and ignored the drunken oaf until he physically pushed him off the stage. Mayne was climbing back on to the stage when Milne was being dragged away but them let himself drop back down when Milne broke away and started coming back at him. Even if I were determined to “shape up” to someone, I wouldn’t want to do it while climbing back onto a meter high stage…

  23. Even Shorter Katz: “In the circles I mix in, men consider “girlie-man” an acceptable way to address each other”.

    Put the shovel down & stop digging Katz, while you can still climb out of the hole.

  24. I think it’s you who’s digging a hole here, Steve. Nobody but a fool or a drunk willingly engages in physical stoush on national TV*. Obviously, you have plenty have dealings with both in your line of work, but you shouldn’t let them determine your judgements about how to behave, or, for that matter your general political views.

    * Or in any situation where it can reasonably be avoided.

  25. Not that it matters, but I’m *still* not convinced that Mayne “flinched”…

  26. Mayne didn’t ‘flinch’.

    The first and most important rule of physical/military conflict is to avoid it whenever possible. There is certainly no glory or advantage in unnecessary drunken public brawls.

    Mayne’s behaviour was the most appropriate and constructive under the circumstances, and he came out way ahead of Milne in the credibility stakes. (Though Milne, to his credit, issued an unqualified apology the next day).

  27. No Glory? Surely that’s all there is. Especially if you win and your mates see you win. Drunken brawling is undoubtedly stupid behaviour, but its a big lie to say there’s no “glory” in it, because that’s the primary reason most guys do it, it makes them feel better about themselves.

    I disagree with SATP though, there’s no shame in flinching. Flinching is a natural reaction and even Mike Tyson would flinch if he was attacked from the side. In fact, even heavyweight boxers flinch all the time, that’s why their opponents throw fake punches, to get them to flinch at the wrong time.

  28. I agree with everybody above:

    Mayne was presenting an award at a very genteel and very public black tie affair. He was in the spotlight as the centre of attention. At this moment he would not have been expecting in his wildest dreams to be the target of an impromptu physical attack.

    Quite possibly the dubious glory of drunken brawling is minimal in his experience anyway, in which case he would just about have caught up with what happened by the time Milne was frogmarched off stage.

    Maintaining a dignified poise in the face of physical danger (not looking like a scardey cat) takes practice & experience. Perhaps Mayne doesn’t have any. Nor should he be required to.

    Indisputably Milne committed an assault. It is up to Mayne if Milne is charged or not. Little will be served by an assault charge against Milne, & it is likely that the “medicine + grog” defence will mean he is acquitted.

    In previous posting I seem to have used ambivalent terminology. I withdraw “flinch”.

    Stephen Mayne was climbing back up onto the stage when Milne (briefly) wriggled partially free of his security guard.

    Mayne had nothing to fear, he had just taken Milne’s best shot (compounded by being delivered without warning) and was perfectly okay. Milne was outnumbered by heavies & had no hope anyway of getting near Mayne again.

    However Mayne jumped back down off the stage. He comes out of it looking a bit sooky. But it is all very much a storm in a teacup.

  29. Fair enough, Steve. I think we can all put this particular storm behind us – certainly Milne will be glad to do so.

  30. “Mayne had nothing to fear, he had just taken Milne’s best shot (compounded by being delivered without warning) and was perfectly okay. Milne was outnumbered by heavies & had no hope anyway of getting near Mayne again. However Mayne jumped back down off the stage. He comes out of it looking a bit sooky. But it is all very much a storm in a teacup.”

    Even if I were in a brawling mood, I would not want to be climbing onto a one meter stage as my opponent rushed me. That would be giving up way too much of an advantage.

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