Tony Abbott, fact-checked and FOI'd

The Conversation has now launched its election fact-checking site. The opening set includes a factcheck I’ve done, on a claim by Tony Abbott that it now takes three years to get a mine approved compared to less than twelve months six years ago. This is wrong on about as many levels as it can possibly be, the most important being

* The claim rests on a single coal mine in NSW, which was initially rejected, then approved on appeal
* The implied blame is directed to the Commonwealth government, which changed in 2007. But mine approval is mostly a state function, and most states have switched from Labor to LNP governments in the last six years

Meanwhile, there was a Twitterstorm over the weekend, about a story run by independent journalist Margo Kingston, who used FOI to determine that Abbott had been made to repay $9400, claimed as expenses while he was promoting his book Battlelines in 2009. MSM weren’t much interested, but the barrage of tweets has elicited at least one story, here in the Age.

147 thoughts on “Tony Abbott, fact-checked and FOI'd

  1. @Tim Macknay

    Come on Tim … don’t play innocent. Why not admit that compelled by the force of Phoenix, you had no good alternative but to pull out one of those left-wing shoot-the-messenger debating tactics?

    Once Phoenix showed how our existing climate models have failed to predict accurately the climate in 2113, you really were cornered, no?

    😉

  2. @Fran Barlow
    I agree with “intellectual rigour” but suggest that is largely in the eye of the beholder, subject to preferred style, weighting of arguments etc., when it comes to an ordinal ranking of statements. I sigh when I hear of the need for evidence-based” policy – as if there should be any other.

    Having said that, there are experts who are able to present a stronger case than others. I recall Rod Tiffen at University of Sydney wrote in “Diplomatic Deceits – Government, Media and East Timor” (UNSW Press 2001) which documented a strong case on that issue.

  3. Mind you, looking at my last post, maybe Phoenix was just being cryptic about the climate in 100 years. Maybe he meant to say that climate models should predict the climate in the postcode 2113 (i.e North Ryde).

    Perhaps he’s just doing that old rightwing thing of confusing climate with weather. 😉

  4. Fran, I admit I was forced to change the subject to climate change because I was unable to counter Phoenix’s astute claims that gay marriage… well, whatever it was that Phoenix thought s/he was trying to say about gay marriage. 😉

  5. Terje like Kevin1 says, tell us how your views have changed from your participation here.

    If this place is the only alternative source of ideas you have, then I win hands down.

    I read quite a lot of conservative stuff – can’t handle Quadrant though, and the libertarian stuff is even more tedious. The BHL’s are like the churchmen of old arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. They have nothing but sophistry and the motivation to self-justify.

    And all I can say in answer to the difficulty you have taking me seriously, is that I can’t take you seriously either.

    Therapy over 🙂

  6. @TerjeP #3

    (This has been into moderation for too long so before it becomes irrelevant I am resubmitting it without a link to the Crikey article – 2013/02/13/mythbusting-on-abbott-and-the-media-but-who-asked-the-questions )

    Bernard Keane at Crikey has compiled a table for Jun-Dec 2012 which shows he avoids questioning by the press gallery and the ABC, in favour of media doorstops where “colour” is the theme. Gillard by contrast did not shirk the uncomfortable issues, fielding 80 questions at her press conference last August on the AWU, and 33 in November. Abbott did a lot more radio interviews than Gillard, but not on the ABC. Being less accessible to the radio shock jocks sounds to me like a judicious use of time for a PM.

    You can justify Abbott’s avoidance on the grounds of political tactics, but transparency it is not. I think most of us want politicians to lean more towards meeting our interests rather than their own, and I thought libertarians would agree. He increasingly seems to me to have less to say, rather than more – repeating whole sentences twice during a factory door stop the other day.

  7. @Mel
    Re: “Sadly, Christine Milne is taking the Greens down the nuff nuff path on genetic engineering.”

    Mel, it is not the science that is being questioned, it is the application and business models of the corporations promoting GM products.

    Perhaps as an analogy; nuclear science is not in question, its application as nuclear weapons is!

  8. @kevin1

    I agree with “intellectual rigour” but suggest that is largely in the eye of the beholder,

    I disagree. Certainly, academics analysing news copy might differ honestly on what is or is not salient and thus what would adequately inform the reader, particularly when perforce, come copy is quite short. I’m not an epistemological relativist however.

    Any honest and competent academic could distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims, and likewise distinguish between claims that require expertise and a degree of independence from those where anyone’s claim will serve. They can understand language in context and discern when a headline makes claims that are either not advanced or advanced implausibly in the body of the piece or when pieces are not about specified areas of public interest (eg public policy in health, education, the environment etc) and when they are about entertainment or matters of lifestyle or are advertisements or advertorial.

    Intellectual rigour, of the kind I have in mind, is at the margins debatable, but this is a fairly minor problem of analysis with which I’d be happy to live.

  9. GC: “Mel, it is not the science that is being questioned, it is the application and business models of the corporations promoting GM products.”

    Nope, it is both. Christine Milne is a reactionary nutjob.

  10. Ronald Brak :
    TerjeP, with reference to the Bolt article I linked to earlier, are you aware that scientists do believe that we face sea level increases of 6 meters and worse if we continue to increase greenhouse gas levels as we have and so accept that in that article Andrew Bolt is lying?

    Ronald – Just for kicks what does the IPCC report have to say on the range of sea level projections for the year 2100?

  11. kevin1 :
    I’m glad we are contributing to your character development but I am curious as to how it has changed your views.

    I can’t recall how long I’ve been following this blog but I think it is over ten years. Certainly I was exchanging views with JQ before 9/11.

    This blog has probably changed my views in a number of ways I can’t recall. However one change I am aware or is that I do remember believing circa 1999 that people on the left could be persuaded to abandon their flawed thinking if I was patient with them. This blog has slowly taught me that differences of opinion are rooted at a much deeper more fundamental level and few people are persuaded by the political arguments of their ideological opponents. The best either side can hope to do is get them whilst they’re young. At times I find this quite despairing and I’m probably more cynical about politics as a result.

  12. @TerjeP

    people on the left could be persuaded to abandon their flawed thinking

    Could you define what that “flawed thinking” is, please?

    In other words: You identify a “left” and define it by this “flawed thinking”, but what exactly is this thinking?

  13. TerjeP, the average projections for sea level rise for 2100 are well below six meters. But scientists do not reject a six meter sea rise over time. It’s predicted under “business as usual” projections and in An Inconvenient Truth Gore does not give a time frame for a six meter sea level rise. So Bolt is lying.

  14. ” So Bolt is lying.”

    There’s a surprise.

    That Bolt is an agenda driven mouthpiece, rather than a journalist, goes without saying.

    What’s harder to explain, and more interesting, are the efforts of others to defend Bolt’s patent nonsense.

  15. @Fran Barlow

    Any honest and competent academic could distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims, and likewise distinguish between claims that require expertise and a degree of independence from those where anyone’s claim will serve.

    can any honest and competent maxist and non-marxist academic both distinguish between accurate claims and false or misleading claims. they do disagree on how the world works and what shape people’s preferences and their ability to act on their preferences.

    Too many subscribe to what Popper called the conspiracy theory of ignorance:

    The conspiracy theory of ignorance which interprets ignorance not as a mere lack of knowledge but as the work of some sinister power, the source of impure and evil influ­ences which pervert and poison our minds and instil in us the habit of res­ist­ance to know­ledge

    The truth is plain to see but for malevolent forces. The possibility that are ignorance is large in the social sciences and many consequences are unintended are not exciting explanations.

    Milton Friedman argued that people agree on most objectives, but differ on the predicted outcomes of different policies and institutions.

    Then there is Christopher Robert and Richard Zeckhauser‘s taxonomy of disagreement:

    Positive disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Scope: what elements of the world one is trying to understand
    2. Model: what mechanisms explain the behaviour of the world
    3. Estimate: what estimates of the model’s parameters are thought to obtain in particular contexts

    Values disagreements can be over questions of:
    1. Standing: who counts
    2. Criteria: what counts
    3. Weights: how much different individuals and criteria count

    Any positive analysis will tend to include elements of scope, model, and estimation, though often these elements intertwine; they frequently feature in an implicit or undifferentiated manner. Likewise, normative analysis will also include elements of standing, criteria, and weights, whether or not these distinctions are recognized.

  16. @Ronald Brak

    TerjeP, the average projections for sea level rise for 2100 are well below six meters.

    The IPCC looked at several predictive models. It is not just the average that was well below six metres. The IPCC models with the most extreme predictions are also way below six metres.

  17. @Megan

    Could you define what that “flawed thinking” is, please?
    In other words: You identify a “left” and define it by this “flawed thinking”, but what exactly is this thinking?

    The flawed thinking is the belief that a large state sector is a good thing for society. And that any effort to reduce the size of the state is evil.

  18. @TerjeP

    That’s a bit inexact.

    Who decides what defines a “large” state sector? A one teacher public school would not be “large”, would it?

    Can you narrow your definition of “large” a bit, please?

    “Any” effort to reduce the size of the state is “evil”? Isn’t that just a bit fuzzy?

    Is that it? This “flawed thinking”?

    Please tell me you can do better.

  19. PS: Serco and GS4 are under serious investigation in the UK for their mishandling (ie: fraud and theft from the public) of “prisoner” work outsourced to them. The fraud runs into the tens of BILLIONS of pounds.

    When you criticise a “large state sector” are you suggesting that Serco and GS4 are a “good thing”, and that just because they are unaccountable they are somehow ‘not’ doing the work of the state – and are ipso facto “good” and un-evil?

    I’d like you to share your clarity here.

  20. TerjeP, it does not matter what sea level rise is predicted for 2100. Let me quote again what Bolt wrote: “Here he was, receiving film’s highest honour for his smash documentary, in which he warns that within a century the seas will rise up to 6m while monster hurricanes tear through what’s left of our cities.

    Never mind that scientists reject such wild claims.”

    In the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore never gave a time period for a six meter sea level rise, so you can either accept that Bolt is lying or you can try to convince me that this is some sort of uncharacteristic mistake by him that he does not repeat. As far as I can see those are the only two choices available to you.

  21. Terje

    “The flawed thinking is the belief that a large state sector is a good thing for society. And that any effort to reduce the size of the state is evil.”

    I don’t think that and I don’t know anyone who does. You are misunderstanding – or misrepresenting because of your need to maintain your self-assessment as a superior and more rational thinker person – what my ‘leftist’ friends and I want for society.

    I think the uninformed and ideologically based reduction of the size of the state that you adovcate is stupid and lazy. Evil is a religious concept and the use of the word reveals that your sophisticated arguments are based on unexamined? conservative fundamentalist assumptions about human nature.

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