Monday, November 29, 2010

Surely you can’t be serious? Part One–Sheehan and The Greens

Seemingly in anticipation and in honour of the great Leslie Nielsen’s passing, the print media in Australia seems to be full of laughs and pratfalls.

Over on the National Times, Paul Sheehan, obviously reasoning that Nielsen’s fame came mostly from parody, decided to write a column so absurd and full of stereotype and lacking in reality that I just assumed it was him attempting to parody what a right wing anti-Greens op-ed piece would look like if it were done by the satirical news-site, by The Onion. But then a friend informed me that, no, I was wrong – Sheehan actually was being serious (and don’t call him Shirley).

Sheehan's piece is an A to Z of the Green's policies. It is also a great example of how to repeat prejudices without reference to facts. All 26 of them? oh geez, I can’t be bothered, but let’s pick out a few highlights for some laughs:

Firstly his thesis is based on the fact that “The Greens” don’t only have policies that are about Green issues:

“It is simply not a party preoccupied with the environment”.

Well hell. He certainly has blown the lid off that secret hasn’t he! I can’t wait for his follow up article that explains that the Australian Labor Party has policies that aren't about industrial regulation. How dare The Greens branch out. They’re just like the Peoples Republic of China which, I don’t know if you know but they aren’t a republic. Damn, I bet the Greens had something to do with that – not to mention that whole German Democratic Republic thing. Bloody hell, why can’t things be what they claim to be – you know like the Liberal Party of Australia.

OK, under A for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, he tells us that The Greens received donations from the CFMEU and they hate the ABCC and therefore obviously The Greens want the ABCC abolished. Sheehan thinks that is the only reason The Greens want it abolished. He never considers that it might be the other way round – you know an organisation donates to a party because that party has a policy that the organisation agrees with. Gee, never heard of that happening before.

C: China. So great is the scale of power plant construction in China alone that even if Australia enforced a policy of zero greenhouse gas emissions, it would make almost no difference to global emissions. Thus Green urgency is based on principle rather than practical outcomes.

Yes, principles are bad. So I wonder if Sheehan thinks that Hawke and Keating should have waited for the rest of the world to lower all their tariffs before Australia did (the analogous argument put forward by George Megalogenis in his Quarterly Essay). Forget that – principles are bad – tell your children. 

D: Decadal Oscillation. A major complication for climate alarmists is a weather pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Decadal Oscillation. Their cycles have been measured for 1500 years. Every 24 to 31 years they alternate global warming and global cooling phases. Australia was due for a cooling phase, and this year's flooding rain is consistent with the onset of a cooling phase.

Ah a little scientific knowledge is dangerous. Let’s first use the Wikipedia link that Sheehan gives us to explain what is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO):

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a pattern of Pacific climate variability that shifts phases on at least inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years. The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, north of 20° N. During a "warm", or "positive", phase, the west Pacific becomes cool and part of the eastern ocean warms; during a "cool" or "negative" phase, the opposite pattern occurs.

Now, to Sheehan’s suggestion that it is a “major complication for climate alarmists”.  Well let’s call bullshit on that right now, and go over to the Skeptical Science website (which conveniently has a130 of the usual climate change denialist arguments all list and refuted.image 

Conveniently it has a graph of global temperature anomaly (ie global warming) set against that of the PDO. Rather unsurprisingly because the Pacific Decadal Oscillation oscillates – ie it goes up and down – it has no impact on long term global warming. Sure it has impacts on the short term, but if PDO was all Sheehan and his ilk say it is, those periods when there is a “cooling” the long terms anomaly would go down such that the long term trend would be flat. It ain’t.

Try again Paul.

E: Electrical Trades Union. The union gave $325,000 to the Greens campaign in Victoria during the federal election, including $125,000 to Adam Bandt's campaign.

Yes? And? Was this secret? Err no. Should the ALP be pissed about it  - well yes. But I struggle to find the point Sheehan is trying to make her. I guess he’s just stating facts and letting us discern the reasoning all by ourselves – which I’m not quite sure is the purpose of opinion pieces, but I may be wrong.

G: GetUp! This local clone of a hard-left American lobby group received $1.2 million from the aforementioned CFMEU during the federal election campaign. The money was used for an ad campaign that attacked Tony Abbott personally. GetUp! supports the Greens.

Ok. So The Greens are bad because an organisation Sheehan doesn’t like supports them. By that logic I can dislike Sheehan’s articles on the basis of the fact I don’t like someone who reads his and likes them. This step of logic is very helpful. Catch the Fire and the Exclusive Brethren supported John Howard and the Liberals, so now I don’t need to bother with any of the Liberal Party’s policies during Howard’s reign I can just say: Catch the Fire supports Howard. QED. Cheers Paul. Life is much easier now.

H: Heroin injecting room. Another left-wing obsession, and thus state-funded heroin injecting rooms is a core emotional issue for the Greens.

Oh sigh. Yep those injecting rooms are evil. I mean just look what that socialist newspaper The Australia reported last month:

Since the centre was opened in May 2001 it has been evaluated 11 times by five organisations. The most recent, commissioned by the state government, was performed by auditor KPMG.

"I think early on it was appropriate for this to be a trial," she says. "This was the first supervised injecting centre in the English-speaking world and although there were hopes for what it would do, there was no evidence."

By April this year, 12,000 individuals had used the centre, with staff members supervising an average of 200 injections a day. Since the centre opened, about 3500 people have overdosed on the premises without a single fatality. Ambulance call-outs to the area have dropped 80 per cent and the number of syringes and needles left on the street has halved.

There's no doubt the evidence is strong, says Alison Ritter, acting director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. "There's nothing equivocal about the scientific evaluations that have been done."

Yes, The Greens (and the ALP) support that. Evil. Crush them, I says!

I: Immigration. Also for Incoherent. The Greens want Australia to lower its greenhouse emissions and reduce stress on the environment, but they defeated the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme and their population policy is rendered irrelevant whenever the needs of refugees and asylum seekers are considered.

OK, I’d really like to know just how many asylum seekers Sheehan thinks we get each year. Let’s have some facts:


Settler arrival numbers 

Net permanent migration


84 100 

49 000


92 300 

51 200


107 400 

60 800


88 900 

40 700


93 900 

43 500


111 600 

52 500


123 400 

60 800


131 600 

63 700


140 100 

68 000


149 400 

72 400


158 021 

77 000 

So in 2008-09 we had 158,021 people migrating here. So lets say we get around 7,000 people come here by boat this year (probably more than there will be). That would be around 4 per cent of the total figure of the number of migrants who came here in 2008-09. If Sheehan thinks that amount has ANY significant impact on greenhouse emissions or stress on the environment (let alone the actual issue of migration), then he is a fool – or at least 4 per cent of a fool.

L: Lee Rhiannon. Classic post-Marxist. From a proudly activist Communist family.

Well hell. Run for the hills. You know, I don’t care what Sheehan’s mum or dad were or did. I’ll judge him by his own words, just as I’ll judge Rhiannon’s by her own; maybe Sheehan should do that as well.

U: Urban heat islands. Another complication for climate action alarmists is the general rise in temperatures measured in urban areas, reflecting the huge trend in global urbanisation.

Yeah, real complicated, because of course scientists wouldn't think to consider their data may be subject to bias. Oh but let’s have a look at a graph comparing rural and urban measurements:image

Hmmm. Not seeing a big skew there Paul. Maybe it’s just too darn complicated for me to get my head around.

W: Wild Rivers. Lock up Cape York. Then lock up northern Australia, while Aboriginal communities stew in the feudal squalor of progressive apartheid.

Well I guess that must be so. Let’s not suggest that there is actually a good deal of debate within the Aboriginal community of North Queensland on the Wild Rivers legislation and a good lot of them are not in agreement with Tony Abbott, Paul Sheehan and Noel Pearson. Take Carpentaria Land Council spokesman Murrandoo Yanner:

"It (wild rivers) doesn't prevent Aboriginal economic development.

"There's been 100 applications go through. There's been none put in from the Cape or rejected for the Cape."

Yep apartheid. Pure and simple.

Look I don’t particularly care that Sheehan is a right wing opinion writer. Heck I’m a left wing one (though not as left as people might like to suppose). I’m not even a Greens supporter (I’ve had a few goes at them on this blog) – though yes a few of my friends are Greens.

I certainly have  some agreement with some of Sheehan’s attacks on the Greens’ economic polices (some), but really is this the best he can do? His criticism is on the same level as me writing an article about why Sheehan is a useless journalist and writing: “S for Sydney Morning Herald: Sheehan writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, it has a awful website with stupid automatic video adverts.”

A bit of intelligence in an argument is all I ask. State your points and defend them with facts, not just state your points and either defend them with supposition or not defend them at all.


Anonymous said...

As they say, "any sufficiently fervently held belief is indistinguishable from satire".

I was really gutted about Leslie Nielsen. I had hoped that it was just a Twitter hoax, but unfortunately not. The man was a legend!

Alison said...

I hate to be nitpicky*, but the PRC is actually a Republic. A better example of a country with a misleading name would be the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is not Democratic. Remember, just because America does it, doesn't mean it's intrinsically "YAY, DEMOCRACY".

*Not really, that's just the most common way to begin a nitpick.

Greg Jericho said...

Alison, that is completely and utterly correct.

Bugger. :-)

Bushfire Bill said...

We watched The Forbidden Planet on BluRay last night in honour of the "serious" Leslie Neilsen. Much more illuminating and entertaining than a Sheehan column, the 7.30 Report, and any of the nightly newses all put together.

2353 said...

Grog, I saw this article yesterday on line and wondered why the electrons were wasted. I was thinking of a way to politely (as in would be printed as a comment) say the article was a load of crap - but couldn't.

To borrow a phrase, this is "a great piece".

ziming said...

is this the best he can do?

Where's Miranda Devine these days?

“S for Sydney Morning Herald: Sheehan writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, it has a awful website with stupid automatic video adverts.”

well at least fairfax seems to have taken away the annoying popup at the bottom of every article so there is hope yet

great piece!

han said...

According to Wikipedia:

republic is a form of government in which the people or some portion thereof retain supreme control over the government, and in which the head of government is not a monarch.

I grew up in the People's Republic of China and left at the age of 30. As far as I know, Chinese people have no control over the government (for example I never got one chance to vote for any level of government), so Greg's assertion is actually right that China is not a republic, and it certainly doesn't belong to the people. One memorable headline from a western newspaper during the 1989 crackdown was " The People's Liberation Army has saved the People's Republic from the People".

As for Sheehan, I remember he dedicated an entire article in the Herald a few years ago to the wonder of Krespe Kreme donuts when the first store was opened here. Its Australian operation went into administration last week, so enough said about his judgement.

Anonymous said...

It's "Miracle Water" Sheehan - what did you expect precise reasoning.

Stephen Hill

Alison said...


The key point there is "part thereof". If I am not mistaken, the CCP membership base is a "part of" the population of China. And the CCP does have supreme control over the government of China, and while people aren't necessarily free to vote for their government leaders, they are quite free to join the ruling party. You are making the same mistake that Greg did in the initial post: forgetting that 共和 and 民主 aren't synonyms.

In the Roman Republic, voting was a privilege reserved for male citizens. I could have grown up in the Roman Republic, left at the age of 30 and never once had the opportunity to vote, either because I was a woman, a slave or other non-citizen. In fact, for the majority of people living in the Roman Republic, this would have been the case. Thus, using the example you gave as a litmus test, the archetypal republic would be considered "not a republic". I think the problem here is quite obvious.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the write up. Seriously got my goat when I was reading it - for the reasons noted in your post!

Chris Grealy said...

Nice post, and it also goes to your next post about journalism.
As to Unions donating to the Greens; it's no secret that the ALP has pretty much abandoned their members in the dash to the Right. No-one should be surprised when those abandoned seek to support a party which will support them back in turn. I read yesterday that Gillard is "reaching out" to the trade unions now - about 4 years too late if you ask me.