High and Dry, by Guy Pearse

Guy Pearse’s book, High and Dry has been reviewed by Tim Flannery:

The Prime Minister and several of his key ministers, Pearse asserts, have been captured by a group of industries and their lobbyists, known as the greenhouse mafia. They have infiltrated deep into the bureaucracy and they continue to make sure the Prime Minister and his ministers hear nothing by way of advice but what they want them to hear. There is consequently, Pearse says, no debate whatsoever in cabinet on climate change. The Prime Minister simply elucidates his policy and the party follows.

Pearse describes the think tanks, industries, bureaucrats and individuals that provide advice to the Prime Minister on climate change and the media outlets that propagate the resulting party line. In the inner circle is a group that Pearse (following Clive Hamilton) calls the Prime Minister’s XI. Hugh Morgan is characterised as team captain, while Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is included, and so (as 12th man) is Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief at The Australian.


  1. #1 jc
    August 12, 2007

    “Pearse describes the think tanks, industries, bureaucrats and individuals that provide advice to the Prime Minister on climate change and the media outlets that propagate the resulting party line”

    Ha? Andrew Norton gives a far different account:


    I can’t ever recall Andrew Norton ever discussing AGW yet Guy little book mentions Andrew as holding sway.

    In fact Andrew does point out on one those links that yes, he has expressed an opinion, however it is an opinion supporting action.

    So where does Flannery get these accusations from? Of course it must the from Guy’s book. And on and on it goes

  2. #2 Verdurous
    August 12, 2007

    “High and dry”, together with Hamilton’s “scorcher” provide shocking insights into the links between mining, coal and associated industry groups, and the government of the day. There ought to be riots in the streets. Democracy gone awry.

  3. #3 Jack Lacton
    August 12, 2007

    Rubbish. There is no greenhouse mafia. I am personal friends with one of the senior scientists who advises the government on this matter and he tells me how the process really works. Those on the left that deride the government on this topic would be surprised at how robust the process really is.

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    August 12, 2007

    jc, despite Andrew Norton’s protestations, the CIS has most certainly promoted the fossil fuel industry line on greenhouse policy.

    Jack, if someone like you endorses the process, that increases the likelihood that Pearse is correct.

  5. #5 dhogaza
    August 12, 2007

    Those on the left

    I think you meant “on the side of science”, didn’t you?

    that deride the government on this topic would be surprised at how robust the process really is.

    “Robust” as in “robustly ignoring science”, right?

  6. #6 JC
    August 12, 2007

    Let’s be clear about Andrew Norton himself. This is what Norton himself has said about his views in Pearse’s little book.

    >To argue that ‘neo-liberal’ think-tanks influence Howard, Pearse has to show their connections to the government. And this is where I come in:

    >>Andrew Norton, while not so vocal on greenhouse policy, is another at CIS with close links to the Howard government. He was once an adviser to former environment minister David Kemp.

    >’Not so vocal’? ‘Not vocal at all’ would be closer to it. So far as I can find, my only expressed opinion on greenhouse policy was this passing reference in a blog post this February that does not support Pearse’s case:

    >>There is a political consensus that something needs to be done about climate change, not because we are necessarily 100% certain about the science, but because policymakers cannot do nothing in the face of potentially catastrophic risks. Few decisions are made with perfect information.

    So Pearse smears Norton, which Flannery doesn’t object to. In fact calls Pearse a “patriot”. But hey, who cares, Flannery can just pocket the review fee from the SMH and no one will be the wiser.

    Norton then continues

    >”Without any actual evidence, Pearse has to resort to connections and indirect influence. In this case, it seems to be that Greg Lindsay is President of the Mont Pelerin Society, some of whose members are climate change sceptics; and because Alex Robson, who has written for the CIS, has also published a couple of climate change sceptic newspaper articles (though not for the CIS); and because he controls the CIS. Yet the whole CIS has had only marginally more to say on the issue than its silent Executive Director. As I noted in comments to my Scorcher post, the CIS has published only a handful of articles on global warming, and nothing for several years.”

    So if the CIS is in the pocket of the climate skeptics as Flannery asserts they haven’t being doing much in the last few years to earn their keep.

  7. #7 Jc
    August 12, 2007

    I don’t want to over-dramatize this. Actually yes I do.

    1. Pearse smears Andrew Norton about climate change.
    2. Norton has said previously that he supports action on climate change.
    3. This alone places Pearse’s little book in question.
    4. Pearse of course has not made any attempt to correct that false assertion

    We then have Flannery riding into town with his 10-gallon hat, and shiny new badge calling Pearse a patriot for writing this book.

    It would be a good time to be a cattle rustler or stagecoach “holder upper” because the new sheriff can’t shoot straight. Not only can’t he shoot straight but also he thinks the crooks are the good guys!

    How do I get some of that SMH review loot? I want in!

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    August 12, 2007

    JC, the CIS has published more than handful of articles taking a position on global warming. I searched their site and found 13. Without exception, they all take the deny/delay line as Pearse suggests. If you go the CIS site and look at their Research Staff, you’ll see that their designated expert on climate change is Roger Bate, who is as big a denialist as you are ever likely to find.

  9. #9 Jc
    August 12, 2007

    SMH has run denial pieces. It doesn’t make them denialists? The ABC ran Swindle and the ABC could hardly be described as anything other than having a pro-warming stance. Heroically so, i might add!

    13 pieces hardly constitutes a stance from a group that produces countless articles. I have never heard of Roger Bate and take your word for it.

    However this isn’t the point.

    The point is that Pearse wrote a book implying a cabal was working behind the scenes influencing government policy over AGW. The book mentions Andrew as one these people and is clearly incorrect. It mentions the CIS and the CIS’s contributions have been 13 articles from a several years ago.

    This is what the CIS website says:

    In May 2005 CIS Director Greg Lindsay said that the Centre had an annual income of around $2 million, of which one-third came from corporations, one-third from foundations and one-third from individuals.”We’ve never committed ourselves to do anything for any of our supporters,” he said. [3]

    On the CIS’s website it states that “we do not accept government funding, nor do we derive any income from political parties or groupings.” [4] It also claims that it is politically non-partisan, and that it is not influenced by it’s funders: “‘Independent’ in our name means: We are politically non-partisan; Research is not directed by our supporters,” it states. [5] The CIS is also one of only seven organisations mentioned by name in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 as tax-deductible gift recipients, entitling donors to claim gifts as tax-deductions. [6]

    Also, the CIS, while asserting that research is not “directed” by its supporters, clearly makes an effort not the advocate policies which would disadvantage its many corporate donors. For instance, while the Centre has been a strong advocate of liberal economics (ie: opposing government intervention in the economy), it has always avoided the issue of considerable government subsidies for Australian mining and oil companies, with whose money the CIS was founded and which continue to be major CIS funders (see below).

    The CIS also keeps almost all of its corporate funders secret. While it receives at least $800,000 from corporations, its policy is only to identify sponsors where they agree. [7] Companies which have been publicly disclosed and confirmed by the CIS as its funders include:

    * BHP Billiton
    * Shell
    * ICI – now a subsidiary of Orica
    * Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation [8]

    Take BHP. BHP has excellent environmental objectives and it takes this issue very seriously. So seriously in fact that Tim Flannery has spoken to the board on a few occasions.

    Does this make Flannery a corporate stooge then?

    The point is that the articles you refer to were written several years ago when the science wasn’t as settled as it is now.

    The CIS was maligned in that book. Norton was smeared and Flannery took a review fee.

    It’s not a happy ending.

  10. #10 Tim Lambert
    August 12, 2007

    JC, it’s not that they’ve published skeptic pieces, it’s that they’ve published nothing else. That may be, as you suggest, because they don’t want to offend their funders, or it may be that they are all skeptics. It doesn’t matter — the effect is the same.

    Unless you want to argue that CIS publications have no influence whatsoever on the government. In which case they may as well shut up shop.

  11. #11 Jc
    August 12, 2007

    Now come on Tim, this is being silly. You’re now inferring that because they have no position on AGW over the recent years they must have a position otherwise they aren’t infuencing government.

    Well there’s 1,000’s of ways to influence government policy about other than AGW. The CIS obviously specialises in the things it does well. They could very well have stopped discussing AGW for that very reason. We should applaud them if that is the case.

    However this is the point though. The real point is that Flannery gave this book a pretty good rating. The book maligns both Norton and the CIS in a pretty bad way.

    So far from being the ” patriot” as Flannery describs Pearse, he turns out to be a maligner of the first order (from Norton’s account).

  12. #12 Tim Lambert
    August 12, 2007

    Sorry JC, but the CIS has been promoting denial and delay, just as Pearse wrote. You just have to search the CIS site to see this. It is not a smear to accurately describe what they have been doing.

  13. #13 Jc
    August 12, 2007

    Tim, I searched their site. It’s an empty cupboard since about 2002. The only thing they seemed strongly against at the time was signing up to Kyoto. This isn’t exactly suprising since they are a quasi libertarian, free market site.

    I would bet they would be in favour of a carbon tax if asked.

  14. #14 blf
    August 12, 2007

    I would bet they would be in favour of a carbon tax if asked.

    May I suggest that whoever does ask to please post both the exact question and (presuming permission is granted) full answer?

  15. #15 Andrew Norton
    August 12, 2007

    On my count there are 5 items on the CIS website that have a substantial discussion of greenhouse, though more with passing mentions. Not all the 5 are ‘denialist’. The website goes back about 10 years so this indicates very little attention given to the issue, and as Jc points out nothing has been published for some years. Most were in Policy, which publishes about 70 articles and reviews each year, and which doesn’t indicate endorsement beyond the editor’s judgment as to what readers might find interesting.

    In my view, the prospect of influence is limited unless an issue is pushed consistently over a long period of time. The CIS simply hasn’t done this with greenhouse.

  16. #16 Tim Lambert
    August 12, 2007

    I counted 13 pieces that took a position either on the existence of AGW, or on whether action was advisable. Without exception, the position was either denial (“its not happening!”) or delay (“we shouldn’t do anything!”).

  17. #17 Andrew Norton
    August 12, 2007

    Tim – Even if all your 13 could be classed as advocating a position, that averages the issue being mentioned a little over once a year in the life of the website. A topic that the CIS is pushing – higher education – scores 500 mentions in a search of the site, and on that influence could generously be described as limited.

    BTW, Greg Hunt’s speech clearly accepts the reality of climate change.

    I’m not passing any general judgment on Pearse’s book, as I have not read most of it. But his argument on the CIS was silly – he included people (eg me and Greg Lindsay) who had said nothing at all on the issue.

    Given that much of the greenhouse debate centres on the standard of evidence, it is ironic that he made such poorly supported accusations of ignoring evidence.

  18. #18 Jason Soon
    August 13, 2007

    Read Andrew’s comment again

    “Most were in Policy, which publishes about 70 articles and reviews each year, and which doesn’t indicate endorsement beyond the editor’s judgment as to what readers might find interesting”

    How many times are you going to go on repeating an obvious untruth? List the 13 you allege. How many were in Policy? Why aren’t there more pro-greenhouse articles on Policy? perhaps because they are less likely to submit such pieces? The editoral

    Policy frequently publishes articles on things CIS either doesn’t agree with or had never had a clearly defined position on such as euthanasia or drugs or open immigration. It has interviewed people it doesn’t fully endorse. It has published Mark Latham and various Labor members. It has published both Kim Weatherall against copyrighrt extension and others for copyright extension? What are you claiming here? That Policy is the CIS official mouthpiece?

    They publish whatever people are willing to submit which meets quality referee standards.

  19. #19 Tim Lambert
    August 13, 2007

    Jason, explain yourself. What is this untruth you allege that I am repeating?

    Has there been some pro-greenhouse science article in Policy that I missed?

  20. #20 Jc
    August 13, 2007

    Don’t think he’s saying that, Tim. He’s suggesting that omission etc. doesn’t mean the CIS have policy position regarding AGW. We aready know Norton was smeared as he has a position. He believes in action.

    You’re in sense supporting Pearse’s and Flannery’s position.

    Pearse don’t have a exhaust pipe to hold onto and the new sherriff just gave the bad guy a pass.

    Flannery ought to be more careful with what he says…. (again).

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    August 13, 2007

    Well JC, why is Jason bringing up copyright extension where they’ve apparently published stuff from both sides, if it is unlike their publishing on global warming, where it’s all on one side.

  22. #22 Jc
    August 13, 2007


    We’re moving away from the point of the thread.

    Was Pearse accurate with the reference to Norton? Appears he wasn’t.

    1.Was Pearse accurate with the characterization of the CIS. Appears not. (CIS took a position years ago and the science has moved on since)

    2.On this basis does Pearse’s book suffer from a credibility issue? Appears so.

    3.Does Flannery look a little silly for giving the book thumbs up? Appears so.

    Please correct any of the points made.

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