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Climate Change & Public Service - Attacks on Critics
letters published in The Australian Financial Review and The Australian, 3 June 2011

When firmly-held beliefs and attitudes are challenged as lacking substance, those challenged sometimes respond by attacking the critic on personal grounds. Recent political exchanges in Canberra suggest we may currently be experiencing such an environment there, particularly in regard to climate change. To my mind that sends a signal that those challenged are having increasing trouble justifying their case.

I have now been at the receiving end of an ad hominem type strategy on this issue. The Letters Ed at AFR asked me if I objected to him publishing the letter below from former Macquarie Bank interest rate strategist, Rory Robertson. I told him I had no objection. However, the Editor himself decided to omit the para in square brackets (which “quotes” something I have never said). I do not propose to reply.

This letter follows a complaint from a Treasury Deputy Secretary regarding my AFR letter on Garnaut’s final (sic) report that he “can no longer stomach reading your outrageous misrepresentations”. I assume he is concerned at my portrayal of Garnaut’s views as comparable with those of Ehrlich and the Club of Rome in the early 1970s. But as the Deputy has been involved in modelling the economic side of climate change (of which there is more to come), he may feel personally challenged too.

Interestingly, the 13 economists who advertised in The Australian their support for a carbon tax made no reference to “the” science. Contrary to what should be normal practice by economists (and scientists too) of examining other views , they presumably simply accept the “warmist” version, which Garnaut now declares as “beyond reasonable doubt”. Note that a number of the 13 are employed by financial institutions that would benefit from trading in a system regulating emissions of carbon dioxide.

In a not unrelated matter, former Treasury Secretary, John Stone, has commented in The Australian on the appointment of recently resigned Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry as Special Adviser to Prime Minister Gillard. Stone has not had the same experience as me in that, without consultation, the Letter’s Ed deleted and changed words in the letter he wrote. The original version is set out below, with the changed/omitted words in bold.

I would add that, given that somehow Henry apparently remained in the Public Service even after he resigned, one wonders if the special adviser appointment was part of the resignation arrangement. One could also observe that, in the “old days” (before Rory Robertson came on the scene), Treasury would have published a politically independent analysis of the dangerous warming thesis. The politicisation of the public service (including in Victoria at least the police service) has made us, as Stone has said, a poorer nation.

Des Moore

Moore’s poor track record
letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 3 June 2011

Des Moore’s history lesson on dire warnings in the 1970s by “experts” who turned out to be quite wrong might usefully be extended (Letters, June 2).

As a retired deputy Treasury secretary and economist in the late-1980s, Moore quickly became Australia’s leading “Chicken Little” on the dangers of “foreign debt”.

By the late 1990s, after it became even more obvious that Australia’s “Boiling Frog” debt crisis was a silly false alarm,

[Moore manned-up and recanted: “I completely missed the fact that the financial world had changed, so it turns out that I didn’t really know what I was talking about”, he pretty much admitted. Sorry about that.]

Happily, Moore’s “out there” views back then generally were viewed by policymakers as erroneous but amusing, since he should have known better from the start. His flawed analysis on the big economic issue of the late-1980s sank with barely a trace.

These days, deep in his sunset years, Moore’s lounge room enjoys the glorious title of “The Institute for Private Enterprise” and he’s reinvented himself as a world leader in writing letters to newspapers explaining that global warming is a giant hoax perpetrated in country after country by armies of eminent scientists who think they are so smart.

Let’s hope that Moore’s policy influence as a prolific post-nap letter writer remains as strong as it was decades ago in his retirement heyday as a know-it-all economist.

Rory Robertson
Paddington NSW

A poorer nation
letter published in The Australian, 3 June 2011

Dr Ken Henry's appointment as a “special adviser" to the Prime Minister marks a clear watershed in the role and status of the Commonwealth Public Service.

Dr Henry, who resigned as Secretary to the Treasury last December, is entitled to take whatever job he (properly) chooses. However, the choice he has now made means that there can no longer be any shadow of doubt as to the politicization of his former role during his tenure of it.

For years now Dr Henry's behaviour as Secretary to the Treasury has come under increasing public scrutiny. Throughout, and despite my own growing doubts, I have refrained from any public criticism of him. Indeed, in a March, 2008 Quadrant article I went out of my way to criticize his treatment by the Howard Government over a particular incident in May, 2007. (I have since come to think that the Government was right, and I was in error).

My reluctance, until now, to criticize Dr Henry (and certain other Treasury officers, such as his successor, Dr Martin Parkinson) stemmed from my deeply held belief that the Treasury is a great national institution – an institution in whose intellectual integrity (and hence, political detachment) it is imperative that we be able to have faith. Sadly, I can no longer do so on either count.

In recent days another notable Australian, Professor Ross Garnaut, has also shed all semblance of political impartiality in his intellectually laughable, but irremediably politically tainted, final report to the Prime Minister on “global warming" and the proposed tax on carbon dioxide emissions. In the process, he has finally completed his own move from the role of respected professional economist to that of political hack.

These basically related developments have not come to pass overnight. They have been, under successive governments, some 35 years in the making, and Australia today is a poorer nation as a consequence.

John Stone, Lane Cove, NSW

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