Saltbush silly limits

The long arm of the mining industry is everywhere, sticking its shadowy fingers into as many pork pies as it can find.

The Saltbush Club is the latest conspiracy-theory entrant into the climate wars. Among its directors are legacy mining men Hugh Morgan of Western Mining and Jerry Ellis, previously on mahogany row at BHP and a former grand fromage at the Minerals Council of Australia.

Old favourite Ian Plimer is also a member of the club, which recently received a rousing endorsement in the Pied Piper outlets of similarly aged media gnome Lord Moloch. How do we join this exclusive outfit, or are we in Groucho Marx territory of really not wanting to belong to a club that would have us as members?

The Saltbushers are dedicated to climate denialism and to getting Australia out of the Paris agreement. The executive director is Viv Forbes, who comes from the coal industry and founded something called the Carbon Sense Coalition, which defends the “role of carbon on earth and in the atmosphere”.

Moneybags Morgan has been busy with other pro-carbon organisations. He was co-founder of the global-cooling Lavoisier Group, which was opposed to the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and more recently a founding member of Clexit. As in, Climate Exit. The latter is urging the government to abandon “this suicidal global warming crusade”.

According to the people at Renew Economy, Lord Christopher Monckton has also been a committee member, along with Marc Morano of the US fossil fuel funded “think tank” Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

You wouldn’t read about it.

And Environment Minister Melissa Price, who hails from the Western Australian mining industry, is currently at the United Nations climate conference in Katowice, Poland, going her hardest to ensure we don’t improve or even meet our emission target.

Emission denied

Which gets us to Goosebumps Cater and the Menzies “Research” Centre, where we find on the board Mitch Hooke and that old warhorse Kevin McCann, ex Allens, ex Macquarie Bank, and so on.

Hooke is a former head of the Minerals Council of Australia and a highly effective lobbyist for the cause. Is it any wonder then that we find Goosebumps behaving like a muddle-headed wombat?

In an article for the MRC he lays into Opposition spokesman Mark Butler for saying that the national energy guarantee will reduce power prices “in the order of $550”.

In fact, Butler was throwing a teargas canister back at the government, who threw it first. Trumble cited that figure and Josh Frydenberg and SloMo used it as well, and the soon to be former member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, promised that when he got rid of the carbon tax, $550 would magically come off your power bills. Needless to say, this was another piece of fake news, because it just didn’t happen.

One more skew-whiff piece of misinformation from Crater is his insistence that we’ll be meeting our emissions target for the energy sector ahead of schedule as well as meeting our general emissions target.

I don’t know what powders he’s been taking, but this is what it says in the “Emissions Gap Report” for 2018: “There has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the [Nationally Determined Contribution] target. The latest projection published by the government shows that emissions would remain at high levels rather than reducing in line with the 2030 target.”

So much for “at a canter”.

Sorry to bang on about this, but somehow Gadfly feels it’s important to point out that this circle of mining-aligned outfits, each one disappearing up its own fundament, is peddling the most absurd conspiracies.

Of course, studies show that for many people with extreme views, facts don’t matter at all, what matters is “cultural cognition”, where individuals shape their views to accord with the community to which they aspire to belong.

X files

Victoria’s “Lawyer X” case is intriguing. She was busy shopping her criminal clients to the wallopers, while the wallopers were shopping her to various interested parties with big mouths.

According to her letter of June 30, 2015, to assistant commissioner Steve Fontana, “Lawyer X”, aka “Informant 3838”, aka “EF”, said her identity had been leaked by the police a year earlier and ever since she has been living with “paralysing fears and uncertainty as well as heightened danger that impacts upon my existence”.

Knowledge also spread to the legal community and the judges. “The legal community in Victoria, including its judiciary, have formed a view that means I have now lost many friendships and relationships (professional and personal).”

Then she added: “... every assurance given to me was a lie and more importantly, that the investigators who took my statement were not made aware of the very real problems with respect to my safety and status.”

So much for trusting the coppers. All this was happening three to four years ago and in the interim “Lawyer X” has managed to dodge a bullet.

The hair-raising details emerged from a corruption commission inquiry, the details of which the DPP, in the interests of “justice”, wanted to pass on to “X’s” convicted clients, notably Antonios Mokbel and six of his criminal associates.

The Victorian coppers started court challenges to stop the DPP doing this. Belatedly, they wanted to protect their snout and conducted an “assessment”, which according to the High Court found that if the information was disclosed “the risk of death to EF would become ‘almost certain’ ”.

However, the informant didn’t want to go into witness protection because that would be worse than taking your chances on the street.

The High Court judges decided the protection of the identity of the informant “must be subordinated to the integrity of the criminal justice system”. They were shocked – shocked – that a lawyer could do anything so reprehensible. As for the police, their behaviour was “atrocious”. 

So here we are. The identity of “X” is notorious and her name is on many lips, which makes the suppression order a meaningless fiction. Meanwhile, patching up the public’s confidence in the “debased” law’n’order business has been shunted to a royal commission. Much of those proceedings will have to be suppressed, otherwise citizens will know more than is good for them.

Earhart of darkness

SloMo, the sideshow spruiker, said that the recently deceased George H. W. Bush was a “true and great friend of Australia who fought for freedom and democracy”.

Of course he was. In particular he was a true and great friend to John Conley, aircraft sales and spare parts man, originally from Broken Hill. Conley, not to be confused with the Sydney corporate affairs guru, was a little known but larger-than-life character who did secret and pressing work for the CIA.

When he was elected president in November 1988, Bush insisted Conley attend his inauguration the following January. “You’re coming,” he ordered.

How did this happen to an Australian cowboy who left school at 13 and went into the aircraft leasing, sales, and spare parts business?

Even before he was CIA director, Bush had connections with Conley, coming to Australia and meeting him at his home in Darling Point. Those with memories of the time understand that Conley had the job of sourcing for the CIA second-hand aircraft and getting them to Taiwan, from where they would be sent into service for the South Vietnamese on behalf of the Americans.

The planes were diverted in this backdoor manner so that, for political purposes, there were no US fingerprints on the supply of equipment to the South Vietnamese.

There was also activity in supplying aircraft for American missions in Laos against the Pathet Lao, which ultimately took over the country in 1975, when Bush was head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the process, Conley collected huge brokerage fees and lived rather high on the hog in Sydney and beyond. There is a suggestion that he also had an important role in Air America, used for CIA operations in Indochina.

He had the lease on hangar No. 1 at Mascot, in which lived a gleaming Lockheed Electra of the type flown by Amelia Earhart, a gift to him from the US Navy. One of his friends said he also flew a plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was defended for breaches of the flying regulations by the barrister John Foord.

And there he is, the Boy from Broken Hill, in the photo of Poppy Bush being sworn in by chief justice William Rehnquist at the US Capitol.

Trumpette #98

The net is tightening around the circle of spivs, crooks, grifters, liars, racketeers, bounders and hookers who surround the president of the USA, otherwise known as “Individual 1” in the criminal proceedings involving Michael Cohen.

People often lie when they plead not guilty, but Trump has accused Cohen of lying in pleading guilty. Lying about a guilty plea requires real skill.

The former fixer is singing like a canary. So too the momentary national security adviser Michael Flynn. In fact, Flynn has sung so beautifully that Robert Mueller thinks he should be spared jail time.

Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign director, pleaded guilty and agreed to co-operate with the Russia inquiry but then breached his plea deal by lying to the FBI. Trump said he felt sorry for him.

Now Roger Stone says he won’t give documents to a senate inquiry, invoking the fifth. Trump has congratulated him for going to the trouble of hiding the incriminating stuff.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Labor secretary Alexander Acosta let a very rich sex abuser, Jeffrey Epstein, off the hook back when Acosta was the top prosecutor in Miami. As Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times put it: “… while Acosta’s record covering up for a depraved plutocrat makes him a good fit for the Trump administration, it should disqualify him from public service.”

The acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, also knew of fraud complaints against a company he advised, yet took no action. And these are just two examples of the administration’s lawlessness.

Some might think standards are slipping.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 8, 2018 as "Gadfly: Saltbush silly limits".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes 500Words.com.au.