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September 20th 2013 print

Roger Franklin

Solo Suzuki could use a sidecar

When the Q&A topic is the existence of God, pro and con points of view each get their champions. But at the ABC, where doubting catastrophic climate change is heresy, the globe-girdling and error-prone anti-carbon crusader David Suzuki has the microphone all to himself.


On Monday the ABC’s Tony Jones will introduce his Q&A audience to the night’s one and only guest, which doesn’t happen very often. Since 2010 only half a dozen individuals have been accorded the honour of the host and audience’s undivided attention. Five were or would become prime minister, and the sixth was Bill Gates. Next week another civilian, only the second to get an entire show to himself, will bring the tally of soloists to seven.

A big ABC welcome, ladies and gentlemen, for climate-change industry publicist and all-purpose alarmist David Suzuki.


The biologist-turned-talking head is not a statesman or shaper of nations. He has produced no software to make the world more productive and re-shape it in the process, nor has he poured billions of philanthropic dollars into projects he hopes will see a better, happier planet. Indeed, Suzuki has done the reverse by re-packaging the same pick-your-poison shtick that has been playing on the Doomsday Circuit since Malthus was a lad. We’re all going to drown, fry or starve, this jolly little eco elf will pronounce from the centre of Q&A’s spotlight, unless governments, guided by the likes of him, take much greater control of lives, property, investment and development.

As for politicians who do not share his views, they need to be jailed for crimes against Gaia.

See also: The Suzuki Method’s Dud Notes.

The only difference between this and a routine Suzuki appearance will be that ABC viewers won’t have to come up with a $30,000-per-50 minute speaking fee, nor the obligation to provide a phalanx of good looking female bodyguards – a demand, along with $781 for a personal photographer, that was presented to a Canadian school at which Suzuki spoke. His invoices are documented in the video below.

http://youtu.be/ejE9v6eVm7g

Disaster is Suzuki’s gospel and its bounty his reward, so expect the professional panic monger to stay on message.

Not quite so obvious, at least at a glance, will be the signal the national broadcaster seems to be sending a new government. Students of the ABC’s ways will interpret it thus: Get stuffed!

Q&A’s executive producer Peter McEvoy denies any such sentiment, responding to one in a series of questions posed by Quadrant Online with the assurance that he is guided now and always by the ABC’s charter and tradition of independence. That’s what he said, and an honest ABC journalist must be taken at his word. Accept that, however, and what you must also conclude is that McEvoy’s gift for diplomacy puts Sir Les Patterson to shame, as he doesn’t seem to care that his latest editorial decision piles another provocation atop two post-election weeks that have been rich with them.

There was the Chaser business with Chris Kenny and the doctored dog photo, a defamation lawyer’s delight prompted by the columnist’s view that the ABC is long overdue for sweeping reform. Then there was Tony Jones appearing to goad a minor Indonesian politician into denouncing Abbott and threatening strained relations if Australia dares to defend the integrity of its borders. And don’t overlook last Monday’s  Q&A, which featured four Labor- or Greens-aligned guests  and the pretense of balance embodied in Clive Palmer, who is no conservative’s idea of a conservative.

Now comes Suzuki, just as the Climate Commission has been laid off and preparations are underway to repeal the Carbon Tax. As messages go, this one could not be any more clear if the ABC were to send over a tattooist’s gift certificate to have it inscribed on Communications Minister Turnbull’s  forehead. Then again, as Turnbull is both a warmist and a Q&A favourite, the expectation might well be that he would wear it with pride.

Climate change, like the existence of God, is a contentious issue on which reasonable people can politely disagree. When Q&A tackled the latter topic, on April 9, 2012, it recruited spokesmen for both views and pitted atheist Richard Dawkins against Cardinal George Pell. But anthropogenic climate change and its consequences are not open to the sort of debate that surrounds the existence of a Supreme Being, not at the ABC at any rate, so Suzuki is to get his solo turn at the lectern. Sadly, that will limit the potential for lively viewing, as Suzuki’s handlers have been known to demand that police remove unconvinced reporters from the auditorium, even when they are holding an official invitation to be there. Watch the video at this link for the sort of footage ABC audiences will not get to see.

Nor will there be anyone to the other side of Tony Jones to quiz Suzuki about this prediction on page three of his 1990 book, Survival:

…there are too many of us; we consume too much; we pollute too much; and we are blinded by our complacent acceptance of a dangerously outmoded system of beliefs and values.

Research groups such as the Worldwatch Institute…tell us that we have fewer than 10 years to turn things around or “civilization as we know it will cease to exist.”

And if he is asked about his view, first expressed in 2008, that politicians who spurn his advice need to be jailed, that would quite the surprise:

“What I would challenge you to do is to put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there’s a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail because what they’re doing is a criminal act,” said Dr. Suzuki, a former board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s an intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years.”

Suzuki later said that goal was not meant to be taken seriously, but it is hard to be sure about that because he keeps on repeating it (emphasis added).

INTERVIEWER: David Suzuki, in 2008, you urged McGill University students to speak out against politicians who fail to act on climate change and said, quote, “What I would challenge you to do is put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there’s a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail, because what they’re doing is a criminal act,” you said.

Do you still feel the same way today? And what exactly are the crimes that are being committed?

SUZUKI: Absolutely! Absolutely!…

So how does it happen that a false prophet with a pronounced totalitarian streak gets a 60-minute turn in the ABC pulpit?

Below are the questions Quadrant Online sent to Executive Producer McEvoy. His responses are in italics.

Dear Peter,

I am intrigued that Q&A will on Monday devote the entire show to one man, David Suzuki, whom the national broadcaster will present on his lonesome, untroubled by any fellow guests who might offer alternate views. Going solely on Suzuki’s column yesterday in the Age and SMH, a compendium of error and omission (as I have noted at Quadrant Online) it seems to me that the Monday show’s remarkably short guest list could do with a little balance.

That you have decided otherwise prompts me to ask:

1/ Did Suzuki, or the David Suzuki Foundation, insist that it be his show and his show alone? I ask because he has something of a record of refusing to appear with anyone likely to be critical, recently having threatened to summon the Mounties unless a reporter … removed herself from the auditorium in which he was speaking. This was too much even for the head of Canada’s Greens, who protested that the…reporter should be allowed to remain, alas to no avail.*

No

2/ If Suzuki did not insist on being a one-man show, was it your decision to give him such unalloyed prominence?

It was my decision.

3/ If it was your decision, on what basis did you make it?

As executive producer of Q&A I believe there is an opportunity to have more solo Q&As like the successful Q&A with Bill Gates we did earlier this year

4/ How many other one-man shows has Q&A staged? I can think only of John Howard and Julia Gillard, although there may have been others I missed in favour of Storage Wars or Duck Dynasty.

Would I be right in deducing that you rate Suzuki the equal in stature and authority of two former prime ministers?

Q&A has had numerous solo shows. Most have been with political leaders from both sides. Only two have been with non politicians – John Howard post politics and Bill Gates. David Suzuki will be the third

5/ As there will be no other guests, could you ask Tony Jones to put this question: “How does the father of five children keep a straight face while decrying population growth?”

Questions can be submitted online through the Q&A website but I have forwarded yours on.

6/ As Australia has just elected a government which campaigned against the Carbon Tax and has wasted no time putting Tim Flannery and others out of their jobs at the Climate Commission, as it promised, do you not think it reasonable that a guest in addition to your marquee catastropharian might help the show better reflect Australians’ current division of opinion on the matter of anthropogenic climate change and what might be done about it?

No. We expect Professor Suzuki to face challenging questions from the audience and have invited a range of people with contrary views to his to join the audience and submit questions.

And finally, a query I put on behalf of friends who raised it this morning, when we were chatting about the peculiar business of Q&A having only a single guest — and a much-disputed one at that.

7/ Is Suzuki’s solo show a statement of the ABC’s feisty intent to ignore and defy members of the new government, and a good many others, who perceive a lack of balance and fairness. Coming so soon after the election, you can perhaps appreciate how a cynical soul might leap to that conclusion. No doubt you will keen to allay that suspicion.

ABC editorial decisions are made with independence and integrity in accord with ABC editorial policies. Q&A has and will continue to include a diversity of perspectives.

As the former(?) producer of Media Watch I take it as a given that you will be eager to see my curiosity about the workings and motives of the media satisfied, so I look forward to your prompt response.

Regards
Roger Franklin
Editor, Quadrant Online

PS: If you would like a counter perspective, I can put you in touch with any number of Quadrant contributors who would love the opportunity to debate Suzuki. Our Tony Thomas, for example, has the makings of a splendid guest, and I know Ian Plimer would jump at such an opportunity.

It could be fun! Rather than a sermon to the choir you might be able to stage a debate, and they are always better value for money.

That would be taxpayer money, by the way – roughly $1.2 billion of it per year. You might think it a sufficient sum to buy a bit of balance, but until the ABC is reformed you would be even more wrong than David Suzuki.

*Question #1, as originally sent, confused the gender of the reporter and the organisation for which she worked. Like Suzuki, but rather less often, Quadrant Online editors are capable of getting their facts wrong.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online