Alas That We All Had Dick Smith’s Clout

Poor Dick Smith. As you probably know by now, the Australian entrepreneur and conservationist – founder of Dick Smith Electronics, Australian Geographic and Dick Smith Foods – was hit by the everyday reality that anyone who dares to question the Left’s narrative on climate becomes a target. For those who haven’t followed the story, I’ll give a quick recount.   

In a radio interview, Smith challenged the CSIRO’s claim that we can run the country on wind and solar alone. He called it out as a lie saying, “No country has ever been able to run entirely on renewables,” he said.”That’s impossible.”

On cue arrived the ‘fact’ checkers, ABC RMIT Fact Check (there are two others). It ‘fact-checked’ Smith by speaking to a few cherry-picked ‘experts’ from around the world who listed Nepal, Paraguay, Albania and Bhutan as examples of countries that have an electricity grid entirely run on renewables. Only, Dick Smith never said he was talking about electricity alone. Electricity forms just a part of the entire energy mix used by any nation, and on that metric, Dick Smith was absolutely correct. Even Nepal, Paraguay, Albania and Bhutan use vast amounts of firewood (for heating and cooking) and fossil fuels (for transport). 

Smith launched a media counterattack. He went on 2GB radio and savaged the fact-checkers, then wrote a public letter to ABC Managing Director David Anderson pointing out the errors in the ‘fact check’ and adding his green credentials for good measure: Smith took part in Australia’s first ‘solar challenge’ car race, drives an EV, and relies heavily on renewables at home. Within hours, ABC RMIT Fact Check had added a correction to its article and issued an apology.

There are three things I want to point out about this fiasco.

Why did ABC RMIT Fact Check not seek a clarification from Dick Smith about what he meant before labelling him a liar? Let’s not kid ourselves because that is exactly what they did – imply he was misleading people with his statement. 

They didn’t do it because it is not their practice to reach out to the person or organisation being fact checked to understand where they are coming from. Fact-checkers don’t see themselves as journalists who have to present both sides of the story. They see themselves more as police, judge and jury all rolled into one. When they pick something you have said for an investigation your motives are already under suspicion. You won’t even know you are being investigated, let alone being allowed the opportunity to explain yourself or get a right of reply. 

The second thing worth pointing out is that being fact checked has real world implications. Australia has three self-appointed ‘fact’ checking organisations: AAP FactCheck, RMIT FactLab and RMIT ABC Fact Check. If they label any public claim made by you as false or misleading, that label will forever appear on all social media posts by anyone sharing the interview / article / blog post in which the claim was made. I’ll leave it to your imagination what that does to anyone’s reputation. Alarmingly, the Albanese government is drafting legislation to counter “misinformation/disinformation” on social media platforms, which could further empower such fact-checkers.) 

The final point worth knowing is that the three Australian fact-checkers have a penchant for going after people on the right side of politics. The Institute of Public Affairs just released research which exhaustively examined all publicly available fact-check investigations posted online (up to February 9, 2024) by all three fact-checkers on three issues about which the right and left sharply diverge: climate change, COVID policy and identity and sexuality. The findings reveal that the investigations favoured left-of-centre politicians 65 per cent of the time, and right-of-centre politicians only 35 per cent of the time. It also found

♦  94 per cent of fact-checking investigations relating to Covid-19 targeted critics of the official response to the pandemic (who, as we know, hav een largely right-leaning or libertarians).

♦ 81 per cent of fact-checking investigations relating to climate change and energy policy targeted critics, who are usually right-leaning. By contrast, almost none of the controversial claims made by activists, such as predictions of imminent catastrophe, are investigated.

♦ Of the 17 investigations into claims relating to identity and sexuality – another policy focus of the Left – 16 investigations targeted critics of the political Left’s positions on these matters.

This fact-checkers’ obsession with the right has real world implications in a democracy where right-leaning individuals form half the country (and hopefully growing!). They should be able to participate freely in the public debate without worrying about their reputations being permanently tarnished by incompetents who cannot tell (or refuse to recognise) the difference between a country’s energy mix and its electricity grid or that it is ridiculous to present underdeveloped countries such as Nepal and Paraguay as in anyway models for Australia. 

The real scandal in the Dick Smith saga is not that the fact-checkers targeted him for his views on Australia’s energy policy but that the only reason his complaints received a belated fair hearing from the ABC is because he could publicly prove his credentials as an EV-hugger and solar-lover. Others aren’t so fortunate.

Nick McGowan is a Liberal member of Victoria’s upper house

20 thoughts on “Alas That We All Had Dick Smith’s Clout

  • ianl says:

    It is really disappointing that after the ABC crab-walked around the issue Dick Smith has allowed the matter to rest.

    I had hoped Smith would refuse to accept the ABC’s weaselly “apology” (note this apology uses the word inference to excuse itself, but without stating who had made the inference) and continued with the defamation action. Cross-examination of ABC’s “experts” under oath (especially those from the CSIRO) and a refusal to settle outside court if that entailed confidentiality sounds good to me.

    • geoff rankin says:

      I believe Malcolm Roberts from One Nation Party took on the CSIRO some time ago demanding proof that atmospheric CO2 gas was responsible for runaway warming of our planet. They could not do so, as I recall.

  • Michael says:

    The woke left is increasingly seeking to define any dissent from its ideology as illegal – misinformation, disinformation, or hate speech.


    I remember the early days of Dick Smith when he had a little red store on the Pacific Highway at Crows Nest, sort of opposite the cemetery and the tech college. In those days I also occasionally saw one of his little delivery vans tootling around, oddly with, with “Dick Smidt sagt…” painted on the side panels.
    Well, many years later Dick Smidt sagt “Die Faktenprüfung des ABC ist Bull****”.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    The question of whether a country can survive with electricity (as opposed to all energy) coming from renewables remains to be answered. No examples exist at present, to my knowledge. Small projects such as King Island routinely need other fuels such as diesel. The idea that 100% renewables is plausible for Australia is favoured by AEMO with support from CSIRO modelling.
    New York is one location currently widening the debate, with increasing recognition of a gap in supply when there is inadequate sunshine and wind. Workable solutions that do not use hydrocarbons are not yet apparent, but fall into the “ambition” category.
    Hard, proper science and engineering need a say, with ideology excluded. Geoff S

    • RB says:

      That has been done but roundly ignored.
      It all falls over at the first hurdle, materials with which to make all of the things Greta dreams of cannot be mined in sufficient volume to meet the ludicrous targets set.
      We will need to 3 X the world volume of copper mined (7-10 years to get a new mine cracking) makes every word coming from Blackout Bowen complete bullshit or greatly underpriced.
      Hydrogen, storage and handling should be most amusing, especially as it requires one to tool around with a pressure vessel @ 13Bar containing liquid hydrogen that has previously been reduced in temperature to something in the order of 20 kelvin.
      It should be exciting when two such vehicles meet by accident, especially with the added thrill of embrittlement (HE) of metal storage containers to feed the terror.

      • Libertarian says:

        Very true, you don’t want to be anywhere near a gas leak at 190psi and -275°C

        I expect anything immediately downstream will self destruct within a minute.

  • Brian Boru says:

    I was pleased to read that Dick Smith gave the “fact makers” some curry.

  • Tezza says:

    The ABC apologised narrowly to Dick Smith for falsely stating he was against renewables. They did not apologise for utterly misrepresenting what he clearly said (referring to countries, not power grids) nor for using clearly stupid examples which, on ‘clarification’ only proved Dick’s point: no country can run entirely on renewable energy.
    It is telling that even when clearly contradicted by their own examples, the ABC ‘fact checkers’ cannot bring themselves to say the simple truth: Dick Smith was entirely correct, and the ABC ‘fact checkers’ were entirely wrong.
    These are the ideological hacks with no subject specialisation who Labor will rely on for their ‘misinformation’ censorship.

    • Libertarian says:

      True Tessa, and when the trade union’s ministry of truth is empaneled, it will be illegal to point out their ABC got it completely wrong.

      As in Scotland, unless you’re a fabulously wealthy public figure, you’ll be banged up and no one will know.

      The march through the institutions is almost complete.

  • David Isaac says:

    In fairness to Dick Smith he is a lifelong gadget-lover who made his pile selling electronics. Of course he’s going to have all the latest EV and solar gadgetry. Why shouldn’t he? He also loves helicopters which are perhaps the most petroleum-hungry vehicles yet invented. Of course this climate crusade circus is just the Club of Rome slowly asphyxiating the Western (European) lower and middle classes. They are no longer required and are far too much trouble. Fortunately they’ve all but stopped reproducing. Cheaper units are being sourced from Asia.
    The internet and its augmentation of free speech are in the way of the plutocratic agenda so they’ll have to go too.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    See ‘UN nuclear watchdog head condemns drone strike on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’ at the link below. The burning of coal for power, present source of plastics, synthetic rubber for tyres, road tar etc, etc, is irrational, especially in Australia, with its abundance of renewables. And nuclear plants make such lovely targets for both terrorists and hostile armies.

  • coggancreek says:

    This will not go to sleep soon. No matter how they like to cast it, the ABC has been forced to eat humble pie. The quality of their “fact checking” will improve. They have been substantially reeducated on a vital issue.
    In 2013, with the world watching, the Australian electorate elected Tony Abbott by a “landslide mandate” to stop the AGW scam and cut the Rudd/Gillard reckless spending.
    Al Gore then somehow persuaded the Palmer United Party to deliver the furthest “right wing” of the votes cast in that election into the hands of the furthest left wing members in the Parliament, thereby thoroughly thwarting Abbott’s mandate.
    This was surely one of the most significant events in the history of our federation, and nobody noticed.
    My observation says that nine years on, after very big investment in the AGW scam, we might again be looking at an electorate which is sceptical of the AGW narrative. Might we find a lot of St Pauls on the road to Damascus?
    As this conspiracy theorist wonders what can possibly go wrong next, I, speaking from ignorance of the state of affairs, ask is there any danger that Germany, starved of fuel, might cave in to Russia?
    I hope not.

  • pmprociv says:

    I dunno. In all of those countries praised by the fact-checkers, and in many others, some people still cook their meals over stoves fired by animal manure. We have lots of cattle in Oz, with all that dung going to waste. It could be collected for fuel, and transported by bullock teams, saving more fossil fuels from being burnt by diesel-guzzling trucks. And the bullocks would leave free fuel along the roads for our citizens to pick up. Talk about a win-win situation!

    • Libertarian says:

      True pmprociv, it will also make draft animals too valuable to eat.

      You’ll bask in your virtue as you watch your turnip dinner boiling over a dung fire, knowing you’ve done your bit in Matt Kean’s war on tree food.

  • Artie says:

    pmprovic, I hope you realise that somewhere in that animal manure, bullock shit, there is methane, ammonia, nitrogen. There is no win-win with those shockers escaping into our stratosphere.

  • Tricone says:

    Albania relies mostly on hydro electricity.
    Greenies are totally , fanatically, opposed to building dams.

    The actual Green Party was founded on opposition to dams! Always couched as “Saving” something. The Franklin below Gordon etc.

    Ask any ABC Fact-checker if they approve of dams and see if any approve. Many activists even want to destroy existing dams.
    Yet they are utterly shameless at including hydroelectricity in their list of “renewables” when it suits them, despite being historically opposed to every dam proposed anywhere since 1970.

    Furthermore, Albania is a significant oil producing and exporting country. The oilfields are mainly round UNESCO listed Berat which has not suffered despite its proximity to over a century of oil producing, despite what greenies want you to believe about pill and gas development. The worst environmental disaster to happen in Albania was Communism 1940s – 1990s which it has been gradually recovering from.

  • vicjurskis says:

    Spot on Nick.
    Dick Smith getting a fair hearing rubs in the hurt for real people who can’t.
    AAP fact check denied the incontrovertible historical and scientific fact stated by member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh that there are more koalas than there ever were before Europeans arrived.
    Worse still, the Australian’s Environment Editor Graham Lloyd promotes the false history of millions of koalas in 1788.
    Any critical check of history 1788-1888 would destroy the Great Koala Scam, save billions of dollars and a sustainable industry, and help to relieve our housing crisis.

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