Gas Gush: the toadies of mainstream media trot out government’s fossil fuel fracking campaign

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Energy & Environment

Gas fracking and a new fossil fuel power plant got a big leg-up today as News Corp, Nine Entertainment, ABC News and Guardian Australia faithfully splashed with the latest government gas plan on their front pages today.

This is not journalism. This is stenography. This is not balanced reporting. This is reporting a government press release one day early.

Australia’s captive mainstream media all splashed with the same story this morning, the Morrison Government’s fossil fuel public relations campaign. The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The Australian, the Australian Financial Review. They all featured the same story on gas. Now, breakfast TV and morning radio will be left to follow it up, unquestioning, now that it’s been “in the papers”.

AFR, gas

AFR’s version of press release

The gas propaganda blitz did not feature the critical facts that gas is almost as polluting as coal, that fracking the Beetaloo Basin, the Galilee Basin and the North Bowen Basin will destroy water systems and endanger wildlife and farmland.

Neither did this media blitz, orchestrated by expert media manipulators in the offices of government, and keenly assisted by the gas lobby, mention that the gas multinationals which stand to benefit from this campaign have been acting as a cartel, ratcheting up gas prices at a cost to all Australians and siphoning profits offshore to tax havens.

Neither did the slavishly toadying coverage in the corporate media mention how much the companies Shell, BHP, Exxon, Origin and Santos and their proxies pay political parties in donations. No, the journalists and their editors simply gush the Government’s line.

“Scott Morrison will announce”, “The Government will announce”.

There was, and still is, no detail, nothing official from the Government but its toadies in the mainstream media have recorded the story faithfully. They are paving the way for the Government to spend billions in taxpayer money on a new gas power plant and pipelines – for a pipeline industry controlled by Chinese and Singaporean multinationals who don’t pay tax.

The Age, gas

Headline in The Age

The only difference between the big black headlines in The Age and the SMH were the words “in NSW”. “Morrison to back construction of new gas-fired power station in NSW,” touted the SMH. The team of press secretaries in the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet – a team brimming with fossil fuel advocates – could not have asked for great loyalty and dedication to the cause.

“Scott Morrison is prepared to forcefully intervene in the energy market by building a new gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley in NSW if need be, and underwriting the construction of gas pipelines to feed a new national trading hub,” wrote the AFR‘s Canberra correspondent Phil Coorey.

Guardian Australia, gas

Guardian Australia coverage

Although there is still no press release from the Prime Minister, and nothing official from the office of Energy Minister Angus Taylor either, the AFR had four stories on the big gas plan.

“The prime minister will say the government intends to pursue 13 measures,” wrote Katherine Murphy in The Guardian. How did she know that?

How did they all know it? They got “the drop”. The drop is industry parlance for a leak from government which is a favour. The political operative engineers the drop to the select journalist and the select journalist is expected, in return, to deliver favourable coverage.

Morning TV and radio will follow up on cue. By this afternoon, the Government’s media campaign will have dominated the 24-hour media cycle. The actual details of the plan may be released this afternoon. Late morning perhaps. By then, independent journalists and the non-spoon-fed media may become privy to the detail and report the news properly.

The Australian, gas

Headline in The Australian

“Power up or we build gas plant: Morrison,” is the headline in The Australian. It is accompanied by a flattering “comment piece” by Murdoch media’s top correspondent in Canberra, Simon Benson: “Morrison move to energise industry.”

Already, Australia is up there with Qatar as the world’s biggest exporter of gas. Australians pay among the highest prices in the world for gas too. This is no accident. This is a failure of government and media. The corporations that dominate the gas cartel have got the better of government, completely dominated the governments state and federal in fact.

They have dominated the media too. Their advertising, their slick lobbying, craven editorial management. Australia’s politicians and media have failed the people.

Gas Lies: Santos tries to ram through coal seam gas at Narrabri with fake claims

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    ‘Australia is up there with Qatar as the world’s biggest exporter of gas. Australians pay among the highest prices in the world for gas too. This is no accident. This is a failure of government and media. The corporations that dominate the gas cartel have got the better of government, completely dominated the governments state and federal in fact.’

    far canal – what’s wrong with this picture ?

    I had thought the Guardian was responsible journalism – but if they’re toadying to the toads in govt I guess I’ll cancel my subscription to those baskets …

    • Avatar

      The Guardian are superb at creating the news from an English perspective for a British ex-pat audience. Wherever they have opened shop under the new international editor and management they have been followed by the most reactionary governments we have all experienced since WW2……..Trump, Borry and Scomo They helped to destroy Gillard’s career, the incarnation of the Abbott bonehead. The Australian Guardian Editor recently publicly admitted to aiding and abetting the resurrection of Turnbull

      They call themselves “Progressives”!

  2. Avatar

    Sadly, “the drop” has become a feature of modern journalism and the media are forced to play the game lest they be frozen out of favourable access to stories. But perhaps editors should all insist collectively to refuse running a drop unless balancing comment from opposing sources is included in the story. If they stuck to their guns this insidious practice would end very quickly. The media’s first (and perhaps only ) loyalty is to their readers/listeners. Better to be late with the news and for it to credible than be first and get only half the story .

  3. Avatar

    Michael, you mention Katherine Murphy in the Guardian:

    “The prime minister will say the government intends to pursue 13 measures,” wrote Katherine Murphy in The Guardian.
    How did she know that?

    Like everyone else is the answer. Or maybe she read it in the FR. But her piece, titled ‘Scott Morrison’s power plan is nothing but a gas-fuelled calamity’, is en excoriating criticism of the ‘plan’, with presently 541 anti-gas-plan readers’ comments.

    • Avatar

      I think you could leave out the “maybe” with confidence.

      • Avatar

        I’ve tried to read the Fin but it’s filled with Coalition flacks and mining, banking, big pharma and other corporate shills. Not a newspaper at all but a right wing propaganda rag. Feature of Australian media is how MSM takes its lead from whatever’s in Murdoch’s The Australian. Not a Press Club in the land, sadly but a claque of toadies – with one or two exceptions, Michael West, Morrie Schwartz and Crikey. Plus The AIMN and IA.

    • Avatar

      MURPH’S just a toady prig rulinn class shill devoid of integrity and an intellectual disgrace

      her squalid inervating sham prose is also a disgrace and dang right hack annoying

  4. Avatar

    All of the above is true. On the other side of the press-objectivity ledger, it’s about time that same MSM sliced-and-diced Garnaut’s self-regarding assertions about us as the “economic superpower of the post carbon world”.

  5. Avatar

    just by threatening to build Snowy 2.0 and a new gas power plant, the Liberal Party delays or prevents new investment in large scale renewables and storage.

    And the gas plan is a giant Liberal Party carbon tax. We pay the tax, and the gas industry gets the money.

  6. Avatar

    Brilliant Michael. At your best.

  7. Avatar

    To be fair to the Grauniad they have long pointed out this is a bad idea as they did yesterday and they also ran with domestic reservation point as well.

    However, the question I have NOT seen from the msm is:

    Who are the manufacturing ‘customers’ and how will they use all this lovely and very firm gas?

    You’d think the ‘market’ for this gas would be central to this whole push instead all we get is the word manufacturing thrown out amidst armwaving.

    Sure there is the idea of using gas to generate electricity but that is very expensive and relies on conditions such as the 30 minute interval for electricity going from approx $30-60 per MWh to as high as $14,000 per MWh.

    It has been put to me that the gas can be used as feed stock for industry, fair enough but this means there is a more pertinent question:

    Do ‘manufacturers’ need this gas right now i.e. is there a market for it right now? Are the manufacturers just hanging out for the day the gassy people crack open the valves?

    If so then how will manufacturers be able to wait for all this lovely, jubbly gas to come online or will Mr Morrison need to pony across my tax dollars to them to help maintain them in the same way he is so happy to do with these gassy people. If the manufacturers can wait what are their investment plans to be able to utilise the abundance when it comes their way that these very kind gassy people are promising?

    We haven’t heard a thing from the ‘manufacturers’, in all this we have only heard from the gassy people.

    Surely the customers are the ones we should be listening to……….

  8. Avatar

    From the writer that owns a fossil fuel powered car, whose house is powered by fossil fuels, comes a lite “attack” piece that appears to be funded by the “toadies” your choice of words in the “renewable industry”.Seriously..If you are so scientifically illiterate that you truly believe that “renewables” work, then how do you explain the destruction of the energy networks in both South Australia and California?..just a coincidence?..why do all the people that parrot “renewable” industry talking points that are hip with the left wing crowd..1/Not actually walk the talk..2/Not know anything about the subject when questioned?…but hey..it sounds cool right..no one wonder you have no job and have to post on a blog for a living…

    • Avatar

      Mike, what on earth are you talking about? South Australia and California have energy networks that are ‘destroyed’? Where’s your evidence? And how do you know that Michael’s house and car (if he has one) are powered by fossil fuels? You’ve been to his flat I take it?

    • Avatar

      How deluded are you? Perhaps you could tell us what scientific credentials you have?

  9. Avatar

    It will be very interesting to see how “independent” the Independent Planning Commission is as they examine a mountain of irrefutable, scientific,economic and ecological evidence that says the Santos Narrabri – Liverpool Plains coal seam gas extraction project should not be approved.

  10. Avatar

    Like the Covid-19 Commission itself; a special interests’ business strategy and/or development ‘solution’, finding an ‘opportunity’ via Covid-19 and the LNP (informed by their favoured ‘think tanks’, funded by whom?). Is it not just radical right libertarian but more national socialist?

  11. Avatar

    I have been shocked by the lack of critical analysis even by the ABC. It’s like the media are trapped in an awful groupthink that can’t acknowledge the seriousness of climate change. It’s sad and frightening to watch as humanity drives itself off a cliff.

  12. Avatar

    Bravo! Sock it to ’em, Michael! It must be disconcerting to this corrupt Australian government to have to deal with your combination of passion and the facts, too. I have to recommend also the way that the Tasmanian Times has illustrated and added to your story, with glorious graphics – https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/09/corrupt-connections-fossil-fuels/

    And – a puzzle to me – the Morrison government threatens to use my tax-payer money to set up a gas facility. They wouldn’t waste such funds on better public health or education – because to do that would be – shock horror – SOCIALISM.

  13. Avatar

    Thank you Michael. It will be interesting to see how “independent” the Independent Planning Commission is as they examine the mountain of irrefutable evidence, economic, scientific and ecological that demonstrates that the Santos Narrabri – Liverpool Plains coal seam gas extraction project should not gain approval.

  14. Avatar

    I see it as a political move to force more production of gas to supply the new power station., We produce plenty of gas , the government has the power to implement a “gas preservation ” scheme for domestic usage, this is just a ploy to pressure the States to allow more fracking.

  15. Avatar

    Maybe when he’s finished with #SuperBarilaroBruz Friendly Jordies could take down the gas cartel 🤔

  16. Avatar

    As a supporter via a monthly payment to MWM I want to say this is what I pay money for.

    (oh, and should Ms Albericie phone up with a story, by all means pay her well and publish it.
    I think she would be a good fit with the company.)

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