About three weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the Liberal candidate for the Eden-Monaro by-election, Fiona Kotvojs, specifically about how she, at Scott Morrison’s urging, spouted the Liberal Party line about climate change; i.e. that they have always believed in climate change and that humans are contributing to it1. As I said at the time, this is the Liberals saying ‘we don’t really believe it, but we have to say we do, because even some of the people who voted for us are starting to realise that it is already happening’. As an example of her denialism, I gave the instance of an article Kotvojs had written, in which she referred to sea level rise as a ‘scare’.
Alan Burdon is Kotvojs’ partner with whom she shares a farm a few kilometres to the northeast of the badly fire-damaged township of Cobargo. Since Kotvojs was nominated as the Liberal candidate, Burdon has been busily deleting ‘embarrassing’ entries in his Facebook page. Fortunately, an eagle-eyed member of the twitterati, had obtained many of them as screen shots, and they can be perused at leisure. They are quite enlightening as to the peculiar makeup of Burdon’s opinions, prejudices and ignorance.
The first instance was one copied from the Advance Australia organisation which was set up by a bunch of wealthy individuals, in part, to protect Tony Abbott’s seat in Parliament, and supposedly as an ‘antidote’ to Getup. Like Abbott, Advance Australia are climate change deniers, and Burdon copied their piece with the comment ‘trust the scientists?. This piece from Advance Australia was entitled ‘CSIRO caught fudging to boost climate conspiracy’2. Yes; that’s right, they think climate change is a huge conspiracy perpetrated by thousands of climate scientists over decades. This conspiracy assertion is one of the standard and perhaps most desperate techniques used by climate change deniers, creationists, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers and any other bunch of science-denying fruitcakes you care to list3. Anyone who knows how science operates realises that a conspiracy of more than a couple of people in science is impossible to sustain4.
This Advance Australia article refers almost entirely to a gotcha moment by the silly Senator Canavan at a Senate hearing in March 2020. Canavan wondered why CSIRO’s official published position on climate change and bushfires of ‘However, no studies explicitly attributing the Australian increase in fire weather to climate change have been performed at this time’, was not included in a summary ‘explainer’ document. As the CSIRO scientist said: “…it is really a question of what you choose to put in and not put in. There’s a lot of other things we could have written.” This is what Advance Australia, and presumably Canavan, believe is a sign that there is a huge, world-wide, decades-long conspiracy. Canavan, was seemingly uninformed, as was the CSIRO scientist, that an analysis by the World Weather Attribution Organisation in January 2020 demonstrates precisely that the probability of Fire Weather Index as high as in 2019-2020 has quadrupled since 1900 (i.e. the likelihood of such severe conditions occurring has gone up fourfold), and the probability of the Monthly Severity Rating (a measure of the overall seasonal fire risk) reaching 2019-2020 levels has increased ninefold5. They also found that the devastating early bushfire season was much greater than that predicted by traditional climate modelling. Australian heatwaves were also found to be 1-2 Celsius hotter and 10 times more likely to occur than in 19906.
One of the next posts from Burdon was from another Queensland Senator; the hilariously idiotic, climate-change denying Gerard Rennick7, who is the epitome of the Dunning-Kruger Effect8. It was Rennick who tried to argue that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which applies at the quantum level, should also apply at the climate system level. He tried to argue this with the CEO of CSIRO, Larry Marshall, who has a PhD in physics9. Marshall made Rennick look a fool, which is entirely appropriate and very easy to do. In Burdon’s post, Rennick was whining about the Guardian which was complaining about the lack of action on climate change, which he denies is happening.
Perhaps the weirdest and most unsavoury posting came from the certifiably stupidest parliamentarian, Craig Kelly (although now Rennick might be giving him a run for his money). This was a letter from one of Kelly’s constituents. This was headed by Kelly as “A letter from a constituent about how he advised his teenage daughter on climate change”. The daughter of this constituent was moved to tears by the speech given by Greta Thunberg at the United Nations. So, what did this climate change denying constituent do? They disconnected the heat vent in her room; this in a part of the country which drops below freezing overnight. They decided that she would only take a cold shower, and will wash her clothes by hand and hang them on the clothes line to dry. He then states that all her synthetic clothes will be taken to the second-hand shop, and they will only allow her to wear undyed linen and jute clothing without a brassiere. No wool will be allowed because, apparently, sheep fart. They intend to turn off the wifi at 7pm (presumably after the parents have finished using it). Of course, this ignores the fact that a rapidly increasing proportion of the nation’s electricity is generated from renewables, and is simply a malevolent parent punishing their fifteen-year-old daughter for not agreeing with them. All state and territory jurisdictions have slightly different definitions, but in New South Wales, where Kelly’s electorate is, this parental behaviour could be construed as child abuse because “a parent or other caregiver has behaved in such a way towards the child or young person that the child or young person has suffered or is at risk of suffering serious psychological harm”10. Kelly, and presumably Burdon, seem to take a great deal of glee in this young girl’s mistreatment at the hands of her parents.
Burdon has posted a claim from the ‘stopthesethings’ group, the anti-wind turbine mob supported by Angus Taylor11. This post claims that 1,200 tons of insects are killed by wind turbines every year in Germany. This assertion is from a report by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the climate change denialist organisation set up by former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. However, the number is wrong (it is more). In the introduction to the GWPF report, Fritz Vahrenholt from the German Wildlife Foundation says “initial studies estimate that about 1200 billion migratory insects (or 3600 tons) are killed annually in this way”– 5% of migrating insects. “The German Wildlife Foundation will be researching whether there is a correlation between the rapid expansion of wind turbines and the estimated decrease of flying insects by 75% in the last 20 years…,” he noted. “Is it agriculture? The clearing of land? Monocultures? Or could it be linked to another potential cause, namely wind turbines? If that were the case, there would be an important indirect effect on the nutritional foundations for birdlife. This would represent another impact of wind turbines on birds”12. So, apart from Germany it is something which still remains unclear. Insects have been declining all around the world, not just where wind turbines have increased in number. They are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, as food for other animals, as pollinators and as recyclers of nutrients13. Indeed, despite trying to co-opt environmental groups to their cause, the GWPF’s views are at odds with most environmental groups. This is clear from one of their press releases, which refers to “the appalling environmental cost of wind energy”, and the wider report’s summary, which says, “far from making the world a better place, renewable energy will destroy all we hold dear”12. As an aside, the report from GWPF also whines about birds being killed by wind turbines and while they are killed, they are not killed in the numbers GWPF would like. A survey in Germany has found that a median collision rate of 0.47 buzzards or 0.14 red kites per wind turbine per annum. So that is one buzzard per two turbines per annum, and one red kite per seven wind turbines per annum. While this may have an effect on populations, it is clear what GWPF is on about given that cats kill up to 3.4 billion (yes, billion) birds per annum in the US alone12. In Australia, it is estimated that cats kill over 100 million birds per annum14. From this it is clear the GWPF is all about denying climate change and maintaining the fossil fuel status quo, and is not concerned about the deaths of any birds.
One of Burdon’s subsequent posts implies that voting for Labor at the 2019 election was voting for full term abortions, and that getting rid of franking credit refunds was a retiree tax. These are two of the standard Liberal lies from the 2019 election. Nobody was suggesting that full term abortions would happen, as the free abortions Labor promised at the last federal election were to be in line with the laws in each of the states15. None of these permit full term abortions. Franking credit refunds were not a retiree tax, but went overwhelmingly to the wealthy, with over 74% of the benefits going to the top 10% of income earners16.
Another post which is an indication of Burdon’s religious fundmentalism, is a recycling of a post from the Australian Christian Lobby which asks “what is religious freedom?” This is another fundamentalist attempt to gain support for the religious discrimination bill the government was touting. This bill is mostly about the protection of the right of religious organisations to discriminate against people and to protect hate speech17. Burdon also made a submission to the consultation process for the religious discrimination bill. While most of it is the usual religious drivel about the bible and how he is a practising Christian, he does bemoan the disintegration of the moral base of our society. By the standard of crime statistics18, people are becoming more ‘moral’, but that is not what the religious are about. To them, morality is all about sex and sexuality. People like Burdon look upon homosexuality, sex between unmarried people and abortion as immoral. For them, same sex marriage is an abomination and should never have been permitted. The religious are obsessed with sex. As Arthur C. Clarke said “One of the greatest tragedies in mankind’s entire history may be that morality was hijacked by religion”.
Another of Burdon’s posts, and perhaps his silliest, was as an introduction to a post from Canavan with another pre-election pitch from Senator Canavan about the Labor Party deserting the coal and mining industries; yet another lie. Burdon introduced Canavan’s post with “Seeking to destroy the use of what has largely given us the standard of living that we enjoy, and which has done more to bring millions out of poverty world wide [sic], is about as suicidal as any society can get. Labor and the Greens will ruin us all and do nothing for the planet.” In addition to being totally out of touch with the reality, the argument sounds like that used to resist the replacement of the horse with the car, or the replacement of whale-oil street lighting with gas and then electricity. Also, this is a conflation by Burdon of electricity with coal, in the same way that Canavan associates coal mining with that for other commodities which will not lead to global warming. Burdon’s conflation of the two is simply a tactic used to introduce the concept that if we don’t continue coal mining we will all die, which is of course a lie (one of his many), whereas if we keep mining and burning coal unabated, it is likely that millions will die or be forced to leave their lands. That is something Burdon refuses to acknowledge, but that is the reality.
Given Burdon’s climate change denialism and religious fundamentalism, and Kotvojs’ obvious denialism1 and the fact that she signed Burdon’s submission to the consultation process on the religious discrimination bill, it is clear that they are birds of a feather; and it is clear that Kotvojs is just another climate change-denying religious nutter. Should she win the Eden-Monaro by-election, she will slot into the Liberal Party perfectly, because climate change-denying religious nutters are what the Liberal Party has become.