St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls is a private school in Perth1. For girls to attend, they charge $17,786 for Kindergarten and $27,120 for Year 12, with other years being charged amounts in between2, so it is mostly for the upper crust of Western Australian society.
St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls had the good fortune (at least financially) of having Gina Rinehart (then Gina Hancock) as a student, and sometime boarder. As a consequence, she was invited to give a speech at the 125th anniversary of the school earlier this year. While the delivery of a speech doesn’t necessarily translate effectively to printed text, some of the best speeches do. If you read speeches by Lincoln3, or Churchill4, you will see what I mean. To hear them must have been an exceptional experience, and to read their speeches is equally awe-inspiring, probably mostly because we understand the history behind them.
While one would not necessarily expect Rinehart to be able to deliver speeches of this calibre, a video of her speech and its text are both available online5.
To be blunt, the transcript of Rinehart’s speech is poorly written and poorly punctuated and in places is indecipherable. She starts off with detailing her family’s association with the school. Her mother and aunt attended the school, as she and her daughters did. However, after that, the speech starts to turn very weird. Rinehart states “I’m grateful that I had a real education, not one based on propaganda, but facts, and rationale [sic].”5 Presumably she meant rationality, as the word ‘rationale’, as almost everyone knows, refers to a reasoning for a course of action, a practice or belief6, and is not a word to use in this context6.
Rinehart goes on: “I continue to believe that facts and rationale should provide the basis for education, it concerns me greatly that the current generation of school leavers and attendees, too often miss such important basics, as too often propaganda erodes these critical foundations.” She then suggests that parents, guardians or grandparents should interrogate the children as to what they are learning, to counter any propaganda5. Gee, I wonder what she could mean. She explains that she had “heard that senior school students in a previous headmistresses [sic] time, were having to watch sometimes 4 times over for their various classes, even English lit, the ex-Democrat [sic] Vice President Al Gore film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ catchy title, but sadly short on delivery as far as truth is concerned.”5. It is ironic Rinehart refers to ‘English’ in this sentence, when this segment of the speech is so illiterate. She is unable to distinguish between the plural ‘headmistresses’ and the possessive ‘headmistress’ [you leave off the last s, when the possessor noun ends in s]. In addition, Al Gore, is not an ex-Democrat. He is still a Democrat, but is an ex-Vice President. It is instances like this which make this speech so hard to read without the occasional eye-roll or guffaw.
Rinehart comes out with the old climate change denying trope of ‘polar bear numbers have increased’. This is based on a Russian extrapolation which scientists did not accept at the time. This trope is one of those which has been used by the idiotic Craig Kelly in his unhinged rants about climate change7. She then referred to the ‘hockey stick graph’ of Gore’s and referred to it as “even a graph that looked like a hockey stick, part going backwards!”5 What this means is anybody’s guess.
To counter the supposed propaganda of Gore, Rinehart hilariously brought “Lord Monckton and Professor Ian Plimer to address senior students and hopefully take away some of the emotional fear that was being spread around by such film and speeches”. Guffaw! Monckton is a hereditary peer and is prone to misrepresenting the scientists whose work he cites. His assertions have been debunked numerous times and in various fora8, 9. Monckton mostly lies. Difficult as Monckton’s drivel is to believe, Plimer is even more bizarre in some of the assertions he makes10.
After this, Rinehart asks the students to “do their own independent research”. This has become the mantra at which most normal people laugh when they hear it from climate change deniers, antivaccination activists and all the crazy QAnon conspiracy theorists. She also asks the students to ask their teachers “which comes first, global warming or an increase in carbon”[sic]5. This is yet another old denialist trope that global warming happened before the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of course, it is a lie too11. The answer to this question “should help to point to four independent facts, which all come to the same conclusion, independently, including, what has been found in the geological record of ice, ocean floors, and separately chemistry principles.”5 This is so poorly written it is difficult to know what she is trying to say.
Then comes an absolute doozy. She states that it is not easy to find facts these days “when the government supports grants towards one side of the argument, making it less beneficial to consider the natural influences on our climate, distance from the sun as the earth orbits, which we should know influences summers and winters, volcanoes, including the many that erupt under the ocean, and other scientific facts that I had the benefit of learning while I was at school, indeed, that the earth lived thru [sic] many ice ages and global warming’s [sic], pre man even being on this planet.”5
I don’t actually know anyone who believes that the seasons are caused by variations in the distance of the earth from the sun; I have never met anyone that ignorant. The senior science students and teachers must have been wetting themselves trying not to laugh out loud at this drivel. The reference to volcanoes seems to be to intimate that they are a major source of carbon dioxide. This is also another denialist trope, and of course, it too is a lie. Volcanoes emit less than 1% of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuel, cement manufacture and land use changes12.
Perhaps less laughable, but more insidious, is Rinehart accusing others of the crimes she commits in saying to the students: “Please be very careful about information spread on emotional basis, or tied to money, or egos, or power-seekers, and always search for the facts”5. For it is people like her who would rather protect their huge income than the futures of children like those she was addressing.
After all this climate change denying, Rinehart then launches into a mishmash on women pioneers and lists Marie Curie, stating that she used the “tried and true scientific approach”, in a snide suggestion that climate scientists don’t. I was not surprised that she didn’t mention another pioneering woman scientist, Eunice Foote, who used the scientific method to determine the physics of the greenhouse effect, all the way back in 185613.
Bizarrely, Rinehart then mentions the Special Air Service (SAS) and whines about the “dangerous media endeavouring to undermine our finest”. Members of the SAS are currently the subject of enquiries regarding war crimes allegedly perpetrated in Afghanistan. The media have only been reporting on the enquiry14. The stupidity of Rinehart in blaming the messenger is astonishing if not unexpected.
Another touch of irony in the tail of this speech is Rinehart’s series of quotes from former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher. I have another quote from Thatcher which Rinehart unsurprisingly did not include. It was a in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in November 1989. In that, Thatcher stated: “What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate—all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. … We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere. The annual increase is three billion tonnes: and half the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution still remains in the atmosphere. At the same time as this is happening, we are seeing the destruction on a vast scale of tropical forests which are uniquely able to remove carbon dioxide from the air. … The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all.”15
It would be interesting to see what Rinehart thinks of the Murdoch backflip regarding climate change, unless of course, she knows it is all about getting Morrison re-elected16. The poor grammar in Rinehart’s speech makes one hope that St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls has improved its teaching of English since Rinehart finished her tenure at the school. Similarly, the lack of understanding of even the simplest science demonstrated by this speech makes you hope that St Hilda’s has also improved its teaching of Science since Rinehart left. Being a Christian church school one would have thought that inviting someone to give a speech which is replete with lies would be seen to be a mistake. One can only hope that is the case. If it is, I doubt they will invite her back.