Australian Coal Association heats up over ABC’s coal slam in Four Corners

Hurt by accusation: “Despite no evidence that any coal industry
representative had attended the alleged meeting with Pearce, no-one
watching could have been left in any doubt that the coal industry was
being accused,” he said.

Investigative journalism slammed: O’Neill also condemned Four
Corners for scandalously touting its program as an investigatory coup
when five minutes of basic investigation would have raised serious
question marks over the credibility of its principle interviewee.

Three rebuttals given: Three facts Four Corners might have
established would have given them pause for thought in building a
program around Pearce’s supposed independence and credibility,
according to O’Neill:

• well known coal industry critic, Clive Hamilton, who appeared on the program, was a supervisor of Dr Pearce’s Ph.D;

• the coal industry association was not one of the seven industry associations mentioned in the Ph.D as case studies; and

• Pearce claims in his own work as a lobbyist to have the skills,
records and access to government of which Four Corners accuses others
and marked as inappropriate.

Links with AEC: Had Four Corners’ “second rate” investigative
team checked Pearce’s background, they would have known that lobbying
firm AEC lists him as their principle Canberra operative, O’Neill
argued. The company’s website boasts of “providing quick access to
political and bureaucratic staff as required. (And) The AEC approach to
lobbying has been to achieve results rather than headlines by working
with government behind the scenes to secure positive outcomes for our

Depth of government involvement: It goes on to say that “All of
the projects we undertake for clients are commercial-in-confidence and
they vary a great deal, including among others: changing government
policy, obtaining legislative amendments, securing government funding
support for projects, obtaining environmental and other approvals, and
correcting harmful misconceptions within government. In some cases, AEC
has also accepted contracts from government to directly assist in the
policy making process, or from one level of government to influence

Nothing but “conspiratorial nonsense”: O’Neill said the ABC
should seriously be considering on what basis a once prestigious
program is so easily hoodwinked into conspiratorial nonsense without
even the most basic rules of journalism now applying.

Reference: The Australian Coal Association. 14 February, 2006. For further information contact: Doug Holden 0431 006 044.

Erisk Net, 15/2/2006

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