According to the ABC the Bureau of Met tells us that Queensland has experienced “the worst drought in 80 years” and that “37.3% of the state was covered by the lowest rainfall on record”. (Watch it on iview if you can bear to).
These exacting facts are easy to check, and Ken Stewart did, but the 1.1-billion-dollar ABC did not.
Ken used the BOM’s own websites (Climate Maps and Climate Change and Variability) and shows that the current drought is the worst in 9 years, not 80, and even if it is very bad (heartbreaking for some) it’s not unusual.
The current drought is bad (see red blobs in Queensland):
The Federation Drought, circa 1900, was much much worse:
Ken wrote to the ABC, and Genevieve Hussey replied immediately — effectively saying the ABC repeat all BOM claims, no matter how hyperbolic, extraordinary, or repetitive they sound.
The information in our report was based on an interview with climatologist Mr Jeff Sabburg from the Bureau of Meteorology. He was also interviewed by the ABC Country Hour the same day as the annual climate statement was released and said:
“In terms of rainfall deficiencies the comparison is we haven’t seen this across Queensland at least since the 1927- 1929 depression drought. These heat waves we’re getting a number of days in a row above 30- 40 degrees Celsius and then not getting reprieve at night time that’s certainly contributing to the point where there’s nothing much to evaporate away.” —Genevieve Hussey
If millions of Australian citizens are misinformed, the ABC doesn’t seem too concerned. Not concerned enough to point at all the contradictions in their file footage of past droughts, or rainfall stats on the BOM’s own site. Not concerned enough to ask questions that 50% of skeptical Australians might be asking.
Any serious journalist would have asked the BOM whether it was misleading to call this drought the “worst”, when the rainfall statistics so clearly suggest the opposite. Hypothetically, if the BOM was wallowing in a bureaucratized religious group-think, cherry picking their data, and adjusting data with inexplicable methods, the ABC would be defending them. Serving big-government, not the tax-payer.
The point of the ABC is not to ask our public institutions any hard questions after all. It’s there to cover for them.