Climate denial in Ballarat: Santamaria, Pell, Connor Court and Madigan

Why has Ballarat become a thicket of climate denial? I argue that the answer to that is in part because of the shadow of B.A.Santamaria, his ideology has morphed into a rampant denial of science and this intern has made strange bedfellows with the Institute of Public Affairs.

Santamaria instilled in his followers a habit of discovering everywhere in the world around them a contest between the forces of good and evil.
– David Marr

Cardinal George Pell was born in Ballarat and spent his formative years in Ballarat, Connor Court publisher was of late based in Ballarat and Senator John Madigan’s political base is in Ballarat. All push climate science denial or enable it.

In 2011 a twitter account with the name @JohnMadiganDLP (with a number of tweets retweeted by the official DLP twitter account) published a tweet equating global warming with communism:


The acolytes or warriors as Marr calls them of Santamaria needed a force like communism to buttress their Manichean ideology that has been theoretically cast adrift since the end of the cold war. Santa’s thin polemical edifice needed to rail against something. Climate Change fit the bill. For some time, followers of Santamaria had free reign making absurd proclamations about climate change. George Pell, Tony Abbott and John Madigan all followers of Santamaria – all railed against climate change, Tony Abbott famously saying that it was “shit” and a “religion.”

A window into the mindset that could create the right environment to replace communism with climate change is provided by George Pell:

As a teenager, probably in 1955, I first heard him talk to a packed cathedral hall in Ballarat on the menace of communism. He set out to identify the mighty forces under the swirl of events. He often appealed to history. We felt we too belonged to the forces of good fighting the new faces of evil, as saints and heroes had done for thousands of years. He placed us in a grand tradition of worthy struggle and combat, where we felt we could do our bit. Some of us never completely lost this conviction.

In 2011 Pell gave a lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, (a think-tank set up by the Tory Nigel Lawson with questionable funding to derail action on climate change -similar to IPA in Australia. Also a fun WTF fact: Nigel’s son is also married to Monckton’s sister). In the lecture he says “We might ask whether my scepticism is yet another example of religious ignorance…” he should have ended it there but alas he continues:

I first became interested in the question in the 1990s when studying the anti-human claims of the “deep Greens”, so I had long suspected that those predicting dangerous and increasing anthropogenic global warming were overstating their case.

Global temperature reached a twentieth century high in 1998, …Subsequently, the continued warming anticipated by the IPCC did not eventuate, and, after reaching a plateau, by 2010 temperature had cooled slightly. The failure to warm was accompanied by dominant La Nina conditions, and by a period of solar sunspot quietude.

Pell ignored, writes John Cook from the Global Change Institute in the ABC, the extensive and compelling peer-reviewed literature, even in 2011 97% of climate scientists agree with the consensus view instead he “derives his information from vocal skeptics such as Ian Plimer, Bob Carter, William Happer and Christopher Monckton.”

Only five years after this Pope Francis has complicated the narrative of the Santamaria acolytes of a climate change conspiracy by smacking down an papal letter the – the encyclical Laudato Si – On Care for Our Common Home. In it he argues strongly for action on climate change:

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades…If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.

Since the Pope has made his statements Madigan has been silent. Pell on the other hand criticised the Pope saying the church has “no particular expertise in science.” Abbott who
gave a lecture about the DLP and Santamaria to his now wife on their first date still has held fast to his commitment to coal – as he said “coal is good for humanity”. How did he become PM?

george-pell-tony-abbott 2

Connor Court

Connor Court is owned by Anthony Cappelloa a catholic theologian who before starting his own publishing house was the president of Sanamaria’s National Civic Council (NCC) and its imprint Freedom Publishing. Connor court is the IPA’s goto publisher  the publishers web site features an IPA’s logo and has a prominent member of IPA on the Board.

Cappelloa thought Ballarat a good home for his publishing house, because he says it was a “nerve centre of this [Santamaria’s youth group] movement” and that this “movement…was miles ahead in the care of the environment.” Pell came from this milieu in Ballarat and Madigan was also a “member of Bob’s [Santamaria] Youth Group growing up” in his own words. I don’t know what Cappelloa means by “miles ahead in the care of the environment,” could he be equating that with being comfortable in a position of ignorance and deny the science of climate change? It is something they all have in common. Connor Court publishes books like “Killing the Earth to Save It” by James Delingpole, with a summary that boasts:

Carbon taxes won’t make the slightest difference to climate change, so why are we introducing them?

Polar bear populations are on the increase, so why are we worrying about them?

Global warming is better than global cooling, so why are we trying to stop it?

Followed by a glowing review by Andrew Bolt.

Or “HEAVEN AND HELL: The Pope condemns the poor to eternal poverty” by Ian Plimer. Which has a summary “The Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis Laudato Si “care for our common home” was influenced by atheists, communists and green activists.”

I wonder if he considers these in the category caring for the environment?

This “caring for the environment” reminds me of this gem Madigan:

Cappelloa’s publishing house has produced much of the climate denial literature in Australia and a fountain for “ultra right”:

When Ian Plimer published his treatise on climate denialism, that was Cappello. When Cory Bernardi’s anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-surrogacy, anti-stepfamily, anti-single parent tome, The Conservative Revolution, was outraging people both inside and outside the Liberal Party, that was Cappello. He is the house publisher of the ultra-right in Australia, and very happy to be so.

John Roskam, the executive director of the IPA Institute of Public Affairs is on Connor Courts board. Roskam has worked “at global mining company Rio Tinto” and the “manager of government and corporate affairs for a global mining company” according to Catholic Business.

It’s little surprise the Pell’s book was published by Connor Court considering the convergence of thought around climate change.

connor court pell


The Institute of Public Affairs (the corporate front think tank) 70th Anniversary dinner was attended by Murdoch, Rinehart, Pell, Abbott and Bolt.

The IPA helped abolish the carbon price and has advocated for abolishing the Renewable Energy Target, Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Climate Change Authority and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Mike Seccombe wrote in the Saturday Paper that:

The IPA … has a long, covert history of fomenting climate change denialism.” Its funders have included “Rio Tinto, Caltex, Shell and Esso as backers, as well as the tobacco companies Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.

There was a famous memo from a Tobacco company that said “Doubt is our product” and this is what the IPA does. It spreads doubt about climate change.

In 2014 IPA published a book called ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ with writers that reject the climate-warming trends or reject that over the past century the climate-warming trends are due to human activities or downplay the risks. Some of it’s contributors like Soon have links to the fossil fuel industry. Prominent climate deniers are contributors including Christopher Monckton, Andrew Bolt, Joanne Nova and others linked to the IPA. The book has made no impact on the peer reviewed scientific evidence. It was sent to politicians and journalists though.

This had unintended consequences forming the butt of a joke by Di Natale:

di natale tweet

One of the chapters of the book is written by Monckton who has visited Ballarat on a number of occasions invited by John Madigan’s Party (at the time) the DLP. As I said in a previous blog post:

Monckton themes of confected battles of good vs evil sounds very similar to Santamaria’s well rehearsed talks of the “Forces of good fighting faces of evil” and the “menace of communism.” One could see the appeal of Monckton by someone who was steeped in the Santamarian tradition which needed something to fill the gaping hole left after the cold war.

The strange bedfellows can be understood by the type of polemicist BA Santamaria was, according to Brian Costar and Paul Strange who wrote in their essay on B. A. Santamaria: ‘A True Believer’?:

He was, however, a highly skilled polemicist in the Catholic Apologetics tradition which privileges advocacy over reflection.

This maybe a window into whats going on.

Further reading

BA Santamaria: ‘A True Believer’? – Swinburne Research Bank by Brian Costar and Paul Strange

How Connor Court became the go-to conservative publisher‘ by Dominica Kelly



One comment

  1. Another point, Ballarat is still one of the coldest, most drab and inhospitable cities (or biggish country town?) in Australia, Climate Change and Global Warming will never happen there!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s