Australia's environment minister, Greg Hunt, is now famous for his admission that Wikipedia is the go-to site for all things environmental, as in:
"'I looked up what Wikipedia said just to see what the rest of the world thought,' he advised the BBC... when put on the spot about whether there might be a link between Australia's latest bushfires and climate change. 'It opened with the fact that, 'bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year due to Australia's mostly hot, dry, climate'." (Wikipedia's verdict on Greg Hunt: 'terrible at his job', Tony Wright, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/10/13)
Killer quotes such as the one above notwithstanding, a feature on Hunt in yesterday's Fairfax magazine, Good Weekend, assures us that Hunt is no fool - at least academically:
"Dauntingly clever, Hunt graduated from Melbourne University with first-class honours in law, and won a Fulbright scholarship to Yale, where he completed a masters in international relations. He... did a stint as an intern with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights in Geneva..." (The weather vane, Frank Robson)
At which point I can't help but ask: How can anyone with at least 25 years of formal education under his belt - with a focus on international relations and human rights to boot - get something like Palestine wrong? (OK, so why do I raise the issue of Palestine here? Only because Robson references it twice in his Good Weekend piece).
Here's the first:
"What... does he make of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's insistence that all asylum seekers arriving here by boat should now be called 'illegals'? At first, Hunt toes the expected line, saying it's refugees encamped in places like Cambodia, east Africa and Gaza who are 'missing out because those that are better off are able to take a flight to Jakarta and pay people smugglers to bring them to Australia'."
OK, he's got that Gaza's chockas with refugees - and that's an advance on fellow Liberals such as NSW MLC Peter Phelps, who thinks that the population of the Gaza Strip (aka Mordor) is composed of Orcs and Trolls* - but does he seriously think that Palestinian refugees, in Gaza or anywhere else, have been sitting around all these years dreaming of Australian visas, as opposed to one day returning to their stolen homes and lands in 'Israel'?
Now here's the second, even more telling reference:
"When he was 18, Hunt spent a year living on a kibbutz in Israel... The overseas adventure was... carefully planned, with help from a Jewish MP in Victoria who persuaded the kibbutz organisers to let Hunt stay, telling them, 'You never know, in 25 years' time this guy may do something with the government here'."
The very fact that Hunt volunteered this little anecdote as some kind of positive, commendable element in his life's trajectory speaks volumes about him. It's a bit like admitting that you formed your views on the Middle East conflict by reading Leon Uris' Exodus as a raw youth and have had no occasion since to revise them.
Add to that the fact that he clearly sees nothing wrong with the import of the anonymous Jewish MP's statement.
Now top that with the fact that Hunt's kibbutz 'experience' came in the immediate wake of Israel's brutal invasion of Lebanon in 1982, culminating in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in West Beirut's Sabra and Shatila camps in September of that year.
So here we have a 48-year-old who's spent over half his life in formal education, with a focus on human rights, who just doesn't get Palestine.
Quite frankly, if he can't get something as simple as Palestine right, should we be surprised if he gets his take on climate science from a Wikipedia entry?
[*See my 20/8/12 post Frodos Gaze Upon Mordor.]