Rights and Freedoms

Disassembling United Notions

Written by
20 December 2022

‘Traditional combat… [is] now accompanied
by prolific disinformation and the manipulation
of whole communities and societies.

What if a lie, told repeatedly, and across many platforms, prompts, inspires or motivates others… to turn a blind eye to atrocities, or worse, become complicit in them?This is no longer a hypothetical.’

– Jacinda Ardern, UN General Assembly, 24 September

Jacinda Ardern


Maybe Jacinda Ardern has a point. Maybe it is time we considered the consequences of blatantly false information peddled in the public sphere.

So in the interest of doing our bit to tackle the rise of disinformation, here is Strange Times’ five most egregious examples of falsehoods that have had serious consequences.

Tim Flannery

‘We’re already seeing the initial impacts and they include a decline in the winter rainfall zone across southern Australia, which is clearly an impact of climate change… Even the rain that falls isn’t going to fill our dams and our river systems’

– Tim Flannery, 11 February 2007

This reckless misinformation—debunked by several instances in which our dams
have overflowed—has led to 15 years of disastrous energy policies, with enormous cost-of-living consequences for working Australians.

Norman Swan

‘[There will be] 1700 [cases of COVID-19] on Monday, 3400 on Wednesday
or Thursday, 7000 to 8000 by next weekend… [We are] 14-20 days behind Italy.’

– Norman Swan, 21 March 2020

Twenty days after Swan’s prediction, Australia had more than 90 per cent fewer cases than Italy on the day of Swan’s prediction. Swan’s failed prediction helped fuel the hysteria that led to lockdowns, unleashing untold misery upon millions of Australians.

Philip Lowe

‘Inflation and wage outcomes remain subdued. While a pick-up in inflation and wages growth is expected, it is likely to be only gradual and modest… Maintaining the target of 10 basis points for the April 2024 bond will continue to keep interest rates low.’

– Philip Lowe, 6 July 2021

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe’s projection of low interest rates until 2024 lulled many Australians into borrowing on expectations of favourable borrowing costs. Soaring inflation and subsequent consecutive increases in interest rates by the very same RBA have resulted in substantial financial harm to many Australian families.

Jacinda Ardern

‘And so, we once again come back to the primary tool we have. Diplomacy, dialogue, working together on solutions [to ‘disinformation’ on the internet] that do not undermine human rights but enhance them.’

– Jacinda Ardern, 24 September 2022

Finally, we return to Jacinda Ardern’s UN address for perhaps the most concerning piece of misinformation on our list. The ‘solutions’ to ‘disinformation’ envisioned by the likes of Ardern are almost certain to go far beyond fuzzy notions like ‘diplomacy’ and ‘working together’. And no matter what Jacinda Ardern may say, State censorship of the internet will in no way ‘enhance’ human rights. The internet will be destroyed as one of the few save havens we have left for free speech.

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Gideon Rozner

Gideon Rozner is the Director of Policy at the Institute of Public Affairs

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