Australian academics reject 'Hitler' jibe lord

28th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Dozens of Australian academics signed a letter Tuesday demanding a lecture by British climate sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton be axed after he compared a government adviser to Hitler.

The open letter calls on Australia's Notre Dame University to cancel Thursday's talk, saying Monckton stood for "the kind of ignorance and superstition that universities have a duty to counter".

"In hosting this lecture, Notre Dame University is undermining the academic community," the letter, seen by AFP, said.

Monckton said last week during a speech in Los Angeles that Australia's top climate adviser, economist Ross Garnaut, held fascist views and expected people to "accept authority without question".

He then said "Heil Hitler, on we go" in a mock German accent, while a swastika appeared on a screen by him.

Monckton, whose lecture will target the Australian government's proposal for a carbon tax, is on a tour of the country at the invitation of the "Climate Sceptics" -- a political party registered ahead of last year's national elections.

The speech is entitled "A Carbon Tax Will Bankrupt Australia".

The letter, which was started by Natalie Latter, a PhD student examining global ethics and climate change, said Monckton's appearance was "betraying the integrity of our scientists and those who struggle to communicate the facts about climate change to the public.

"It is completely unacceptable for a university to be tacitly endorsing the views of an individual such as Lord Monckton. Our universities must have higher standards than this."

Monckton has since apologised for the Hitler jibe, saying he had written to Garnaut to "unreservedly" withdraw his remarks.

"I should apologise on air once again to Professor Garnaut for having made the point I was trying to make in such a catastrophically stupid and offensive way," the British peer told Australian commercial television Sunday.

Climate scientists at some of Australia's top universities have had to shift into high-security premises in recent months following death threats and harassment sparked by intense debate over the government's pollution tax.

The comments by Monckton, previously an outspoken science adviser to former British PM Margaret Thatcher, reinforced the need for a stand against him, the letter added.

"We all support academic freedom and the freedom to express our ideas and beliefs," it said. "However, Notre Dame University has a responsibility to avoid promoting discredited views on an issue of public risk.

"Notre Dame's invitation to Lord Monckton makes a mockery of academic standards and the pursuit of evidence-based knowledge."

Monckton's remarks were also condemned by Prime Minister Julia Gillard as inappropriate and highly offensive, and opposition leader Tony Abbott rejected the Hitler comparison as "over the top".

Notre Dame, which has campuses in Sydney and Western Australia, did not respond to requests for comment.

© 2011 AFP

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