The mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has taken aim at what she called climate “propaganda” during a speech to high school students, which was later partially edited out by the principal because a historic assembly was “not the context or the time” for it.
Rinehart was asked to give a video address to students for the 125th anniversary of St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls in Perth, her former school.
The school said the speech was only supposed to go for five minutes, but it ran for 16.
In it, the iron ore miner and Australia’s richest person targeted climate change “propaganda” in the education system, and complained about being told that students had once been made to watch Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
She boasted that she had once helped to convince students climate change was not human-induced by organising a talk at the school by climate skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton and Prof Ian Plimer.
“The first thing Lord Monckton asked the senior students, being aware [An Inconvenient Truth] had been shown repeatedly to students, was to put their hands up if they believed that climate change was human-induced,” she said.
“About 70% or more of students put their hands up. Lord Monckton and Prof Plimer were only given a comparatively short time to speak … at the end of their speeches, the question [about] human-induced climate change was re-asked, and the hands changed, about 30% put their hands up.”
Rinehart called for the school to “strongly guard against propaganda intruding on real education and rational thinking”, and told students to “do their own independent research” on “which comes first – global warming, or an increase in carbon?”.
She concluded the speech by extensively quoting the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, including the line that the “problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”.
But the speech was not run in full by the school, prompting claims of censorship by spokespeople for the mining billionaire.
In a statement to the West Australian newspaper, her spokesperson said it was “very unusual for Mrs Rinehart to be asked to give the keynote speech, then the morning of the speech be told it would in effect be censored”.
“It’s very, very sad to see after the school’s fine history of education over more than a century [that it is now] subject to the political views of its new headmistress,” the spokesperson reportedly said.
But the school said the video sent by Rinehart had been “much longer than the allotted five minutes” and the school was “only able to play the first five minutes which shared her recollections of her time at the school”.
“I can confirm that the messaging in the video was not shared in its entirety with the students at this assembly,” a school spokesperson said in a statement.
“The School encourages our students to think critically and analyse all facts presented to them, particularly in this age of the internet. The School does not endorse the personal views shared in the full video.
“We encourage critical thinking and discussion on controversial topics, ensuring that there are opposing views to motivate purposeful conversation. An historical birthday celebration assembly was not the context or the time.”
The spokesperson said the school’s science curriculum “follows the guidelines set out by the West Australian School Curriculum and Standards Authority”.
Rinehart’s speech has been criticised by climate change experts, including the Climate Council spokesperson and ANU emeritus professor Will Steffen, who said “the science is settled on climate change”.
“Australia prides itself on having a quality education system – one of the best in the world. It is important that schools stick to the most reputable science about climate change, as embodied in the latest IPCC report,” he said.
“In this case, the school stuck to the science-based curriculum, which is increasingly important with the amount of misinformation flying around.
“Young people have so much moral authority because it’s their future that we’re risking by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
“A few weeks out from Cop26, the rest of the world, our states and territories, farmers, industries, parents, and most importantly, the young people of Australia want to see stronger action on climate change. That means committing to strong and urgent emissions cuts this decade.”