BACK in July last year in a boardroom of a western Australian free-market think tank, the extrovert British climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton was holding court.

The topic for discussion? How to better capture the Australian media to help push a right wing, free-market and climate sceptic agenda.

At the time, Lord Monckton was in Australia at the behest of a mining association and Gina Rinehart to deliver a series of talks on climate change and spread his conspiracy theories that human-caused climate change is a left-wing plot to bring down the West.

At one point, Monckton told a boisterous partisan crowd: “So to the bogus scientists who have produced the bogus science that invented this bogus scare I say, we are coming after you. We are going to prosecute you, and we are going to lock you up.”

Lord Monckton had been invited to Australia by the iron and coal mining boss Rinehart, the country’s richest woman with a rising personal fortune in the region of $20 billion.

Hosting the meeting was the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a group chaired by mining “Hall of Fame” member Ron Manners to promote free-market ideals and low government intervention.

Manners is also a member of Gina Rinehart’s lobby group ANDEV, which has been joined by the Institute for Public Affairs to lobby for a separate low-tax low regulation economic zone for the north of Australia to make mining projects easier to develop.

It would be safe to presume, given Manner’s background in mining and the make-up of his staff, that this aim to lower government intervention would include any regulations and taxes on mining.

As far as its position on climate change goes, Mannkal’s website only appears to promote sceptical and largely debunked views on climate science, with links to many climate change denial websites which form part of a global network.

The Lord Monckton gathering, posted on YouTube [see UPDATE  below], had all the air of a strategy meeting.

“Is there an Australian version of Fox News?… No,” Monckton told the gathered group, which included Manners himself.

“Frankly whatever you do at a street level – which is what you are talking about here – is not going to have much of an impact compared with capturing an entire news media.

“You look at the impact that Andrew Bolt has had since he was rocketed to fame and – without giving away too many secrets – Joanne [climate sceptic Jo Nova] is going to end up doing quite a bit more on that channel if all goes according to plan.”

Just a few months after this meeting, Gina Rinehart finally secured herself a seat on the board of Channel Ten after buying up shares the previous year. Just before that meeting, right-wing blogger and Andrew Bolt was given his own show The Bolt Report on which to promote his climate “sceptic” agenda.

Rinehart is not averse to overt climate science denial herself, writing in a mining publication last year that she had “never met a geologist or leading scientist who believes adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will have any significant effect on climate change, especially not from a relatively small country like Australia.”

Last night, it emerged that Rinehart had made a $192 million purchase of shares in Fairfax Media Ltd, giving her a 9.9 per cent stake.

Fairfax owns leading print and online newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Brisbane Times (which I have worked for on a freelance basis), a suite of regional rural newspapers and popular city-based radio stations including 4BC, 4BH and 2UE and 3AW.

Commentators on the ABC are already indicating that Rinehart is looking to increase her influence on the public discourse through her media interests.

Back in the Mannkal boardroom, Monckton told the group that Australia needed to emulate the Fox news model from the United States and should target the “super rich” for some investment.

He also discusses working with Nova, a staunch climate sceptic blogger, and Andrew Bolt to “put together a business plan”.

“That is the way to do it,” Monckton continued. “You have to capture the high ground on what are still the major media and I think will remain so for some time and until we crack that one both in the UK and Australia, we are going to suffer from a disadvantage over and against the more libertarian-minded right-thinking people in the US who have got Fox News and therefore have got things like the Tea Party movement and therefore have at last put some lead into the pencil of the Republican party.

“It seems to me that devoting some time ad effort to encouraging those that we know who are super-rich to invest in perhaps even establishing a new satellite news channel – not an expensive thing to do – and getting a few Jo Novas and Andrew Bolts to go on and commentate – but keep the news fair, straight and balanced as they do on Fox.”

“That,” Monckton said to an approving board room, would “break through and give to Australia a proper dose of free market thinking”.

Whether or not Australia is about to get a further dose of free market climate denial through the outlets of Fairfax is now open to question.

UPDATE: This post is now on DeSmogBlog, with some added detail about a second video from this boardroom gathering.

UPDATE: This story is now also running on ABC The Drum.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Mannkal has now removed the videos in question from YouTube. However, community advocacy campaigners GetUp! have now released their own version of the first video, including some commentary and subtitles. Since the original is no longer available, I’ve replaced it on this post with GetUp!’s video.

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