I was prompted to consider the topic of expertise after watching an episode of Four Corners, which focused on coal seam gas. I’m unable to embed the video directly in the blog, but if you’re interested, the video is available here. In addition to the main issue of the public not trusting mining companies’ expertise, Four Corners highlighted two other ways that expertise might shape the CSG controversy.

The first way is the reference to a different type of expert. In Four Corners, this is the water bore driller who has been drilling bores in the area for 33 years. The question is, is the advice of the bore driller better than advice from mining companies? Who is the expert in this situation? Is it the guy who’s an expert at drilling bores in the local area, or the people who are experts at geology and groundwater modelling? Through this example, I hope to analyse what it means to be an expert. In this case, you might say that the driller is an expert at bore drilling, but mining companies are experts about drilling in aquifers.

The 'Fraccman' (source: The Wilderness Society)

The other aspect of expertise is the expertise of the protesters. Four Corners first introduces us to a man who is such a prolific protester that he does guest talks at community meetings and goes by the nickname of the ‘fraccman’. Clearly he’s an expert protester. Special care is also made to note that one of the other protesters is the chairman of Macquarie Bank. The implication is that this guy is smart, well respected and his opinions are to be taken seriously. Although different to the fraccman, I would say that the chairman is also being portrayed as an expert protester.

The portrayal of people as experts has a strong influence on how much we trust and believe what those people are saying. It’s quite interesting to consider how the public’s view of experts and expertise has shaped the CSG controversy and I hope to have some more to add to this topic over the next few weeks.

In other news, Insight will be looking at CSG next Tuesday (7:30pm, SBS1).


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