Motherless child


The Gillard government’s carbon price scheme is like a tiny new-born infant. Carefully delivered, wrapped up in swaddling clothes, rushed into an incubator, carefully protected. It is tiny, hardly of any impact whatsoever, a barely noticeable blip on the day-to-day fluctuations of economy, prices, jobs. But if it can survive it has potential, and therefore it is already the subject of a massive campaign by the media (including the ABC) on their own behalf and on behalf of the ideology and financial interests of their corporate friends.

To see why let us step back a moment, to the scurrilous campaign by the tobacco industry against plain packaging of cigarettes. May not impact much on their global profits when there is a reduction in consumption in Australia. Small change really. But it is the example that has to be smashed. If Australia succeeds in doing this the other countries will take notice, follow suit, and suddenly we are talking big money. When the Right complains about Australia “taking the lead” they are not concerned that we might find ourselves in the front of the pack developing a renewable energy economy because of worries about the battlers, but because we would become an example of what could be done.

So the carbon price approach has to be smashed, and the media (as well as the political representatives of the corporations) were on the job immediately the announcement was finalised (had been on the job even earlier in fact). We watched on the first full day after the announcement as Oz media set about destroying carbon tax, with constant repeat of the “PM is a liar” refrain so well put in place beforehand. Watched as interview after interview finds “battlers” who “don’t believe” they will be better off. Read phony polls. Marvelled as “industry leaders” are given endless interviews in which to repeat, unchallenged, the “Australia is rooned” refrain. Enjoyed the hypocrisy as the talking heads said government had to “sell the tax” while unleashing a total media war to prevent them doing so.

Listened in shock and awe to the misleading introductory “headlines”, the push poll type questions in an abrasive style for government members, the soft and helpful questions for opposition members. The vested interests interviewed as experts, their interests undeclared, their statements unchallenged (one for example suggesting that a $3.50 increase in airfares would ruin the aviation industry!). The average joe off the street asked for a view given the same weight as any number of expert enquiries and cabinet considerations.

Finally listened in amazed disgust as first Tony Abbott, after visiting an open cut coal mine in a devastated landscape said that he “didn’t see anyone” among the miners who was into damaging the environment; then Joe Hockey, asked a question at a public meeting about whether the Liberal Party was going to stop the public “taking up arms against the government” merely said he “understood” the questioner’s anger.

Trouble is, I don’t think either Gillard’s advisers, or the Greens think tank, have got any idea of what they are up against here. They both seem to think that by setting out facts calmly and rationally the people will be won over in the end. They have no idea of the campaign being waged against this move on greenhouse gases. The foundations have been carefully laid by the likes of Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt with the help of Christopher Monckton and Ian Plimer, and now full coal-fired steam ahead with every media outlet building on those foundations.

We are only a day onto this, but my gut tells me the battle, and the war, are already lost. The baby won’t be coming out of the incubator.

PS I was going to end this with some helpful ideas. For example it seems to me that in areas like the Latrobe and Hunter Valleys you could set in motion the development of major renewable energy facilities for every mine facing closure or reduced output, and training schemes for miners to get into renewables. Could undertake land reclamation, revegetation and soil carbon building measures, maybe plantation timber projects. And perhaps a scheme to encourage tourism development of such regions. But I don’t think anything is going to be able to overcome this media campaign (one talking head Monday morning for example said the compensation scheme was “so generous it was suspicious”). With that media mindset nothing is going to matter.

23 comments on “Motherless child

  1. bob muntz says:

    Yeah, Yeah Yeah, absolutely right. And I ask because I am in no position to judge, Are Australians intelligent? Well, it would appear not.
    I just heard a poor unfortunate imbecile on ABC radio asking ‘ How can paying money (carbon tax) save peoples lives in heat waves (climate change)?
    I despair, again!


    • David Horton says:

      Thanks Bob, whenever I find myself unduly cheerful, I only have to read any thread in response to any blog about climate change to have my faith in my fellow Australians utterly deflated again, and me with it.


  2. Yes, the opposition to the carbon tax is powerful, noisy and unprincipled.

    And the ALP has itself to blame for the situation as well. If they don’t know what they’re up against, this is only the latest in a long list of not informing themselves of what they were up against, both internally and externally.
    If they lose the next election, the baby’s really dead and buried, so let’s hope they lift their game and take a good hard look at what is going so horribly wrong for them. They aren’t victims of anybody other than themselves. They owe it to us and to the planet to clean their house and make themselves worthy to be treated with respect and as if they have some real authority.


    • David Horton says:

      Hi jen. Your piece was well worth a read. Seems to me that the “knifing Kevin” meme has been deliberately maintained by the media as one of the weapons. By contrast Tony Abbott’s nasty road to power had become media-invisible before the voting papers had been shredded.

      Still, your point about the real Julia is well taken. There must be a Real Julia, but for some reason neither she, nor her minders, think that it is appropriate for it to be seen by the public when she is prime minister.


      • Well, you could be right about the media and the knifing kevin meme. All the same I haven’t got past that, not because I particularly love kev even though he is one of my ten Twitter followers, but because of the principle, David, the principle!

        Abbott’s day will come.


        • David Horton says:

          I’m not sure there was a principle involved. I don’t buy the “dumped because of bad polls and to hell with loyalty” scenario. I think that was used after the fact to give a reason that the media would accept. The real reason, as has emerged in unguarded comments from time to time is that the great white hope Kevin 07 became the unbearable autocrat Kevin 08. Nobody could stomach him, nobody could work with him. I have had a few bad bosses in my time (see under “Dream” tab) and recognise the symptoms. I don’t think Julia set out to undermine him or plot against him (in contrast to Abbott and Turnbull), I think at some point people realised that the whole parliamentary party (except for that one woman who clearly didn’t know him) hated him and said to Julia “come on, this has to end” and she got on board. It seems to me revealing that the potential vote (unlike Abbott Turnbull) was so obviously against Kevin that he withdrew. Astonishing for a prime minister. I forget the Hawke Keating vote, but I think it was moderately close, and Hawke too, had clearly become an untenable leader. Maybe I am wrong in this interpretation, but it seems to me to fit the facts better than the “scheming woman knifes popular leader because of opinion polls” narrative does. Or maybe it’s because Kev doesn’t follow me on Twitter!


  3. Rose Adams says:

    I watched Q & A last night with a growing sense of optimism- at last the government is putting the message across in the right way! What intelligent measured responses from Julia Guillard! Surely people will be persuaded that this tax is a small, necessary beginning in the battle to reduce carbon pollution. Ah but then I read the same ignorant denialist responses from the uninformed and unpersuaded. And I read your clear evaluation of what we are up against and feel frustrated and helpless yet again. However I remain resolute that we cannot give up on this fight and must continue to share accurate,scientifically based information.


    • David Horton says:

      Welcome Rose. As someone who, like Julia comes across as boring and wooden when I give a lecture, and can extemporise and entertain while responding to questions afterwards, I do sympathise with her. I have been known to say to a class or conference, oh, let’s skip the lecture, just ask me questions. She can’t do that, but her advisers somehow need to convert her ability to master a topic and generally ad-lib pretty well (though I agree with Geoff, the repetition wears you down sometimes) into some technique she can use in a prepared speech.


  4. Andy O'Brien says:

    A lone voice of sanity in a morass of self interest and pig ignorance.
    Horne’s “Lucky Country” (I know the title was satirical) has finally become the “Lacky Country” – gord help us!
    More power to your blog cobber,this is one of your best.
    Andy O’Brien


  5. Snowy says:

    Cheer up, David. Numbers is the name of the game, as you well know. Between Labor, Greens and Independents the numbers are there for the legislation to pass both the Reps and the Senate this year, and Greens will have the balance of power in the Senate no matter who wins the next election. For this reason, reports of the death of the Carbon Tax baby are entirely premature.


    • So if the Coalition wins the next election, and the Greens refuse to rescind the Carbon Tax, we could have a double dissolution which means all senate positions are up for re-election. Is that how it works? Which means the Greens may lose their balance of power.


      • Snowy says:

        My understanding is because the quota is only half of a normal Senate election, it is still very likely that the Greens would hold the balance of power, but if Abbott had a joint sitting of Parliament then he may be able to overturn the Carbon Tax. Lots of reasons why that may not be such a good idea though. I don’t think the Carbon Tax will be an issue if it has been in place for a year, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.


    • David Horton says:

      Hi Snowy, good to see you. I know you are right technically, but with the anti-carbon tax loony tunes crusade talking about “taking arms against the government” and not being put down by Joe Hockey, I think we are in for a very rough 2 years. And that is assuming no by-elections!


  6. Geoff says:

    The old joke: “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” is pertinent, so I think when the baby’s swaddling clothes are removed. we’ll find a dead camel.
    I emailed my local (labor) member asking why they just didn’t increase the GST by (say) 2.5% and call it a “future renewable energy” levy. To sell the levy, all they would have to do is “compensate” the way Howard did to sell it. Pretty hard for Abbott to oppose it. I think the concept of a consumption tax is pretty well accepted by now, isn’t it? No need for any extra public service – just take 20% of all monies collected & give it to renewable energy.
    It is alleged by Rudd that “certain members” of Cabinet not only opposed his original scheme then engineered his dismissal and are now calling the shots.
    If so, would it be cynical of me to suggest that this camel satisfies the Greens and the independents, thus retaining their vote, but has been designed to fail, so that all the negative media coverage is music to their ears.
    Unlike Rose Adams, I thought Gillard on Q&A gave the equivalent of a prepared speech interrupted by questions.
    Despair is my constant companion.


    • David Horton says:

      Geoff, this is very like me but I think you are a bit too cynical. While there are certainly many Labor politicians who would fit in well to an Alan Jones rally, I think the majority are in favour and trying to make this work.

      The problem with the 2.5% GST increase is that it wouldn’t distinguish between high carbon products and low carbon ones, and that is part of what it needs to do.

      Here is a riddle Julia might use. What is the similarity between Howard’s GST and Gillard’s Carbon Price? Both are regressive taxes, impacting the poor more than the rich. What is the difference between Howard’s GST and Gillard’s Carbon Price? The poor get compensated for the carbon price.


  7. franbarlow says:

    I’m not as pessimistic as you David. Absent some other major disaster, 2 years of “decision and delivery” with a senate keen to get down to serious business and which can run the gag and wiuth twoi rounds of tax cuts, the carbon price scheme bedded down and apparently unremarkable, the NBN in place, the MRRT in place — what is the LNP going to say?

    They can’t unwind the carbon price because sovereign risk arguments would be run against them and because it would entail reversing tax reform. Two years from now, the policy may be well in sync with the perceptions from oversees both about the need for action, and for others to follow Australia’s lead. They can’t unwind the NBN because contracts will be in place and income flowing to Telstra would have to be clawed back. They can’t unwind the MRRt without promising to hand billions back to the miners at public expense. That won’t play well.

    That means they will be campaigning on the basis of … nothing. Having spent a whole lot of time talking about people’s revolt they will be one damp squib and everyone they need to impress will be utterly bored of it all. And without the power to block legislation — what can they do but choose between sounding ridiculous or seeking amendments? This latter never going to be Abbott’s game because that would involve working on policy — which he finds boring.

    Turnbull isn’t going to sit on his hands during this either. He’s going to want Abbott to look bad, and for him to look good and he’s not so close as Abbott to the revolting people.

    I also foresee a growing disenchantment with the Murdochracy, which this latest scandal will help sharpen. Their standing to comment in Abbott’s favour is going to either decline or begin to be a death embrace. Abbott is not going to want to be that close to them when they are stinking up the place.

    On balance, and bearing in mind the hazards of predicting 2 years out — I’d say the ALP will retain power in 2013, unless something else we don’t know about yet occurs to ruin them.

    So IMO, it’s unwise to read the present into the future. It’s better to imagine how the future might look and ask if that helps or hinders the LNP. It seems to me that the downside risks are all on the LNP. This time around, unlike in 2010, there will be many with a stake in the ALP winning based on what they have done.


    • David Horton says:

      Hey there Fran, welcome. Today’s Galaxy Poll shows two thirds of people believe they will be “worse off” under a carbon price!!! That’s a good and disturbing sign of the effectiveness of the media campaign. About the same believed there “should be an election” before the price was introduced. And there was Abbott grinning like a maniac on the morning news, about how fish would be more expensive (don’t know if anyone has explained to him fish are going to be in short supply as the oceans warm and acidify, but hey, its only politics) – his every stunt reported seriously by tv. I think the Liberals and the media are aiming for pressure that can’t be resisted. The only thing we have going for us is that John Kerr is no longer governor General, but I think they have in mind some kind of similar constitutional coup. Massive street demonstrations whipped up by the media. Violence developing. Armed men around parliament house. Political crisis where “strong action” is needed. That kind of thing. I sense it in my bones, and my bones are old and wise.


  8. franbarlow says:

    This is a time for us to hold our nerve David. Our policy is adequate (just) and we hold the trump cards. We must grip them tightly and play them well, but if we do, we should win.

    Yet even if we don’t, our first requirement is to do the right thing. If it proves to be the case that the misanthropic angst persists and the policy is overturned, then it will show merely that we have to fight harder to get this done. We of this generation must foster a new generation of activists who can pick up the baton when death forces us to surrender it.


  9. Geoff says:

    What is the difference between changing your mind, breaking a promise or telling a lie? Certainly Alan Jones and Abbott don’t appear to know and from the lack of any response from Labor to the accusation that Gillard lied, they don’t know either (unless of course she WAS lying when she made her dumb and counter intuitive undertaking not to tax carbon).
    I’m sure Alan & Tony are two of your most ardent followers David, so for their information I can reveal that the crime of a lie is committed at the time of the utterance; one can change one’s mind later, particularly if one realizes that one’s original utterance was a mistake or if the lure of the “promise” has been rejected.
    The “promise” affected the outcome of the election only to the extent that potential Labor voters swung to the Greens (particularly in the Senate) rather than convincing any of the sharp elbowed set that Labor’s “no tax” policy was better than that of the Liberals


  10. notasheeple says:

    Coal is dead. In much the same way as typewriters with the advent of the home PC, the cost of photovoltaic cells is plummeting every year. It’s no stretch of the imagination to forsee within 10 years spending $5000 to be off the grid forever. No more power bills.

    Coal is dead. Renewables will become cheaper and cheaper, regardless of a price on carbon. The die is cast. Much like the NBN, Nation wide surplus power, from residential homes and small renewables generators, will power industry. Peak evening demand will be handled by kinetic, thermal and battery storage systems.

    Coal is dead. They know it, it scares them. Your profits evaporate when more and more people are self sufficient. Better and cheaper battery technology will ensure night time power and high drain buffering.

    Coal is dead. Along with petrol. Your house system will charge your electric car, either directly or through day charged battery swap. No more pump robbery.

    The future is bright. Only the industry of old and it’s representatives fight for the past. Their reasons are selfish. Their supporters are short sighted and misinformed…..

    Coal…….Is dead.


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