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.