The Charcoal Writing Is On The Wall

Cate Blanchett stumped for the cause of a carbon price and got a ripping from the Murdoch press. What followed was an admission by Dick Smith that he agreed with Blanchett but was too ‘gutless’ to front up for his beliefs for he feared exactly the sort of treatment Blanchett was receiving from the Murdoch press. Dick Smith even pointed to Murdoch’s own words about climate change and implored the employer of these institutional climate change deniers. to come back and set them straight. Barnaby Joyce charged that Blanchett was unfit to comment as she was rich. Adam Bandt pointed out that so was Gina Rinehart and that it didn’t stop her from campaigning for her own personal gain. Blanchett at least is campaigning for the common good – an important distinction.

Since then it’s been a bit of a free for all.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, did not overplay Blanchett’s involvement, saying she was as entitled as anybody else to have her voice heard on the issue.
Mr Abbott dismissed her as a celebrity who was out of touch. ”You do not give special weight to celebrities,” he said. ”You do not give special weight to people who live half the year in Hollywood where there is no carbon tax.”

That last bit is a bit (pardon the pun) rich. It points to a deeply undemocratic vein in Tony Abbott’s political outlook but I won’t go into that too much. Barnaby Joyce’s denunciations too reveal a largely patriarchal anxiety wherein he is acutely aware that the beauty bias runs against him. If he had to stump up next to Cate Blanchett, he can’t win because she is far better looking, better known and liked.

Still, it’s this patriarchal libertarian leave-me-alone-to-do-as-I-will entitlement of bloke-ishness that seems to glavanise around the political end of the carbon price debate; and it’s the school-marmish restraint of women like Julia Gillard and Cate Blanchett who are arguiing strongly for restraint of carbon emissions and a means of setting price point to discourage excessive emissions. No wonder the barbecue-loving blokes are going flipper and tongs at Cate Blanchett, ad hominem.

Well this is not about Cate Blanchett’s right to side with the Carbon Price. It’s about where the debate will ultimately go, and should go.

The Carbon Price debate is going to crash over the line with a lot of screaming rhetoric, but in the end the big end of town knows it needs to be done, and that if the discussions go past 1 July, it will be the Greens who will control the debate in the Upper House. This would suggest that it is incumbent upon the Coalition to represent the big end of town and secure the best deal they can out of the wounded Labor party before they both get taken hostage by the Greens – but no, it’s Tony Abbott at the helm.

It’s not just me saying it.

Abbott’s whole “big new tax” campaign shuns acknowledgment of the real point, as does his alleged alternative strategy of paying farmers to bury carbon. It has worked in scaring voters and perhaps raised the hopes of a few gullible cockies, but it’s also created investment uncertainty and is contributing to wobbly consumer confidence.
Keep shouting that the Government is taking Australia down the drain, that our macro economic policy is a total failure, and some people will be silly enough to believe it. The mindless simplification of budget policy into “surplus good, deficit bad” has been effectively debunked by Ross Gittins but don’t expect most of the media to understand it.

But the ructions of the past week within the Liberal Party might indicate the very people who gave Abbott the job somewhat by default (remember that Joe Hockey didn’t stand) are beginning to realise there are limits to Total Opposition. More pragmatically, they know Labor is so on the nose, the Liberal Party can afford to be seen to have some principles again.

Labor presently thinks Tony Abbott is the best thing going for it. If they can implement their Malaysian boat people solution, their (rather simplistic) hope is that a very mild carbon tax then proves to be a non-issue upon implementation, leaving Abbott as the attack dog without a bone to worry.

Tony Abbott and his climate-change denying cohorts are an embarrassment.

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