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Right-Populist monopoly media attempts to ‘deprive carbon debate of oxygen'

By Tristan Ewins - posted Friday, 3 June 2011


In a recent episode of 'QandA" (Questions and Answers), the debate over the Australian Labor government's proposed carbon tax continued in the same manner as it has for quite some time now.

In particular, the representative on QANDA for the conservative parties, Liberal Senator George Brandis, repeated the usual line citing cost-of-living pressures and job destruction as the essential reasons the tax ought be rejected.

Labor MP Kate Lundy repeated again and again that low and middle income groups would be fully compensated (the point of the tax being not to raise revenue - but to create 'market signals' and so change patterns of consumption and investment).

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However, Brandis calculatedly avoided engaging in his response – as to give any recognition here would 'give the debate oxygen' and reveal the 'convenient fictions' propagated by the conservative parties in attempting to build up pressure for an early election.

Brandis ignored the issue of what would have happened to the Australian economy without Labor's stimulus and the extent to which the most recent budget deficit was exacerbated by natural disasters beyond the control of any political party.

He also continued with the same 'line' that 'Labor is addicted to debt,' 'cannot handle money' etc. He said this not because it is true, but rather because Liberal focus groups must be reporting that these kinds of truisms 'resonate' with the public.

But if this is so, it is only because these kind of ideas have been reinforced again and again over decades by the right-populist monopoly media. The same focus groups must be telling Abbott that opportunist 'lowest common denominator' politics – especially in the case of vilification of refugees - are eroding Labor's support base, 'backing Labor into a corner.'

The human suffering of refugees is of little consequence for many on the Right: 'Anything goes' for Abbott, and for 'fear campaign shock troops' like Scott Morrison, in pursuit of personal ambition.

Debate on the proposed carbon tax had intensified as a consequence of a recent advertisement in favour of action on climate change – sponsored by progressive lobby association 'GetUp!,' the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

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Australian actress Cate Blanchett in particular, has 'come under fire' from conservative forces, including most of the right-populist monopoly media, for taking a stand on this issue. Opposition leader Tony Abbott, George Brandis and others have accused her of being 'out of touch' with struggling Australian families trying to make ends meet as a consequence of her personal wealth.

And yet the conservatives and their media allies want to attack truly vulnerable pensioners, while pleading for upper-middle class welfare for those on $80,000/year and more.

If anything, the focus on Cate Blanchett as a personality, detracted from the real debate over climate change. This was no accident – but was a tactic of distraction intended to avoid engaging on the issues, to prevent the message of this campaign from 'getting through.'

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About the Author

Tristan Ewins has a PhD and is a freelance writer, qualified teacher and social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also a long-time member of the Socialist Left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). He blogs at Left Focus, ALP Socialist Left Forum and the Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.
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