Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Carbon tax and other dirty language

By Nicki Roller - posted Friday, 30 September 2011

Pro business climate change sceptics and pro tax environmentalists have hijacked the climate change debate and changed our understanding of ordinary language. We keep hearing the same debates with predictable partisan points of view.

Climate change has been appropriated by so many people with different agendas but is it possible that we could have a constructive discussion over the most pressing issue affecting all of our futures?

Might climate change and its tax, be an opportunity for regaining public trust?


Language has become so laden with meaning that we can no longer trust simple words to be neutral. Words are bandied about like weapons of mass destruction - junk science, tax, radical lefties, tree huggers, clean coal, dirty coal, crisis, cataclysm all perpetuating fear, anxiety and distrust. Language is deliberately being used to obscure real issues and possible solutions.

Because of our busy and complex lives, many of us have issue fatigue and often give big issues the least amount of attention or critical analysis. We have become Homer Simpsonised in our thinking.

'"Tax" - mmm, all tax is bad - therefore I am against a carbon tax.'

Add to that our suspicion that we live in a world of shady deals, lobbyists and corporations exerting undue influence on governments, it is not surprising we suspect everyone has an agenda and that no experts have any neutral information.

As our trust in authority declines we are turning to 'ordinary' people for the truth. Industry lobby groups such as the Australian Industry and Trade Alliance are taking advantage of this and using 'ordinary' people to warn us against the carbon tax via television ads.

People from a broad range of demographics including a hairdresser, a trade person and a mother advise and frighten us of "the world's biggest tax with no environmental benefit", repeating, "why threaten our jobs?"


As we saw with the $22 million anti-mining tax campaign, whoever can afford the best advertising agency and largest media buy, will win the debate. The anti-mining adverts in 2010 were widely believed to have contributed to the removal of Kevin Rudd.

Political marketing has always existed but now television advertisements have become the primary landscape for political debate. By necessity, thirty-second ads are prone to be sound bites reliant on emotive language to persuade through repetition of simplistic ideas.

There is no place for complex debate in this media spectrum. As a barrage of information, in this media format, it creates voters who don't deny but are worse; they are indifferent to the science.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

35 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Nicole Roller is a politics student at the University of New South Wales and a film maker.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Nicki Roller
Article Tools
Comment 35 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy