Say Yes Australia

What is it?

A new ad campaign, viewable here, that accompanies the endorsement of the Labour Government’s proposed carbon tax by a group of 140 prominent Australians. Despite the Opposition’s vehement denouncement of the tax, former Liberals leader John Hewson is one of the 140.

However, it is Cate Blanchett, Australian actress and active supporter of a greener future, who has come under heaviest media fire for appearing in the ads. She has been condemned, somewhat hypocritically, by various conservative voices for being too rich to be in touch with the needs of normal Australians.

The voices, none more vocal than Opposition leader Tony Abbott, are the same as those who oppose the tax for the burdens it will place on the average Australian family (this despite the Government’s pledge to direct 50% of the revenue raised by the tax towards assisting those self same families). Their argument is that Blanchett, an individual of considerable means, should not stick her nose in a debate that’s really about the big bad Government slamming yet another tax on the little Aussie battler.

Is it just us, or are the ironies so thick in all this we could make soup out of them?

So what do we think?

We suggest that the voices are attempting to muddy the discussion on the carbon tax by misdirecting our attention towards the totally unrelated issue of whether successful Australians have the right to get involved with politics. This is absurd: be it Pamela Anderson and PETA, Bono and Live 8 or Hugh Jackman and the Global Poverty Project, celebrities the world over have always promoted causes close to their hearts (indeed, there is even this website dedicated to tracking the philanthropic activities of the stars). Does Blanchett not have the right to voice an opinion, to use her fame to influence the opinions of others in a direction she feels is both positive and important? In a country dedicated to the freedom of speech, that others are attempting to censor Blanchett is simply preposterous.

The controversy over Blanchett’s involvement with the ad campaign has unfortunately obscured a far more important dimension, its message: that by putting a price on the carbon released when fossil fuels are burned, the price of those fuels will explicitly take into account the environmental damage caused by their use. This is not the GST, a tax whose primary purpose was to increase government revenue. This is a tax with a larger social agenda in its sights, the first big step towards our country participating in a global economy that values the longterm health of the natural environment.

Read this article for general discussion on the proposed carbon tax, and initiatives currently underway in other countries.