Cate Blanchett and carbon tax plunder


Cate Blanchett cannot help but appear polished on screen. Having conquered Hollywood with Oscar winning performances, she has now moved into the field of environmental activism; currently, by advocating for a carbon tax for Australian consumers, in advertisements produced by a coalition of unions and greens urging citizens to 'Say Yes'. The tax man, it seems, has gone green.

The attacks on Blanchett's actions have followed a distinct pattern, all conforming to one theme: She is 'out of touch'. Take the words of the conservative Australian Family Association. 'It's nice to have a multi-millionaire who won't be impacted by it telling you how great [the carbon tax] is. It's easy for her to advocate it, she's one of the few who can afford to pay it.'

The Sydney Sunday Telegraph got personal: '$53 million Hollywood superstar tells Aussie families to pay up', it declared; yet another 'morally vain Hollywood star' had turned preacher in a 'climate change' cause. The Australian newspaper, never a friend of the progressive cause, has released polls showing that 60 per cent of voters were opposed to a carbon tax.

The actor turned activist is a curious sight. Since the actor specialises in dissimulation, image making, an imitation of life rather than life itself, credentials might be regarded as sketchy. Many members of the public go to the cinemas to avoid reality rather than embrace it. The idea that an actor might do the reverse creates a sense of distrust.

That said, modern politics is less the art of reality than the art of packaging. It is hard to imagine how a modern politician might not be actor. Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of a state that made politics and cinema synonymous. Ronald Reagan inundated the White House with fantasy, astrology and movie motifs. A global trend evacuating the field of politics with the creativity of the stage has been taking place for some time.

The progressive side of politics has also succumbed to that idea.

Ostensibly, the tax is designed to target polluters, with Australia being a leader in those stakes. There is, however, a troublesome reality. Instead of readjusting the country's over-reliance on the resource sector, the government is simply finding another avenue for raising revenue. Money spinning, rather than environmental saving, is what the Gillard Government has in mind.

People might debate how effective a carbon tax might be, but the insistence by Blanchett and others that it will somehow benefit Australia in the long run is untested. Debate often centres on whether emissions trading is a more effective means of establishing enforceable limits on polluting entities.

The International Emissions Trading Association claims that 'Such a [capping] program, when combined with offsets, will accelerate global emissions reductions.' That program, however, would also be difficult to implement. The attempt do introduce such a scheme floundered in spectacular fashion under the previous Rudd Government.

All this demonstrates yet again that a government such as Australia's refuses to deal with renewable energy as a realistic alternative. Australian start-ups and companies investing in green technology prefer to do their work in California, where incentives are comparably more generous.

Instead, the Australian Government hopes to obtain cash from the rich resource industry, as typified by the economy of plunder, or what the Germans might call Raubwirtschaft. Everyone, in short, is attempting to cut everyone else's purse.

The resource industry, in turn, portrays itself as a paternal figure of salvation, having cocooned Australia from the great financial crisis by relying on insatiable Chinese demand and an all too generous supply of iron ore and minerals.

A sinister complicity has arisen, with neither side realising how indispensable they are to each other. One mines myopically, and the other taxes unwisely. The consumer will, of course, have to foot the higher energy costs. And Blanchett's capacious purse will be none the lighter.

Binoy KampmarkBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. 

Topic tags: Binoy Kampmark, Cate Blanchett, Michael Caton, carbon tax, gillard, say yes, emissions trading scheme



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Existing comments

Remember when our moral compass, Cate, reproved those who found Henson's photos of unclothed little girls distasteful?

helen mary collopy | 31 May 2011  

Binoy seems to want to back both teams;on one hand he borrows the Coalition's rhetoric and automatically attributes venal motives to the government; on the other, he seems to acknowledge the need to shift to non-polluting technology.

He fails to accept that most Australians do not want to change their consumption-driven lifestyle, do not read the science of unprecedented CO2 and temperature increases that has daily been in the reputable papers, let alone New Scientist or Scientific American. Instead, as Reinhart, Forrest and their gang of plutocrats well know, Australians are driven by emotion, not logic and evidence. So why not use a film star to open up the emotional channels in which most Australians seem to operate?
Today, Tuesday, Garnaut will outline ways in which any revenue raised from a carbon tax must fund alternitive technology.

People won't give up their appliance chocked 200 square metre house or their 4x4 voluntarily. They have to be shocked into realizing that a little pain now will avoid catastrophic economic pain later.
Bill Hampel

Bill Hampel | 31 May 2011  

Seems odd to me that Cate Blanchett is getting it in the neck from the conservatives and deniers but Michael Caton is not. What's the story?

Frank Golding | 31 May 2011  

I am disappointed and somewhat alarmed to see Eureka Street take such a definite political stance on the climate debate. Does Mr Kampmark have any science credentials? Did he criticise billionnaire Gina Rinehart for her rather strident attack on the proposed mining tax.

Kampmark quotes the Australian Family Association: "It's easy for her (Blanchett)to advocate it, she's one of the few who can afford to pay it."

Mr Kampmark might also have said that Gina Rinehart was "one of the few who can afford to pay..." the mining tax.

I suggest that Mr Kampmark could quickly secure a columnist position with the Murdoch press.

Christopher Mayoir | 31 May 2011  

This kind of emotive criticism does not enlighten or assist the debate about a carbon tax. The author's comments on Cate Blanchett were like the rest of the article, based on cliches and unfounded in facts gleaned from letigitimate research.

Vineta O'Malley | 31 May 2011  

Just because the Carbon Tax is aimed at being another revenue stream for the government does not mean it will not have the desired effect.

One of the greatest achievements of the Curtin/Chifley Government was the introduction of the non-contributory sickness and unemployment benefits. Yet the introduction of the National Welfare Fund was a cynical attempt to pay for the war effort while claiming it was for the benefit of the workers. The national welfare fund directly hit the working classes with £30 million of the £40 million coming to government by lowering the tax threshold from £150 p.a. to £104. Of the £40 million raised only £4.2 million was paid out in social security benefits. Another interesting parallel is that the social welfare policy was in direct conflict with Labor policy, which until 1943 had stated that the wealthy would pay for social services

While the reason for the introduction of the Welfare Fund may have been to create a revenue stream, it has formed the basis for the nation's social security system. Hopefully the Carbon Tax will also be remembered for its overall contribution to society and not for its introduction.

JB | 31 May 2011  

What Kate and the Government assume is that a concern about CO2 automatically leads to a carbon tax and therefor to oppose the tax is to be a climate denier .Absolute nonsense . I am very concerned about the environment but do not agree the tax will make a difference and therefor reject it.

The tax will not result in fuel efficient transportation even though the technology exists since fuel will be exempt and there is no courage for a direct tax based on CO2 emmision like the UK .It will not result in a move from brown coal to gas for base power generation which is the only alternative since the tax would have to be enormous and it wont be and in any case we don't have the gas available were we to need it.

The solution to co2 emmision lies in engineering not in economics from Canberra .

john crew | 31 May 2011  

Whoa there, Bill, whoa.
What's all this about unprecedented CO2 and temperature increases? As far as I am aware the science you trust tells us that the earth's temperature has not increased for the past decade or more and while CO2 outputs have continued to rise I have seen little reference lately to actual atmospheric CO2 concentration. And, again if I have the science right, there have been times in the not-too-distant past when atmospheric CO2 levels were considerably higher than they are now, yet simultaneously temperatures were considerably lower.

John R. Sabine | 31 May 2011  

What a pity Binoy and Eureka Street have themselves such a short range moral compass about climate change options and the task of persuading us human lemmings that we need to adjust the way in which we are exercising dominion over the planet.
Shallow end of the pool stuff to focus on Blanchette. What monumental hypocrisy for the corporate media push to be reviling the wealth and message of Blanchette and her fellow travellers after their subservience to the crass self interested campaigning against a balanced mining tax by Australia's mining plutocracy!

Basic educative measures have to be tried if what HL Menken dismissed as the boobiedom level of political debate and policy formation is to be overcome in the now medium term interest of the survival of many areas of human occupation of the planet. The ETS and the related carbon price proposals are considered attempts to have our societies adopt measures that will stimulate the market and industrial enterprises into making the investments and adjustments that are now almost hopelessly overdue.
Binoy has placed himself firmly amongst the leaders of our lemming-like rush; can you not smell the sea? Ah, how the fresh breath of cynicism and the love of the free market drive us on.

I helped fund the advertisement which features Blanchette; strength to her arm and to the brave souls like John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser and others who dare to try to speak truths in the face of hostile receptions from a media overwhelmingly dominated by the corporate interests that effectively set our compass and that of most of the industrial world.

Paul Munro | 31 May 2011  

What Cate and the Government assume is that a concern about CO2 automatically leads to a carbon tax and therefor to oppose the tax is to be a climate denier .Absolute nonsense . I am very concerned about the environment but do not agree the tax will make a difference and therefor reject it .The tax will not result in fuel efficient transportation even though the technology exists since fuel will be exempt and there is no courage for a direct tax based on CO2 emission like the UK .It will not result in a move from brown coal to gas for base power generation which is the only alternative since the tax would have to be enormous and it won't be and in any case we don't have the gas available were we need it . The solution to co2 emmission lies in engineering not in economics from Canberra .

john crew | 31 May 2011  

I am sure that we all can agree that we should move towards a low carbon economy. We may all argue about the reason to do this. Scientific monitoring shows that CO2 has increased in the atmosphere during the last decades. The rise is mainly due to massive CO2 output during winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The massive energy requirements to heat homes, offices and commercial and industrial activities during winter are creating a massive over-emission of CO2. The CO2 emission cannot be reduced as most carbon sinks are inactive (vegetation and fresh water). The situation in Australia is very different. In Australia only a very small part of the continent is under snow cover. Most of its vegetation, rivers, lakes and adjoining oceans remain active as carbon sinks. In fact Australia is more active as a carbon sink during its winter, because vegetation grows far better than during the hot dry summers. Australia currently has enough carbon sinks to deal with all the CO2 emitted on the continent. Most of the CO2 is neutralised within a few kilometres of the emission source. In many ways the enhanced levels of CO2 acutely benefit Australia, as it helps to boost agricultural and horticultural production. Most of plant life is “starving” because of low CO2 levels. I feel that we can put the argument of CO2 harm or benefits on the side. The main issue remains that we have an inter-generational responsibility to our children. If we continue burning raw materials such as oil and coal, vital for the production of many products, then we will go down in history as the “silly generation”. Do we need a carbon tax? The answer is clearly a big “NO”. Our Government can make laws to achieve a low carbon economy. It can be done without taxes and it can be done without complicated “take from the rich to give to the poor schemes”. In fact the Government could look at some no regrets options. The Government would be wise to introduce something like a 3% Plan. The plan would mean that all power generators would have to increase the production of renewable energy by 3% a year. All big businesses and Government Departments would have to increase the proportion of renewable energy use by 3% per year. It would mean that Government Departments, large companies and power generators would have to start produce and use renewable energy. It would mean over a 10 year period, the production of renewable energy would have increased by 30%. A very low carbon economy would be achieved within a single generation. A carbon tax does not mean that global CO2 is going to be reduced at all. It means that we just pay more for energy. A carbon tax is just a licence to burn vital resources owned by future generations.

Beat Odermatt | 31 May 2011  

Forgive me if I am being a little thin-skinned but being an actor myself, I find it curious (but not unexpected in these days of media manipulation) that the debate has centered on a person's occupation and their position in society, with a not so subtle dig questioning their credibility, rather than the substance of the issue. And so it is with this article. Mr Kampmark said, "(actors)credentials might be regarded as sketchy"! From that one might assume that actors don't have a normal life, aren't affected by everyday concerns, like "ordinary Australians", nor worried about issue that affect us all. Worse that that is the notion that because we 'represent life' we don't understand its real meaning and therefore our opinions don't count. Mr Kampmark should spend some time backstage, in the dressing rooms, to hear the diverse conversations that occur; conversation that spring from a very real awareness of what affects our society. Cate Blancehett, Michael Caton and other Australians in the public eye are entitled to use their position to highlight this issue. Just as their opponents do via the mindless ravings of radio shock-jocks and the slightly less aggressive 'News Limited'.

Jeff KETTERING TAS 7155 | 31 May 2011  

I read the comments with a mixture of incredulity and bemusement. Some commentators appear to have read a different article from the one I did. Mr Kampmark provides both balance and curiously begged questions. For instance, Ms Blanchett's profession is notionally irrelevant; her (equally) notional influence may not be. Michael Caton's likewise. I confess to being cynical (realistic and observant) enough to suggest that it does not matter who appears in what advertisements - the "public" will employ the same method of thoughtful, intelligent analysis "we" seem invariably to use: how much will it cost us? The Blanchett beat-up meanwhile is a pointed distraction from the many crucial issues facing not just Australia but all humanity. In summary: we are wasting time. What we cannot afford is less the rising costs of energy than this kind of indulgent, to use a delightful Australianism, P-Effing around.

Alistair P D Bain | 31 May 2011  

Strange that the author didn't mention Cardinal George Pell's attempts to apply his church influence in support of the climate change deniers, thus putting at grave risk the future of our children and the planet, a position which incidentally places him in conflict with the pope. Cate Blanchett is simply publishing the sensible view of a well known person to help put the irrational position of the politically inspired deniers in some perspective. George Pell has considerable moral influence over some Catholics and supports a politically inspired resistance that flies in the face of established evidence. It's important to err on the side of freedom of speech but surely the time has come for Eureka Street to refuse a platform to those who are in essence resisting action to mitigate the grave risks of anthropogenic climate change.

Peter Johnstone | 31 May 2011  

An actor has the same rights to speak as anyone else. People like myself who are comparatively unknown - not rich, not famous, are not heard, and so she in fact represents the voiceless thousands - which can also include future generations and as a mother - our children and grandchildren. A refreshing change from Tony Abbott's boring, constant, unrelenting, negative diatribe - fed up to the max. of that.

Marion Ivanic | 31 May 2011  

It's pleasant that even people with a comfortable lifestyle can voice an opinion on the fraught argument of carbon tax; Michael Caton was in the ad also. I'm not too thrilled about more tax either, but I don't want to have the next generation trying to cope with what all the scientists have informed us will be close to disaster. We have a grave obligation over this, and people will be compensated if they are to be truly disadvantaged. We must not be selfish.

Mary Maraz | 31 May 2011  

I am really struggling to make sense of Binoy's contention in this article. I accept that a carbon tax is an inadequate response to the need to cut emissions to the level needed to prevent dangerous climate change. More substantial change is needed, particularly in terms of alternatives to coal fired power stations as our primary source of electricity. We also need to shift from our dependence on resource exports and economic growth as the foundations for our economy, although quite how that will be achieved is enormously challenging. Why Cate Blanchett should be on the receiving end of malicious and snide commentary for her stance on climate change bewilders me. She is a citizen with voting rights like the rest of us, and entitled to express and lead opinion. I am glad she is speaking up for action on climate change; it is her children and mine, and yours, and all future generations who will face up to the worsening environmental consequences of warming. It's not as if we haven't had a glimpse of this with the horrendous Black Saturday bushfires, extreme drought, the recent floods in Queensland and Victoria, and more intense cyclonic activity, all of which has occurred due to current levels of warming.

Kate | 31 May 2011  

Cate Blanchett is as entitled as any other to be concerned about climate change, based on a scientific consensus. She is not just a rich actor, she is also a parent, a citizen, part of a community. It is disingenuous to imply that the advertisement is by the government; those who are funding it are not only seeking to shift the views of doubters, but trying to encourage the Labor government to act courageously. It is too cynical to see the carbon tax as a grab for revenue. All of us need to change our behaviour; as consumers we must reduce our carbon footprints, and price will help encourage this. Companies too need cost incentives to reduce emissions, but also, along with investors, to put money into alternative sources of energy. Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest et al went public to protect their own obscene profits; Cate Blanchett, Michael Caton and others supporting this tax have nothing to gain, but the opprobrium heaped on them by hostile media and individuals. They are speaking out of concern for the country, the future, their children.

Myrna T | 31 May 2011  

I found it refreshing to hear Cate Blanchett reintroduce future generations into the debate. The daily, hourly insistence of Tony Abbott that the issue is about nothing more than money in our pockets right now is not only populism taken to absurd (and even wicked) lengths, it's a complete insult to the Australian people. Does he think we are such fools that we can only see in it the dimension of present wealth? Can the issue be debated without putting first that we are dealing here with the sort of world we're leaving to our children? What can we think of someone who never speaks as if he thinks that matters?

Joe Castley | 31 May 2011  

Gday Binoy, of course, a government would be foolish to burden the productive economy with too much taxation. My recommendation for a carbon tax specifically requires that other taxes be commensurately decreased. 1. Introduce a fossil carbon consumption tax, then increase it steadily, year by year. 2. Year by year, phase out fossil fuel use subsidies. 3. As and when revenue comes available via steps 1 and 2, cut other taxes. As part of this process, many of the small irritant taxes identified in the Henry Review can be phased out altogether, improving the efficiency of the tax system overall. Notes: 1. Continue raising the fossil carbon consumption carbon tax until the desired level of fossil carbon use reduction has been achieved. Then a new taxation system [including, for example, a raw material export tax] can be phased in. 2. Fossil fuel used to import goods to Australia is included in the carbon taxation regime; this will encourage domestic value-adding to presently-exported raw materials, growing the Australian economy overall and creating Australian jobs. [In turn, this will increase the tax base, and permit further cuts in tax rates other than the fossil carbon consumption tax].

David Arthur | 31 May 2011  

Your observation about politics being packaged reminds me of Jay Leno's observation that 'politics is show business for ugly people'!

There is much more theatrics and image in politics and policy than meets the eye.

Moira Byrne Garton | 31 May 2011  

A disgraceful article. You should be ashamed to print such rubbish.

rupert hudson | 02 June 2011  

A very disappointing article. Politics at its best is a lot more than just 'packaging'. There's a lot more to the carbon tax than just raising cash for the government. Professor Garnaut has put forward a clear and bold call for Australia to join the internationally progressive countries and citizens in a move towards social and industrial change that can seriously hope to protect the environment for the benefit of future Australians and all citizens and creatures. Come on Binoy, why not look to build more positive cooperation between the conflicting sectors in Australia and around the world. The renewable energy sector does deserve a lot more support from businesses and governments - many individual citizens are already showing their endorsement for their methods and products. Hooray for Cate and Michael being willing to stand up and be counted for valuing positive change and being willing to accept that there may need to be personal changes and sacrifices for all of us in the interests of the greater good to which I believe God is calling us.

Ken Devereux | 03 June 2011  

There is no mention here of the fact that low income earners and pensioners will be compensated for the higher cost of energy, or that some of the tax collected will be used for renewables.

P. Oliver | 03 June 2011  

I have a simple exercise for those who prefer to do nothing to reduce our carbon emissions rather than to try something like a carbon tax which may not (but probably will) make a good start. Take a child you really care about: daughter, son, nephew, grandchild or little friend. Stand them right in front of you, look into their eyes and say, "All the experts told me that our consumption of CO2 was going to make your threaten your future health and safety. I had the opportunity to support action to stop that, but didn't." Practice this now, because this is what we will be saying to our grandchildren if climate change continues on the course it is now. EVEN IF you have doubts about the science (that 99% of world experts in this area agree on - as opposed to your opinions based on what expertise?) surely you must think it's worth a few higher electricity bills to give these kids a chance at a life without drought, events like the Queensland floods and cyclones, bushfires, malaria - and most importantly, threats due to social unrest. Our generation has had it easy, we have never had to tighten our belts as our grandparents did during war years for example - it's time for us to be unselfish and take our turn.

Kate Hook | 06 June 2011  


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