The great 'Cate Debate'

Actress Cate Blanchett appears in a television ad to support a proposed carbon tax Cate Blanchett has been criticised for appearing in a carbon tax TV advertisement

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Raging since first thing Sunday morning, I dare say many of you will have already taken sides in the great Cate Debate.

For the uninitiated, Cate Blanchett, Australia's most luminous actress, has made a brief appearance in a television advertisement urging her compatriots to "Say Yes" to a carbon tax.

The response from opponents of the government's controversial proposal, who claim the tax will damage the Australian economy and hit ordinary Australians with increased bills, has been vituperative.

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce says the multi-millionaire star should stick to acting because she has no idea what it is like for working families struggling with rising costs.

Sydney's Sunday Telegraph backed up its banner front-page headline - $53m Hollywood superstar tells Aussie families to pay up - with a stinging editorial: "Cate Blanchett has proved she is just another morally vain Hollywood star trying to justify her great good fortune by preaching to the rest of us about climate change."

Tale of two actors

Ostensibly, this debate is about the environment and the economy but is also about the role of elites in Australian national life.

It has shades of the David Hicks row last week, where the "elites" were pitted against the "battlers". Indeed, as the culture wars flare again, the opposing sides have taken up their usual positions, like medieval armies in observance of ancient rites.

For non-Australians, it is important to understand the toxicity of word "elite". It operates in much the same way that the L-word "liberal" works in American politics. Thus, that five-letter word is loaded with extra meaning, and implies a progressive outlook in politics, a condescending view of battlers, a commitment to multi-culturalism, and, normally, a sense of unease about the more ignoble aspects of the country's history, including the treatment of the first Australians.

One of the central reasons that the Yes campaign in the Republican debate failed was because ditching the monarchy came to be seen as an "elite issue". Malcolm Turnbull, who was the head of that movement, struggled as leader of the Liberals because he was viewed as an elitist at a time when the Liberals have become a party of battler sensibilities.

Some have even argued that Cate Blanchett has damaged her own cause by backing it so publicly.

"One of the risks of any green campaign is that it appears like lefty, progressive, idealistic and elitist, detached from the struggles of everyday people," notes the advertising executive Adam Ferrier in The Australian.

But another actor, Michael Caton, appeared with Blanchett in the advertisement and has not received the same criticism. He is known to Australians as the star of the great battler movie, The Castle. That, apparently, has given him immunity in this debate. So, too, the role he plays in the popular drama series, Packed to the Rafters, where he burnishes his "ordinary Australian" credentials. Thus, he is harder to take on.

Without The Castle to protect her, Cate Blanchett is far more exposed when it comes to Australia's ongoing cultural wars.

Nick Bryant Article written by Nick Bryant Nick Bryant New York correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Emps, you have to get that information to the climate scientists, immediately!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    This is the measure of Australia's contribution to climate change.
    1. Nature emmits roughly 600Billion tns of carbon into the atmosphere.
    2. man made " " 26 "
    3.CFC's emit 10,000 times more than Carbon (atom for atom).
    4. Of the man made 26 Billion tns emmited,
    USA 26%
    East Europe 26%
    0eCD 22%
    Rest of the world 26%
    What is OZ's fraction of the ROTW? prob around 2%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The effect of the carbon tax,probably unlike other taxes/levies,will be to increase the cost of EVERYTHING. Think of anything we use and the price will go up.

    It is naive to assume anyone could be better off with this imposition, except this govt. There is absolutely no practical reason for it,and yes i have heard all the "expert" arguments in favour. But look at the facts i present following.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Whether or not you support the carbon tax, it is simplistic to claim that it will adversely impact low-income families. The other side of the coin is that the carbon tax may be used to either (a) reduce other forms of taxation or (b) increase social spending. Low income families could actually end up better off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    continued from 26.
    The carbon tax along with the mining tax is about achieving the political
    objective:a surplus,to help reinforce the govt's chances at the next election. Pricing of carbon emissions in this country is ridiculous. All the cries in favour are by political or other vested interests,and poeple who love to hear their own voices.

    To be continued.


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