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Attack on campaign is hypocritical

Tens of thousands of people attended peaceful rallies around the country on Sunday in support of action on climate change, despite the Coalition and News Ltd media empire's negative campaign against cutting pollution via a carbon tax.

I am writing this from Christmas Island and could not attend the rally in Adelaide. I am gladdened Australians were not intimidated from speaking out.

The Sunday before the rallies, the News Ltd press attacked proponents of taking action, such as actress Cate Blanchett, for publicly supporting efforts to combat climate change.

News Ltd hacks referred to her as Carbon Cate, pointed out her income from movie appearances, and splashed photos of her house on the front page of the Sunday tabloids.

Since when did someone's celebrity status or income negate their right to express their opinion? Cate Blanchett clearly believes in taking steps to reduce the amount of pollution generated by her household and also that of the Sydney Theatre Company.

Her home and the theatre company's roofs feature solar panels to sell electricity back to the grid. News Ltd itself is being hypocritical in its attack of Ms Blanchett's stance, even though the media company constantly advertises it is a carbon neutral business.

Tony Abbott and his Coalition colleagues are being hypocritical because while they relish the chance to mock Ms Blanchett and actor Michael Caton for being part of the 'Say Yes' campaign, they don't have any qualms with other wealthy Australians standing up for what they believe in.

Mr Abbott in question time last week ridiculed Ms Blanchett, saying "people who live in eco mansions have a right to be heard...but their voice should not be heard ahead of the voice of the ordinary working people of this country." 

Mr Abbott, every Australian has the right to have their voices heard, regardless of whether they are working or unemployed, whether they are homeless or have a roof over their head.

There was no Coalition-led attack on Gina Rinehart, Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest or Clive Palmer when they campaigned against the "super-profits tax" on mining companies last year. 

The mining industry funded advertisements calling for the scrapping of a planned 40 percent tax on the "super profits" of companies. Where was Mr Abbott when Ms Rinehart, Australia's richest woman, claimed in June 2010 that the former Rudd government risked making "resource commodities more expensive and less able to compete on world markets and will reduce Australia's future revenue"? Mr Abbott didn't ridicule Ms Rinehart or attack her choice of house. 

Mr Abbott was also silent when Mr Palmer claimed the tax would force him off-shore and mean the loss of mining jobs.

We all know how that campaign turned out. Labor replaced Kevin Rudd as their leader with Julia Gillard who held talks with the major mining companies and dropped the super tax in favour of a proposed mineral resource rent tax.

The result is a tax which will deliver less money to everyday Australians over the coming decades, squandering the chance of a sovereign wealth fund and investment in the future prosperity of all Australians.

In the past week, the Coalition has also attempted to show it now cares about the plight of the up to 800 asylum seekers Australia intends to expel to Malaysia. Mr Abbott and his colleagues point out the lack of human rights for asylum seekers already there. Mr Abbott must think the public has collective amnesia and forgets the appalling treatment for asylum seekers in Australia, on Nauru and Manus Island during the Howard years.

Ordinary Australians will continue in their own ways to lobby the government, their elected representatives and businesses to tackle climate change and curb carbon pollution, and lobby for an end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Such efforts should be applauded from across the political spectrum, not hounded by hypocrites

First published June 7, 2011 in The National Times.

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