Hypocrisy is embedded in the DNA of the Liberal Party, particularly since the turn from patrician conservatism to a right-wing populism that, by its nature, upholds well-salaried blowhards as the ordained representatives of the common folk. In response to Barnaby Joyce’s attack upon Cate Blanchett as rich and out of touch, it’s easy to point to Abbott’s enthusiasm for billionaire mining magnates, whose anti-carbon tax rally surely represented one of the more grotesque mobilisations in Australian political history: a cabal of wealthy parasites wrapping themselves in the banners of the oppressed, just to lower their tax threshold.
However much dosh Blanchett earns, it doesn’t compare to the wealth of Gina Reinhart – a woman who, let us not forget, inherited most of her pile from her father, Lang Hancock, whose Bedlamite politics she apparently shares.
And yet. And yet. And yet. The idiocies of Barnyard and his crew notwithstanding, it’s probably true that many people will object to a lecture on carbon pollution from Blanchett. And they will not be wrong.
Partly, of course, there’s a well-justified cynicism about celebrity politics, a cynicism that can be traced to two words that send shudders down spines all over the globe. One is ‘Bono’, the other is ‘Vox’.
But let’s leave aside the hideous history of activism by actors and rock stars. The more important point is that ordinary people do worry about tax increases, and they do suspect that well-meaning celebs don’t share their concerns.
The Left does itself no favours by simply dismissing such fears. The Labor Party – and most of the political class – take for granted that the only solution to climate change will be market-based. Yet, in the wake of the GFC, lots of people are deeply sceptical about the market and its solutions, and they rightly suspect that they will bear the brunt of the pain that’s coming.
The crew over at Left Flank have been for some time laying out the radical case against a carbon tax: see ‘The ETS and CPRS: Neoliberalism by any other name’ and ‘Science cannot save us’, for instance). As the climate news worsens, it seems more and more utopian to think that the environment can be salvaged with merely a few tweaks to the business-as-usual of neoliberalism.
But if thoroughgoing changes are needed, they’re only going to be possible with the active involvement of the population as a whole. In that sense, yes, it’s right to take the message directly to the people. But the current approach sees ordinary people as political consumers rather than political agents. Which is why I don’t think it will work.
The Liberals are hypocrites: a party of cynicism and voodoo science. But we knew that, and in and of itself it doesn’t make the alternative any less inadequate.