Think tanks: Independent does not mean objective

Thinker1

Somewhere along the way, in the debate of public policy issues, we seem to have forgotten that “independent” does not necessarily mean “objective”. Think tanks in particular are the guiltiest in using this sleight of hand. In stressing that they are independent scholarly organisations, think tanks attempt to lay claim to a higher moral ground that comes from academic objectivity. […]

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How to sell a carbon tax

Let’s admit it. One time or another, most of us have taken the easy way out. We’ve criticised instead of giving constructive criticism; we’ve focused on what can’t be done instead of what can. When it comes to the carbon tax, my hands aren’t clean. I’ve been critical of the climate change mantra that claims putting a price on carbon in Australia will reduce global emissions. However, putting my misgivings aside, if I look at the carbon tax as a communicator I’ve no doubt that it could more effectively be pitched to the Australian community. So I challenged myself to craft a communications strategy that would successfully sell such a tax. And here it is. This strategy is an all-or-nothing approach. Each of its four components relies upon the other. It also relies upon the sincerity of our Prime Minister to be successful. Step 1: Say sorry There’s only one way for Julia Gillard to defuse the ongoing and escalating accusations of deceit. She must apologise, unreservedly and genuinely, for breaking the commitment she made before the last federal election. Such apologies can be done badly, so the PM must study key examples to avoid making similar mistakes. Ms Gillard would do well to note how her predecessor mishandled an apology exactly 12 months ago by mouthing the right words, but in such a sing-song manner that any perception of empathy was shattered in the process. Like Rudd, Gillard also […]

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Faux environmentalism

Tribune March 2011 Cov[1]

Will Australians’ faux environmentalism derail our greenhouse effort? It seems the Government’s proposed flood levy has tested the limits of Australians’ willingness to help others. While many thousands voluntarily gave money, supplies and physical support to those affected by the floods, opinion polls show around half the population has balked at a modest Government levy to share restoration costs. Why […]

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Clive Hamilton – an out of touch eco-warrior

It must be sad to be an old environmental warrior: to reminisce about the days of barricades, placards, chants, feathers, drums and, well, copious amounts of hair. Clearly Clive Hamilton has been in a reminiscent mood. Perhaps he’s been fretfully stroking his shiny cranium while remembering the good ole Franklin Dam protests and what they achieved. Perhaps he nibbled on one of those special cookies that were so popular in those days. How else could he come to the conclusion that mainstream environmentalism has failed because of “the professionalisation of environmental activism over the past two decades.” Perhaps you, like me, read this and muttered the classic teenager response, “huh?” Perhaps you, like me, wondered if you had totally misunderstood the clean-shaven and articulate environmental activists that have emerged over the past two decades? Why is it that we found them persuasive and convincing when Dr Hamilton says they were sell-outs to incrementalism and professionalism? What did we miss? Perhaps it’s not what we missed, but that which is being missed by the well-meaning Dr Hamilton. Just like the far-left elements of the Labor Party and some of the Australian Greens, Clive is simply feeling cast adrift because environmentalism is now mainstream. In fact, the broader concept of sustainability – the combination of economic, social AND environmental responsibility – is being embraced across business, government and the broader community. Admittedly, we have a long way to go. Australians are big […]

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I am the greenhouse culprit! And so are you.

There’s a great video that does the rounds every now and then showing a young woman collecting signatures on a petition to ban a substance with an unfamiliar scientific name. When questioned by potential petitioners, she replies that the substance is “a chemical found in reservoirs and lakes”, that “pesticides, nuclear and styrofoam companies are using it”, that it “ends up in babies’ food” and that it “causes excess sweating and urination”. The scenario is a set-up and the young woman is actually talking about water. She has no trouble getting signatures because she uses terms that have been proved by market research to provoke an emotional reaction in the listener. Such terms can generate feelings of powerlessness, anxiety and sometimes fear. These feelings motivate the listener to take defensive action, on this occasion by signing the petition. The Greens leader, Bob Brown, tried to do the same thing earlier this week. He used a number of key words and phrases, honed by researchers in sympathetic think tanks such as the Climate Institute and the Australia Institute, to create the same sense of powerlessness about climate change, and hopefully to drive anxious Australians into the arms of Greens recruiters. Brown talked about the coal industry’s “excess profits”, they were the “culprits” of natural disasters, the industry is “75% owned outside Australia”, and that the version of the mining tax agreed by Labor with the industry “would cost Australians $35 billion […]

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