Ad Watch – Say Yes Australia

Thursday, 2 June 2011 

Because yes is what makes this country great.


Celebrities are great for selling things. Since a good deal of us would like their lifestyle, associating with a product that seems part of it must surely add to the appeal, plus the hope that with pots of money, they presumably must have accumulated at least an approximate sense of taste.

So what on earth are they doing on an ad like this? Unless the ad’s makers were hoping we would all be aspiring to emulate the 32 solar panels on Cate’s Hunter’s Hill pad, there seems little point. The issue here is not Cate Blanchett, but what this ad says about the unions, environmental groups and GetUp who decided to put her in it. To this blogger, it pretty well sums up all that is lousy about Australian politics today.

First there is the ad’s patronising tone, right down to the cartoon panto props to help us thickos get the message; Cate pulls up a grey sky and makes it blue, got that, and look, there’s a pensioner hanging on to a big dollar coin (probably got that, compo or her electricity bill)?

In fact so bland is the content of the ad that the mind inevitably drifts to wondering about who is being flashed across our screen. There’s Cate and the guy from The Castle, but is that tall guy some footballer? The mother and worker are probably nobodies, but what about the old woman? Wasn’t she on Neighbours?

The bland content of the ad is even more amazing given the context. Celebrities can often be useful in getting their fame to highlight an issue that no one’s heard of. But that’s hardly the case here, everyone knows about the carbon tax. It’s probably the most contentious issue in Australia today and some would say the government’s survival depends on it. Yet there is no sense of this political argy-bargy in the ad, no argument countered, no point made. It reveals that behind the patronising tone and the use of celebrities because we are all too thick to get it otherwise, are really hiding self-styled ‘progressives’ incapable of engaging with society or their opponents.

The Murdoch press has gone to town unsurprisingly, focussing on Cate and the outrage from community leaders like, er, the Australian Family Association and Barnaby Joyce, that millionaires are telling us what to do (so no more words of wisdom from one newspaper proprietor then). The Murdoch campaign is dumb and missing the point. But then so is this ad. At least Murdoch recognises a political fight when he sees it.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 2 June 2011.

Filed under Media analysis

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24 responses to “Ad Watch – Say Yes Australia”

  1. on 2nd June 2011 4:31 pm

    Sure, but are you going to do one for this:

  2. The Piping Shrike on 2nd June 2011 4:35 pm

    Yeah, I was going to do one on how they used ‘real people’ to scare the political class last year, but didn’t get round to it. Not enough time to be too fussed about balance on this site!

    But like Murdoch, the mining industry doesn’t mess around.

  3. Dr_Tad on 2nd June 2011 10:23 pm

    The ad seems to me to be a sign of the exhaustion of the pro carbon tax side. They really don’t get why they are losing the battle to a bunch of hopeless fringe types like Abbott’s Liberals. But maybe that’s just reflective of the ALP’s current problems…

  4. Dr_Tad on 2nd June 2011 10:25 pm

    I say “exhaustion” because most of the people on the “Left” who I know who support the tax are currently so hysterically partisan about it that it must be close to collapsing under its own weight.

    My interest is in seeing what happens to the Greens as a result.

  5. Michael on 2nd June 2011 10:53 pm

    The debate about a carbon tax has shown that the current political class is incapable of dealing with any issue seriously. I found it interesting that when I was overseas there was none of this denialist garbage about climate change going on. It’s really only in Australia and the US that this nonsense makes it onto the news agenda elsewhere they have moved onto how to deal with the problem. All this faux concern for pensioners and low income earners – give me a break!!! Since when does anyone give a damn about low income earners in Australian politics?

  6. Gordicans on 2nd June 2011 11:57 pm

    Dr Tad, it’s a strange one this one and a lot of fun. I don’t think it will collapse simply because the science behind global warming is so damn strong and it will prevail. The govt of course has been inept at countering the hysteria on the denial side. But the Murdoch press and radio shock jocks have waged a ferocious campaign (which of course has nothing to do with the climate). The Greens will be fine. It is a convictionless govt who looks awkward and ill equipped to deal with a party of conviction like the greens. Murdoch will do his best to prevent any long term coalition between the govt and the greens which he would see this as a threat (which means more of the same).

  7. DrFriendless on 3rd June 2011 11:18 am

    What has amazed me about the argument about the carbon tax is how much hot air has been generated with so few actual facts presented. Without a price we know nothing about what effect it will have, but that hasn’t stopped Mr Rabbit and Julia hasn’t had the common sense to present any facts. Until we get some information, we’ve got no choice but to turn to hysterical fearmongering and cutesy feelgoodery as our best data.

  8. Dr_Tad on 3rd June 2011 2:03 pm

    Gordicans, I wasn’t suggesting the climate change debate would exhaust. Just the carbon-tax-as-the-solution part of it.

    I am aware there is concern among more left-wing hardheads in the Greens that by tying themselves so closely to the ALP on the tax, if the ALP goes down the Greens could find some of the s**t sticking to them.

  9. Charles on 3rd June 2011 5:46 pm

    Facts haven’t won the day, perhaps this will. Obviously Murdock thought it was pretty good as a lot of column inches were spent trying to pull it down.

  10. The Piping Shrike on 4th June 2011 7:20 pm

    On the Greens, to me the thing will be to see how they balance working with Labor with those that also support them as a counterpoint to the main parties. I notice that it was when he was questioned on process that Brown started his Murdoch hate media rant the other week.

    But the main point of the ad is how it shows this rise in contempt by politicos of the voters as they become more detached and ineffectual. We see it with Tanner’s book and to me it’s very much in the ethos of GetUp (Off Your Arse) who clearly thinks what’s needed in the carbon tax debate is to make it dumber still – sprinkled with a couple of celebs. Fortunately in Australia that contempt is returned, more than in kind.

  11. Charles on 5th June 2011 9:07 am


    It’s a 30 second advert in an environment where the lunies are threatening the scientists.

    You seem to think climate change is nothing more than a few politicians trying to find the meaning of life.

    Science has been successful because it has been pretty good at predicting the future, this bridge will stay up, this vaccine will work, this formula will predict the path of the sun, you know that sort off thing. The methodology that works in the past is predicting that the planet will warm.

    Instead of going on about a 30 second ad, put a little thought into the consequences. if science continues with its impressive record, there is a fair chance that it will become obvious the lunies have backed the wrong horse. What happens then?

    The truth of the matter is Europe believes in science, it is after all the thing that has, in the end, made Europe the largest economic power on the planet ( don’t believe it go and look at the figures).

    Europe is pricing carbon, as the threat becomes real and the need for action more desperate, the price will go up and they will use their economic power to push others. A tax on goods coming from countries that don’t have a price on carbon is years away not decades.

    Labor may have been brought to the table kicking and screaming by the Greens, but this is no sideshow, this is an issue that will change the economies forever. The right time to start is now.

  12. Dr_Tad on 5th June 2011 12:32 pm

    @Charles, such touching faith in the political and economic elites to eventually come to their senses!

    The reality of AGW is well established scientifically, but this debate is not about that. It’s about what to do about AGW and whose interests will be threatened and/or protected. That is a purely political question — which explains why boringly mainstream science can be questioned by thoroughly mainstream media and politicians in such an apparently irrational fashion.

    The strength of TPS’ analysis (although we don’t always agree) is that he recognises the irreducibly political nature of the question. The political class (as a whole) is in crisis, its authority deeply undermined, and the (scientifically verifiable) reality of AGW is not going to fix that.

    Or fix AGW, for that matter. That requires a different kind of political project.

  13. j-boy on 5th June 2011 5:54 pm

    carbon could split the Lib/nats the way communism split
    the labour party in the post war …

  14. The Piping Shrike on 6th June 2011 2:16 am

    Absolutely this is a political question posing as a scientific one. You can tell because the same ones who are so respectful of the arguments of science when it comes to climate, are not when it comes to nuclear power and genetics. It is a phoney left right debate using science as a proxy. You can also tell by the pseudo scientific way it is being discussed, not just Bolt’s pathetic attempt to sound like a Professor from the University of East Bum Crack but the left’s attack on those who criticise the consensus when of course dissent is critical for scientific advancement.

    The political argy bargy from both sides has been absolutely detrimental to the advancement of climate science.

    By the way, the Europeans didn’t take up climate change because they were more ‘scientific’ than the US but because it was a politically convenient of sidelining the US. It has no more to do with their respect for science than their enthusiasm for the no-fly zone had respect for the liberation of the Libyan people.

    Finally this ad has little to do with anything of substance, let alone ‘science’. It is too moronic for that. It’s only significance is to illustrate the growing contempt in political and media circles for the electorate of which we had a great big dollop last August.

  15. The Piping Shrike on 6th June 2011 2:21 am

    What would cause ructions in the Coalition would be how to react to the premature political decline of the US. Not sure climate change will be the issue to do it, although 18 months ago it almost looked like it would.

  16. nick on 7th June 2011 10:04 am

    lets face it though tps the voting public as a whole and the political class as a whole are actually both contemptible atm.

    Can’t live with each other but can’t live without each other either though.

    Just means we remain largely status quo, for a while.

  17. nick on 7th June 2011 10:10 am

    not to mention how low brow and contemptible the media are right now as well

  18. Riccardo on 7th June 2011 3:48 pm

    As I keep banging on about, where are our statesmen? Would a Churchill or Roosevelt survive today or would they be constantly wearing him down with criticism his personal foibles, or management style or whatever?

    People who want leadership are going to need to want to be led. The malaise of the age – most people are in comfortable jobs, food is on the table, kids are in schools and there is not much left to talk about except phony tax or science debates.

    People agree AGW is bad but don’t really care cause while they believe it exists, they don’t really believe it will be REALLY REALLY bad. The frogs are being boiled, both metaphorically and for real.

    Same with Peak Oil – sure some people may dodge a bullet with that using technology – most will be stuck in outer suburbs with no other transport options, and in jobs overly dependent on cheap fossil fuel transport.

  19. Charles on 11th June 2011 9:23 am

    “By the way, the Europeans didn’t take up climate change because they were more ‘scientific’ than the US but because it was a politically convenient of sidelining the US.”

    I was first worked in Europe in 1982. In 1982 it was acid rain that they worried about, and pressure to get sulphur out of coal was well under way. Their pine trees survived.

    Europe has a long history of dealing with environmental problems in a sane way.

    When it comes to politics The fundamental difference between Europe and the US comes down to the fundamental model used to attempt empire expansion.

    Since the second world war (another of many failed attempts to unite Europe using force) we have seen the European empire expand to the point where it is the largest economy in the world. The expansion was undertaken using economic means.

    I have seen arguments that Europe isn’t an empire because the can’t organise a good destruction. Why would they want to do that? It may have takes several repeat lessons, but they have leant wars really don’t achieve much.

    The US continued to blow stuff up. They have spent billions, with less than no economic advantage. Pull back from the bullshit, they have destroyed too much gold and there empire is on the verge of collapsing.

    As to a European economic or political war against the US (and I am not going to argue one does not exist) I find it hard to see how increasing the short term costs (by moving to renewable energy) is a winning strategy. Over the long term yes; its pretty clear we have to move away from carbon burning economies and the early starters will have an advantage. They will be exporting the technology. What else would one expect Germany to do other than develop exportable technologies.

    I am not sure what the left/right division on nuclear power is supposed to be. I think you were trying to claim the left is ignoring the science, I therefore assume you have the left on the side supporting nuclear power (it’s a hard argument to follow as I have never seen it as a left/right issue).

    When it comes to nuclear power the science
    is pretty clear, and pretty simple. The 1/2 life of the stuff produced is longer than the length of survival of any civilization to date, and it is very unlikely civilisations will cease to rise and fall.

    Granted until an attempt was made to use nuclear power, the wishy washy nature of the social sciences had to be used to support what is now the second obvious point. The reliability of the systems required to handle the stuff; even when generating the waste; is greater than humanities ability to deliver.

    Nuclear accidents will/(perhaps has) kill/(killed) the Nuclear industry.

    I am not sure what you point is with regard to genetics. Are you claiming that it is the left that wish to pretend evolution isn’t?

    Or is it genetic modification that you are trying to put into a left/right model. I would have though that the genetic modification argument has more to do with the amount of risk we are willing to take modifying a system on which we are based; part of; developed from; when we don’t even fully understand the system.

    Left/right was about the ownership of the means of production. It my view attempts to expand it into other areas is nonsense, but anyway, good luck.

  20. The Piping Shrike on 13th June 2011 8:09 am

    The reference to Germany is very pertinent. I tend to see environmentalism becoming a political force as an anti-capitalist critque but when the traditional left has been discredited. It is no surpise that it came to the fore in Germany at the time you speak of as a “third way”, when the right had been discredited by its association with you-know-what and the left by its association with the goings-on on the the other side of the Berlin wall.

    At the time you refer to there was another issue, anti-nucleur that became a huge issue in Germany in the early 80s for the Greens, especially when it was tied to protests against US posting of nucleur weapons on German soil. It really marked one of the early times that environmentalism started to take on an international angle as a means of Germany carving out a Third Way for itself between the US and the Soviet Union.

    Environmentalism has been very much taken up by the EU super-state and I see an international extension around its use with climate change in carving out European influence against the US’s unilateralist Iraq war policy under Bush. It would be nice to think government policy on the environment was simply on the back of how ‘aware’ they are, but I doubt it.

    But let’s also acknowledge environmental hostility to scientific advancement of genetically modified crops and nucleur power, while the same profess admiration for what ever the scientists say about climate change.

  21. Charles on 26th June 2011 9:08 am

    “But let’s also acknowledge environmental hostility to scientific advancement of genetically modified crops and nucleur power, while the same profess admiration for what ever the scientists say about climate change.”

    I still find it difficult to see your point.

    You can acknowledge that science has worked out how to split the atom yet question the sanity of generating nuclear waste. It’s not as if science is trying to tell us nuclear waste would be a good coffee substitute.

    It’s also possible to acknowledge that science has worked out how to genetically modify crops yet question the sanity of doing so when we are messing with system we don’t yet fully understand and yet are part of. (my own view, is it’s too late mate, we are on the road, enjoy the ride, hope for the best).

    To claim global warming doesn’t exists requires you to reject science and go back to metaphysics vodo or whatever to predict the future.

    With global warming, the question in my view, is not, “does it exist?”, but “what should the response be?”.

    Perhaps the left would say humanity can do anything if it works together, perhaps the right would say, we are stuffed, enjoy the party.

    At the moment it seems to me, the debate is hostage to a few that want to claim science is nonsense. I’m sorry science has served us well.

    You seem to be hostage to the idea that the Australian political divide has lost purpose. I tend to agree with you. If you stand back and look at “them” at the moment you have to ask, what in the hell is this about?

    I think however try too hard to put everything into that box.


  22. Riccardo on 28th June 2011 5:28 pm

    Science has always been there to pick and choose from.

    Even economics is a ‘science’ to cherry pick from if you are a right winger – leading to contradictions from the right wing such as the rational individual who has complete perfect knowledge of what to buy and sell, but can’t be trusted to rationally decide who to have sex with.

    And the rightwing response to climate change has been to disagree with climate science, but also impose a form of ‘rationalism’ on to politics and economics ie in the ‘real world’ big polluters won’t do anything about it.

    At the end of the day, you are left with some core ideological prejudices on all sides, that people try to fit their world schemas into.

  23. The Piping Shrike on 1st July 2011 5:52 am

    Charles, the point I was trying to make was that politics was stuffing up important scientific debates by getting involved in issues such as climate change, nuclear energy and genetic engineering. I agree that there is a role for science, and a role for social debate on how that science is to be implemented, but that distinction is not happening, instead politics is getting caught up in the science itself. The only difference is that scientific consensus suits the left’s agenda on climate change, while on nuclear energy and genetics it more suits the right.

    I have absolutely no problem with the scientific consensus over climate change, although I recognise that as for any area of scientific research, informed dissent (the only effective type) to that view is critical to continue progress in this important area. But anyway, my view on climate change theory is irrelevant as I have no training, just as are Nick Minchin’s doubts about it.

    But, my understanding was also that after allowing for risks, scientific consensus overwhelmingly regarded nuclear energy as a viable energy alternative. I was not aware that scientific consensus opposed the nuclear programs of the major western countries that have it. The Australian left’s assessment that nuclear energy is not safe enough to be an option appears to me as a political, not a scientific decision – other than by picking and choosing dissenting scientists that happen to suit their point of view, much like Bolt chooses the climate change scientists he wants to hear.

    What the job of politics was supposed to be was to implement in society the conclusions that scientists have made. But as we see from climate change, they are incapable of that these days. Instead, they would rather have a proxy pro- anti- big business debate through scientific issues, getting involved in debates over which they know nothing and having nothing to contribute, except to slow progress down.

  24. The Piping Shrike on 1st July 2011 6:02 pm

    In short, I think politics has now replaced religion as a bigger intellectual barrier to scientific inquiry.

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