News / Asia

Celebrity Endorsement Ignites Australia Carbon Tax Debate

Academy Award winner Australian Cate Blanchett is seen in a TV commercial of "Say Yes to the carbon tax" in this still image taken from video, in Sydney, May 30, 2011
Academy Award winner Australian Cate Blanchett is seen in a TV commercial of "Say Yes to the carbon tax" in this still image taken from video, in Sydney, May 30, 2011

In Australia a new advertising campaign featuring award-winning actor Cate Blanchett is urging voters to support a proposed carbon tax. The effort is aimed at reducing the country’s per-capita greenhouse gas emissions, which are among the highest in the world. But critics say the campaign’s wealthy spokeswoman should stay out of politics.

“What if we say yes to making big companies pay for when they pollute our skies? We’d be saying yes to less carbon pollution, yes to new money for clean energy that never runs out," says an advertisement.  It is funded by conservation groups and Australian trade unions features a series of ordinary Australians and Oscar-winning actor Cate Blanchett praising the environmental and economic benefits of a carbon tax.

Opponents of the carbon tax plan say the jet-setting multi-millionaire actress has no idea how the levy would affect ordinary Australians.

In a newspaper interview, Ms. Blanchett said she expected the personal attacks but stressed that she would continue to raise concerns about climate change.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald that she would no be able to look her three children in the face if she was not speaking out.  The decorated actor went on to say that Australia would be economically vulnerable if it continued to rely heavily on cheap supplies of coal to generate its electricity while its competitors switched to renewable energy sources.

However, conservative lawmaker Barnaby Joyce says the Hollywood actress should keep out of politics.

“Good luck to Cate. She is a great actor. She has been in some marvelous movies. That is an actor in an ad. It is not going to make the temperature get colder, get warmer, do anything but if you agree with the concept of the ad, you will definitely be poorer,” said Joyce.

The exact details of Australia’s proposed carbon tax are still to be worked out.  The government wants to set a price on carbon by next year before moving to an emissions trading system as early as 2015.

The carbon tax would force around 1,000 Australian companies, including some big polluters, to buy permits, which would allow them to emit the greenhouse gases that many scientists blame for warming temperatures.

The plan would try to encourage companies to reduce their tax liability by cutting their emissions and moving into renewable sources of power.

Conservative politicians and industry groups argue the proposed carbon tax would wreck Australia’s resources-based economy and cost thousands of jobs.

Supporters of the plan, however, insist it will drag Australia out of the “environmental dark ages”.

Australia emits more greenhouse gas pollution per person than almost any other country.


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