Friday, 22 July 2011


So that's what it all boils down to, then. Jobs for people building wind farms and installing solar panels. Phew. For a moment there I thought we were going to start saving polar bears again.

The government's ad agency, apart from happily trousering $12 million, have been quick to recognize that hyperbole, pontificating celebrities and overblown promises do not cut it with the average battler. What turns Aussies on is jobs - and lots of them. Preferably for themselves.

So this week, with the help of the un-scripted testimonials and musings of "real" working Australians, we finally get an advertising campaign that does what advertising does best - cunningly matches a potential benefit of the product to the consumer's self-interest. A unique selling proposition designed to have broad appeal. 

This is the third and final proposition with which the government or its proxies have tried to persuade a bored and cynical audience, who long ago made up their minds on the issue and have now switched off, to buy their whiffy Carbon Tax plan. First we were told that "millions would be better off", but nobody really bought that line, so Greg Combet dropped it faster than a hot chunk of coal. Next thing you know, up popped Cate Blanchett and Michael Caton hectoring us to "do something positive" about climate change, but the premises they relied upon were as flimsy and wonky as the cardboard cut-out sets they'd built. Viewers looked away in embarrassment.

So now we get the truth - or rather, a highly varnished version of it. 

The real winners from this whole kerfuffle are those who work in renewable energies. Bingo! If you happen to have a job building wind farms or installing solar panels, the future looks pretty rosy. Because we are certainly going to need an awful lot of them if we're to have any hope of turning off the coal powered generators that our jobs, lives and economy all rely upon.

If you happen to work in practically any other industry, particularly ones that rely upon cheap energy, you're pretty much buggered, however. Needless to say, the ads conveniently skip over this tiny detail. We can presume it wasn't part of "the brief."

Forget about receding shorelines, melting glaciers, dead starfish, flatulent wildlife and all the rest of it. The public fully understand that moving longterm to sustainable energy is "a good thing." That's a no-brainer. What makes them suspicious or distrustful of the Carbon Tax is the quasi-religious, holier-than-thou preachings of the climate change "believers" and their guilt-laden doomsday prophesies. Oh, and they're also not crazy about pollies who say one thing before an election and the opposite afterwards.  

The advertising agency who won this account knew that they'd been handed a stinker. The opinion polls already told them that. But their planners and creatives have done a great job of, as they say in the industry, "polishing a turd." Soft, reassuring music. Beautiful lighting and photography. Gorgeous landscapes and visuals. Clouds racing by over a beautiful sunrise. Reasonable, down-to-earth characters. Everyday Aussies, in fact, talking about their everyday jobs, in typical everyday Aussie cities and towns. What's to argue with?

Well, quite a bit actually.    

“For a long time coal will remain a significant proportion of our (energy) generation," proclaims Miles George, the everyday Managing Director of Infigen Energy, in his everyday leather jacket. Hang on. "For a long time"? How long? Years? Decades? And what is "a significant proportion"? 50%? 70%? I thought the whole point of the Carbon Tax was to get rid of the bloody stuff altogether.  

“Putting a turbine up in the air and letting wind give us power has to be a better option," says Wendy Moloney, another everyday Aussie woman who also happens to work for, er, Infigen Energy. Are you sure, Wendy? Go to Europe and you'll find wind farms are hugely controversial, with farmers, nature lovers and whole communities actively protesting against their noise, visual pollution, exorbitant running costs and inefficiencies in supplying energy when and where it is actually needed. 

“Other countries around the world are... building huge industries, and those jobs could just as well be here," opines Lyndon Frearson, the everyday General Manager of CAT Projects, a firm who, incidentally, are currently hiring more staff. All very well, but as Lyndon (whose firm fit solar panels to beach resorts and the like) makes this laudable claim the ad shows a gigantic hydro-electric dam under construction. Are we suddenly about to start building more dams? Has anyone told Bob Brown?

“We see the amount of money that Germany’s thrown towards research and development of solar power… and they’ve got stuff all sun!” exclaims uber-ocker Rede Ogden, who looks and talks like he's in a meat pie ad but in fact, along with his wife Renee (the ad agency must have cracked open the bubbly when they found these two) owns a solar panel installation company. He's right, though. Countries all over the world have thrown an awful lot of money at renewables, but they still only account for a fraction of energy output. 

So they're going to need to throw a lot more. Their ludicrous, legislated emissions reduction targets demand it, much to the chagrin of those long-suffering households who have to pick up the ever-increasing bill each month.   

“Internationally the investment in clean energy is rivalling fossil energy today.” boasts everyday Aussie Seb Henbest, who happens to work for, um, Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Yep. Again, he's right. There's big bucks to be made out of renewables. For Seb in particular.

Which is why, uncannily, the Carbon Tax ads look more like corporate recruitment ads for the renewable energy industries than a plausible justification for this hefty new tax. 

Might be time to think about switching jobs.

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