Propaganda for beginners – Australian government pre-Kyoto conference

So, at the September 1997  “South Pacific Forum” in the Cook Islands some of the locals/hosts were mildly peeved that Australia was opposing emissions reductions.

Ms McDonald, who headed the greenhouse task force in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, last week took on officials from Pacific island countries who feared their low-lying atolls will be submerged next century by rising sea levels.

Some of the islanders accused her of insensitivity to their plight when she argued that Australia should not be forced to reduce its greenhouse emissions along with other developed countries.

However, Ms McDonald said rather than singling out Australia, island countries should urge developing countries such as India and China to agree to play a role in reducing greenhouse emissions.

Skehan, C. (1997) The Woman With A Global Mission Sydney Morning Herald 23rd September


But the true brilliance is what she does next, once she has been appointed “Environment Ambassador.”  Following on Johnnie Howard smearing Labor as “anti-jobs” she pins green groups.

“Underscoring a loss of political bipartisanship on the issue, Mr Howard said the Federal Labor Opposition and the NSW Labor Government were increasingly adopting an anti-jobs stand.
Ms McDonald said she hoped to liaise with a range of interests on the greenhouse issue.
“We have always been willing to meet the environment lobby, but unfortunately in recent months many groups have been unwilling to enter into a dialogue,” she said.”
Skehan, C. (1997) The Woman With A Global Mission Sydney Morning Herald 23rd September

If they DO meet, they are used as a fig-leaf (“our decisions are always based on consulting stakeholders such as….”) and if they DON’T they are “unwilling to enter into a dialogue.” Such are the simple tactics that power uses to defend itself…  People who advocate “sleeping with the enemy” perhaps need to consider this.


As someone commented on facebook in response to an earlier version of this post – “You’ve got it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. With neoliberals you lose every which way, since they have a simplistic agenda that won’t brook compromise (ie the art of the politically possible) but understand how to snooker and traduce their opponents in what passes for public discourse. ”


One thought on “Propaganda for beginners – Australian government pre-Kyoto conference

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  1. re: cooptation as fig leaf, sleeping with the enemy

    Here’s something from one of my favorite American seasoned activists:
    Jim Britell

    Click to access dictionary.pdf

    activism, Gresham’s law of.
    consensus groups and partnerships extinguish advocacy.

    And thus as ‘going to table’ became standard NGO practice in my province (Alberta, Canada) over the last 2.5 decades, we aided and abetted in transforming our nominally democratic politics into corporatist politics: where interest groups, i.e., public interest ENGOs and vested interest industry groups, produce public policy via negotiations managed by government.

    Ordinary unaffiliated citizens and opposition parties/legislature was mostly marginalized.

    Quite pronounced here in AB. But also commonplace in the rest of Canada.

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