A Wonderful Week to be Australian

Today is a day worth celebrating around the world. And no it’s not because it’s peppero day here in South Korea. It’s for two other very important and completely fantastic reasons: progress in Australia on anti-smoking, and progress in Australia on dealing with global warming.

1.) Last night the Australian senate house passed a bill into a new law commanding all tobacco companies in Australia remove corporate logos and distinguishing branding. Instead, they must now colour their boxes of death sticks an appropriately sickly shade of rotten-olive green, and include pictures of the results of smoking.

Despite the negativity of the Sydney Morning Herald’s title in completely burying the story behind twenty-two completely inane stories AND using a negative to start the headline focusing on an unimportant point [“No budget set aside to fight big tobacco”], the word is out. Big tobacco have finally been handed an eviction notice and told to get on with getting out of Australia.

Despite burying the story online, the Sydney Morning Herald gets one thing right: its photo and caption, which proudly proclaims ‘Plain packaging … a world-first.’

Despite the negativity of the first word in the title, the focus on the very secondary aspect of possible legal attack from angry cigarette companies, and the burying of the article on the page of national news, this article is still a great victory, not just because of the importance of the action of the senate in making this bill a new law of the land, but also because this article’s only image is one of cancerous lung tissue, and NOT of someone smoking a bloody cigarette as is all too common in stories about efforts to stop smoking.

This simple exclusion of images of people smoking is in itself unusual, and a victory of sorts. I hope this change continues, including future better days when the current editor of such articles at the SMH is replaced by someone coming from a happier place, being less concerned by potential efforts by cigarette companies to bully governments by using the law.

The BBC’s article has a more carefully neutral, almost-cheerful title, but its photo is of a small range of cigarette companies’ products on a shelf: “Australia cigarette ‘plain packaging’ law passes Senate.”

By far the best of this small set of news stories is by ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) which is, it should be no surprise, independent of corporate ownership and sponsored by the Australian government. Their story contains a clear picture of the subject itself – a cigarette packet in the proposed colour with the new labelling style – and the simple statement of the main fact or point of the story: “Cigarette packaging legislation passes Senate.”

The ABC photo’s caption reads: ‘The legislation bans the use of company logos, and requires all cigarette packets to be a dark green colour.’

2.) The second reason for celebration and congratulations to Australia is for the passing of their awesome new carbon tax this week. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t come into effect until July next year, it’s still really only a pathetic token of what actually needs to be done to get on with saving the world from climate change in any meaningful, effective way, and it probably has many other flaws besides, but, it is a start.

It is a start towards more western countries taking real and moral responsibility for the mess we are all enjoying making of the environment, especially including the atmosphere, as we drive, fly, and consume imported goods, particularly including meat and dairy products. And yes, this is a challenge to farmers and carnivores in New Zealand to maintain and increase our GDP in ways other than those which release the deadly, damaging, methane in quantities higher than previously counted. It’s also a challenge to myself, to deal with the cost in terms of carbon and other gases emitted whenever I fly to my birth-home to see my mum and other family and friends.

ABC has its best report here, including two video clips, and is entitled: “Carbon tax passes senate.”

You’ve had a great week there, Australia. Congratulations!

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