Labor’s big tax negative. That NSW Liberal Leader Barry O’Farrell bothered to include criticism of a carbon tax in his presentation last night to a voters forum on the State election tells me that the pollsters are finding that this is a very big negative for the Labor Party.

He went out of his way to say that he opposed the proposed tax.

“I don’t support it, I won’t support it, I’ll fight it, it threatens jobs and it threatens higher power prices,” he told the crowd at a People’s Forum in Sydney’s southwest.

And this from a man who is so far in front according to the opinion polls that he does not need to promise anything!

Trying to make promises believable. He might not need to but Barry O’Farrell naturally has made a promise or two. The problem he has is getting people to believe them.

It is a reflection of just how cynical voters have become about what politicians of all kinds tell them that the Liberal Party is devoting a lot of its campaign energy to promoting what it calls its “Contract with NSW”.

The contract, that is being haded out to voters, claims to be a pact between voters and the Coalition to hold it to its campaign promises if it is elected on March 26. Mr O’Farrell said on Wednesday he would resign as premier if he was elected premier and his government failed to deliver on its promises.

Claiming the centre. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard is wisely trying to claim the mantle of being the reasonable person in the middle when it comes to devising a policy on global warming. Describing Greens as extremists at one end of the spectrum and the Coalition parties as the extremists at the other end as she did in a speech last night is a theme we are bound to hear much more of in the coming months.

It is a definite step back from the political embrace that Ms Gillard gave the Greens when she announced the plans for a tax on carbon emissions at a joint press appearance. For his part, Greens Leader Bob Brown clearly understands the rules of the game and is taking the tactic with good grace.

Senator Brown said this morning that Ms Gillard’s “slap” was an attempt at product differentiation.

“The Greens are only extreme in the sense of extremely popular and growing,” he told reporters.

“I just take the prime minister’s comments as part of the political debate.”

Cheesy nonsense and the great dairy deception. I first  realised that the Australian cheese industry was a great con when, as a south coast of NSW resident, I visited the Bega cheese factory for one of those factory tours and was told that the only Bega cheese actually produced there was the one labelled vintage. The rest might be wrapped and labelled Bega but all of it was produced somewhere else.

With cheese there’s none of that nonsense as there is with wine about truth in labelling. Just get it made to the recipe wherever the production costs are least.

And sometimes don’t even worry about the yeasts that are meant to be the basis of the recipe. Those plastic slices in the supermarket deli are all turned out from the same factory whatever the label indicates. It’s all part of the great dairy deception.

If you wonder what I mean, call in one day at Bodalla on the NSW south coast. Bodalla cheddar is one of the country’s biggest selling brands but it as sure as hell is  not made at Bodalla where there no longer is a major cheese factory.

If you made a wine at Griffith and labelled it as Coonawarra you would be facing fraud charges but that’s not so with cheese where anything goes.

I was prompted to remember my Bega cheese visit  by the story that more than 170 workers will be sacked from three cheese manufacturing factories in Victoria and Tasmania following a consolidation decision by National Foods. The decision to consolidate all the company’s cheese brands, except King Island, at an upgraded site at Burnie, Tasmania, also has left 103 staff at two South Australian manufacturers in limbo and infuriated dairy farmers.

A six-month review by National Foods of six cheese manufacturers across Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, the story said, concluded it was not sustainable to operate the multiple sites.

Peter Fray

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