CHOICE membership

Choice, Consumer Defenders or Climate Activists?

Which way for the future of Choice?
Will active participation by Choice in the greater Climate Change debate strengthen Choices role as a consumer organisation?
Will Choice’s role as a consumer organisation and it’s membership wane?

Three interesting consecutive posts.

  1. An emotional infomercial style report selling the impact of climate change in Norway. Sadness?
  2. An emotional tale telling us environmental activists are being murdered. Anger?
  3. A call to arms - Act Now!

Do you feel like you are being sold something?
Should Choice as a consumers organisation be supporting this product and using such clever tactics to gather support?

The “guilty mum” episodes on The Checkout were very effective in selling their message.

Thanks @Fred123 for the reminder guilty not emotional, sound like a trial verdict! :wink:


Wasn’t it “guilty mum”?


Wherever there is a struggle between competing ideas and for influence in the public arena there will be selling going on regardless of the merits of the case and the nature of the proponents. To stick to presenting the dry facts means you are content to not be heard - in which case why bother to speak?

The art of persuasive speech has been a ticket to power since the Athenian citizens met in the agora. Today the medium is different and so are the skills of the speakers and the listeners. If Australia is ever to take action on climate change it will be because enough people were persuaded of the need.

I’m unsure what you mean. What product is that?

If you are saying should Choice and its members lobby for climate change action I say yes. If you want that to be done strictly through the dry recitation of facts I say no. Persuasive speech should be used in a good cause. There is such a thing as making principled representations, this is what leaders ought to use to get us to follow - but rarely do. Such representations:

  • consider as much of the evidence as possible (while not necessarily regurgitating all of it all the time)
  • tell no lies,
  • refuse to use blatant debating tricks and fallacies and
  • deal honestly with its own weaknesses and uncertainties.

Perhaps something Choice should be putting to all it’s paid membership? @BrendanMays.

Assuming that is where the organisation sees it’s future.


It’s future is not entirely about Climate Change. There are certainly effects to be felt by everyday consumers eg adequate access to potable water, food security and safety, cost of products including energy, disposal of goods no longer used or required (made redundant by the responses to Climate Change).

CHOICE is an advocate for the consumers of Australia in regards to many issues including their safety. Climate Change is certainly impacting and will continue to impact the safety and lifestyles of consumers. Should CHOICE voice it’s concerns, indeed it should. CHOICE has lobbied before regarding impacts of changes on consumers, this is no different and will impact so many other parts of consumers lifestyles into the future.

Should it be put to the members? Sure and perhaps CHOICE already has enough feedback to safely make that decision and if not I am also sure it will be raised as a vote or a motion at AGMs etc. I think it needs some debate but the anti-CC section should be given the weight and right amount of right of reply that is in line with the amount of evidence that supports anthropogenic Climate Change and disputes it…ie around 1%.


Is Choice not activist? Is not some of its activism political?

How does global warming differ from other consumer issues, such as plastics, lead, asbestos, tobacco, finance or insurance?

Perhaps the difference lies in difficulty with accepting the science. Does “one political position” or “this product”, reflect science that’s as near certain as science ever gets?

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I’m sure there is some activism (a very tainted term) perceived to be in what CHOICE does, but by their own words they are advocates - “We are the leading consumer advocacy group in Australia.” …

Are ‘being political’ and ‘being an advocate in the political arena’ the same thing, never, sometimes, always, other ? To me, being political is promoting a viewpoint based on ones politics, ie politics defines ones view - being an advocate in the political arena is advocating for something based on facts and dealing with politics along the way as a ‘necessary evil’, so to speak …

Personally, I’d never consider CHOICE to be activists in anything, as an activist usually seems to be someone with a loud voice and no action - CHOICE have a loud voice and plenty of action. I’m getting hung up on terminology probably, but I like to not confuse ‘activism’ with ‘action’, just my view :wink:


Choice needs to be advocating for action regarding climate change as much as for safer products, fairer contracts, refunds and all the other consumer issues, especially where Governments fail to take action.

We dont’t need to wake up one day and hear a Government announcement like.

“Today we have some good news and we have some bad news.”

“Firstly the bad news. There is nothing left to eat except coal”.

“Now for the good news. There is plenty of it”.


I’d suggest that Choice and the community need to look beyond Climate Science and consider the average consumer.

The average consumer may or may not be concerned about the long term impacts of climate change. The average consumer is however going to be immediately affected by many of the suggested responses to Climate Change.
These include the possibility of,

  • increased consumer costs,
  • changes to taxation,
  • the end to red meat as we know it,
  • walking to work because we will no longer have motor vehicles,
  • and for many loss of employment and community.

This is not about science. It is about fear of change and it’s consequences, real or imagined.
Consumers respond emotionally, on beliefs, habits, fears, etc.

Science does not trump emotion.

Marketing Science (a poor use of the word) relies on the ability of consumer responses to be predetermined and managed. It takes advantage of the emotional responses built into many consumers. This may be a hard concept for the more scientifically inclined to relate to. Most of us are emotional beings first, scientists optional.

Depending on viewpoint and data sets, between 20% and up to 40% of Australians do not accept doing more to avert Climate Change. I suspect that if the question is

would you pay more in taxes, or pay more for consumer goods and services, or give up certain consumer goods, or your job or career, or your children’s home/community and future job prospects to help mitigate Climate Change?

The statistics might change to show a greater percentage of consumers would be against doing more. Our recent Federal election outcomes support this observation.

Choice as an organisation and it’s community members can be inclusive of the concerns of those amongst us who are not scientifically motivated. To leave them behind in the discussion is for me not an option. Nor is it reasonable to expect any change in understanding from those of us less scientifically inclined by barrages of science. Many of us consumers default under pressure to seek input from trusted sources. Choice and it’s community has the power to develop that trust and use it for good, or trash it on the basis of over zealous scientific based argument and positioning.

Rather than set out to convert those consumers amongst us to support action on climate change. Perhaps first we all need to stop and listen to what their concerns are and why they fear the changes. The changes others demand in response to the often labelled “climate emergency”. And to listen without judgement, without criticism and critically empathetically, without attempting conversion.

If the community does not find ways to be more inclusive and take a more conciliatory approach, perhaps then Choice the Climate Activist will become the future.

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“Simply, I don’t believe Choice should be supporting one political position over another.”

This has come up before, raised by Bottville over two years ago, this is what I said then, nothing much has changed since.

Any attempt to influence other people is politics. Any kind of activism is politics. Trying to guide government policy is politics.

Why do you choose to permit Choice and this forum to be political regarding some topics but not others?

“We fight for fair, safe, and just markets that meet the needs of people in Australia. CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable. Our campaigns achieve real change on the issues that matter to people in Australia.”

How can future markets be fair, safe and just if not informed by the consequences of climate change? How can industries that produce the most carbon pollution and lobby governments worldwide to ignore the effects of burning fossil fuel be held to account for their selfish folly if organisations like choice cannot act?

Climate change is one of the issues that matters most to me if my grandchildren are going to have a reasonable earth to live on. I would be greatly disappointed if Choice said “We must stay silent on this because, although the science has been settled, climate change has been politicized”. All the more reason to speak.

I would add that one of the aims of the denialist movement is to cause policy paralysis. By not taking a position Choice would be falling into their hands, in effect supporting a case they don’t believe in.


“Simply, I don’t believe Choice should be supporting one political position over another.”

They are my words, so I guess I own the meaning in the comment, well expressed or not. Political position I align with political parties.

Advocacy based on identified consumer needs may find alignment with policy or parts of a policy. Political positioning is far more nebulous in my eyes.

Zali Steggall’s proposed private members bill has multiple facets. Some may be clear on policy, other aspects are more positioning and no different to how the others approach the parliament. As frustrating as it might be for those who see the climate clock already striking midnight, Zali’s proposal is not delivering solutions. Only the government can do that.

I think you would get a fair bit of support for that. It gets more difficult when you want to support or criticise policies but those policies turn out to align with certain parties.

I have spent some time on the distinction and the best I can come up with is to attempt to persuade people to follow preferred policy and never mention party and leave them to decide who to vote for. Voting decisions are rarely down to just one policy so to say “vote for Jack” is not appropriate if you are after policy change.

I try to do that here but it gets difficult when some significant speakers in the public arena identify with a certain party. It gets old always saying that you are talking about what this speaker says not what their day job is (or was). I recently got into trouble (nothing new) for disrespecting the career of retired Major General Molan when I was using the contemporary speech of Senator Jim Molan to make a point.

I suspect that is the wrong question!
It should be more along the lines of: Would you be willing to pay a bit more for less pollution of air and water, reduced avoidable deaths and sickness to the actions of the fossil fuel industry- reducing our health budget expense, increased job opportunities in a reworking of the transport and power generation systems, all offset by reduced energy and transport costs?


I believe that Choice should not be an climate activist.

Choices role should however ensure that any products or services which make claims about energy efficiency, emissions, ‘green’ credentials etc are assessed to ensure that consumers are not being taken by a ride by individuals or businesses trying to make a quick dollar from future changes in government polices or industry practices.

Choice, from its website is:

Who is CHOICE?

We are the leading consumer advocacy group in Australia.

Independent and member-funded, CHOICE is here to ensure that Australian consumers like you get a fair go.

We want your voice to be heard loud and clear when it comes to anything consumer-related, from saving money to choosing the best products and services for your family, and we’re constantly on the look out for dodgy or misleading practices that might stop you from getting the best deal.

We’ve been around for 60 years, so whether it’s campaigning for your rights, making shopping easier, testing products or giving unbiased advice about food, finance and health, CHOICE has the expertise to make sure you get the best information.

Choice has also stated publically that:

The Australian Consumers’ Association (ACA) is a not-for-profit, non-party-political
organization established in 1959 to provide consumers with information and advice
on goods, services, health and personal finances, and to help maintain and enhance the
quality of life for consumers. The ACA is funded primarily through subscriptions to
its magazines, fee-for-service testing and related other expert services. Independent
from government and industry, it lobbies and campaigns on behalf of consumers to
advance their interests.

As its primary role is to ‘anything consumer-related’ and being non-political, it should stick to its core role and ensure that energy efficiency or green goods and services sold or marketed to consumers are not ‘dodgy or misleading’.

Climate change and its activism has become very political, being political is against one of the core principles of Choice.

For Choice to change its role and be an climate activist would possibly require a change in organisation focus. As Choice is independent and member funded, it already has limited funds to support its current charter/constitution and taking an new role would place additional pressure on future work Choice does in the consumer advocacy area.

There are a wide range of other groups which are better placed and suited to climate activism. Members have the opportunity to join such organisation if they chose.

Choice has also taken its part in some way by its offices becoming carbon neutral. Doing such Choice has become a role model for other business to also achieve the same status.


ABC survey says yes.


Being party political explicitly excluded is but a great deal of what they do is politics. Lobby government for any reason is politics. Trying to alter public opinion is politics. I can’t see why this distinction gets lost in this discussion.

From the OED


2.A.2 Characterized by policy; of persons, Apt at pursuing a policy; sagacious, prudent, shrewd; of actions or things, Judicious, expedient, skilfully contrived. a.A.2.a In political or public affairs.

There are other senses of course.


Not necessarily. One can be lobbyist/advocate without being political.

I understand that Choice provides information to sitting members (not partisan in approach). For example, when one signs up to a campaign, the information is often sent to the state member, federal member, state minister and/or federal minister.

Choice also presents information of parliamentary heardings, irrespective of which party commissioned the hearing/inquiry. It role has traditionally been to communicate issues to parliament to hopefully effect change.

Choice approach is not to be political, but to advocate change within parliament and seeks the best method to achieve the desired outcome, that being to foster change which advantages the Australian Consumer’s it represents.

Choice lobbying/advocacy is no different to an individual contacting their local, state or commonwealth representatives directly, or any portfolio Minister responsible for the issue at hand. Most individuals when they may contact it is about creating a change or raising an issue which they would like addressed. Most personal individual contact is also not political (one could be a hard core party voter but still contact an alternative party member) but issue specific.

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Voice Your Choice? Choice Campaigns? Seems a path is well established.


I’m with the OED “characterised by policy”, if you want to exclude that sense I can’t stop you and I note that one can be non partisan and still political. OK we are down to semantics so let’s agree to disagree.


Neither question is wrong? They are just different ways of offering up the outcome.

If I don’t agree with some of the individual points in your well considered list, should I say yes or should I say no? Which question is easier to say yes to?

As @Fred123 has reminded us there is some selective data available on how financially committed we might be. The ABC survey asked a very specific question. It is much narrower than the broader points either of us sought answers to.

True, from the survey group a large proportion might agree to spend or incur an extra (average) of $200 pa in household expenditure. But would they give up their car for public transport because the replacement EV is unaffordable?

There is a significant difference between spending a bit more to help reduce the future impacts of Climate Change, and giving up your vehicle, your occupation and or career.

It’s why I think both questions are valid. They set different boundaries for the responses.

To date no one is offering assurances to consumers that no one will be worse off (the next day, year or five/ten years hence) as a consequence of action on Climate Change. I’d hope we all come to understand and accept that combating Climate Change is not without social consequences and costs (personal and economic) along the way.

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