Nanny Bill Shorten has a new plan to save our children.
As usual with paternalistic policies it won’t achieve very much.
Despite popular misconceptions, most drownings are not because people don’t know how to swim; rather, they involve intoxicated adults, pre-existing medical conditions, and people aged over 55 who misjudge their strength.
Swimming lessons for 6 to 12 year olds also don’t address the ultimate childhood water concern: toddlers falling into pools. This requires careful parental supervision, not a national government programme.
Nevertheless, ignoring Labor’s mid-election campaign populist scaremongering, we are actually doing quite well in this field.
The number of drownings in Australia has been trending downwards, from 1.64 per 100,000 in 2003, to 1.15 today. In 2014-15 there were zero drownings by those aged 10 to 17 – the age group most recently exposed to existing swimming lessons. According to the World Health Organisation, Australia’s drowning rate is amongst the lowest in the world.
This success is largely thanks to our culture of water safety encouraged by volunteer organisations such as Surf Life Saving Australia. Their Nippers programme has been so successful it is now being exported across the world, with the recently formed Surf Life Saving Israel using our techniques.
However, Nanny Bill doesn’t have any respect for successful civil society organisations, or parents who take responsibility for supervising and teaching their children how to swim. Instead, he wants to tell us how to raise our children.
What’s next? Can we trust parents to teach their kids how to eat and dress? Shall we put $50 million into a National Potty Training Initiative?
Labor’s paternalistic record is strong. The Rudd government sought to introduce a mandatory internet filter to block supposedly offensive content. This proposal, which would have massively slowed the internet and been easy to bypass, was justified in the name of protecting children.
Rather than relying on parents to monitor their children’s online activity, they looked to draconian measures that would have punished everyone.
Labor also don’t think parents can make appropriate dietary or healthcare decisions for their children.
In 2011, the Gillard government formed the Australian National Preventive Health Agency which investigated children’s exposure to advertising for unhealthy food and drinks, and was developing guidelines on healthy eating before it was abolished by the current government. Meanwhile, the Labor party’s national platform explicitly calls for “health care interventions in the lives of children”.
Labor seeks to replace the core responsibility of parents, to educate, guide and protect their children, with measures designed by Canberra bureaucrats.
A core element of living in a free society is the ability of parents to raise their own children without excessive interference. It is no coincidence that 20th century communists and fascists sought to meld children in their ideological image. Liberty ends when the state takes responsibility for raising children.
Yes, as Q&A questioner Duncan Storrar shows us, not every parent is perfect. There are certain extreme cases where children must be taken out of inappropriate circumstances. Nevertheless, these situations are the rare exception to the overall rule.
This election we must seriously ask ourselves what type of society we want to live in, and role of the government within that society.
Do we want paternalistic policies, like those proposed by Nanny Bill, or do we want to maintain the basic right to raise our own children?