Nanny State

The Greens soft drinks tax: illiberal, ineffective, regressive

Yesterday the Greens announced an illiberal, ineffective and regressive nanny state tax on sugary drinks.

I argued in The Spectator Australia’s Flat White blog against the new impost:

Taxing soft drinks, using the coercive power of the state to manipulate individual behaviour, is patently paternalistic.  The policy treats parents as fools who are unable to raise their own children, and adults as mugs incapable of making their own consumption decisions.

It would also prove ineffective at addressing obesity issues:

Although increasing the cost of soft drinks may reduce their consumption, it does little to change overall dietary decisions. If we make one product more expensive, individuals looking for a sugar hit can, and will, swap to other unhealthy drinks and food.

However perhaps the bigger injustice is who it will impact the most, the poor:

A study of French dietary habitspublished in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that fat taxes are “extremely regressive”. That is, they have a far bigger impact on lower income households who have the least capacity to pay for the additional impost.

Read the full post here.

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WHO are they kidding?

The headline from a recent statement by the World Health Organisation:

WHO Representative urges stronger tobacco control in Syria

That’s just embarrassing. As Christopher Snowdon notes at his blog:

If you ever doubted that the WHO has lost its way, here is the proof. It has been taken over by western idiots who obsess over micromanaging personal lifestyles and waging war on Big Tobacco, Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Alcohol’ while the developing world literally burns.

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Nanny Bill’s new plan to save our children

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Nanny Bill Shorten has a new plan to save our children.

In the name of “tackling inequality“, Labor have announced a $40.9 million splurge on swimming lessons for primary school students.

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?

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Now the wowsers want a tax on soft drinks

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Last week they were calling for an increase in the the drinking age, this week our friendly neighborhood Nanny Statists want a tax on soft drinks.

ABC News reports on a research from the Obesity Policy Coalition, the Cancer Council and Diabetes Victoria calling for a 20 per cent tax on soft drinks:

“Even a small change in consumption can have a big impact over time; a small change in body mass index and weight can have a big impact on someone’s health outcomes,” Jane Martin, from the Obesity Policy Coalition said.

“This would have a bigger impact on people who are high consumers, so particularly young people, and they’re more price sensitive.

“The potential to change behaviour in adolescents … who are high consumers, drink a lot of soft drink, that can be very impactful because that can take them through the rest of their life and change habits early.”

Continue Reading →

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Sydney shuts down, Melbourne opens up

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In the age-old battle between Australia’s two capital cities, it is pretty clear who is winning on the nightlife front.

In February, Freelancer Chief Executive Matt Barrie had some very harsh words about Sydney nightlife:

As I write this in 2016, not a day goes by without the press reporting of yet another bar, club, hotel, restaurant or venue closing…

It is now illegal to buy a bottle of wine after 10pm in the City of Sydney because not a single one of us is to be trusted with any level of personal responsibility…

Likewise it is now illegal to have a scotch on the rocks after midnight in the City of Sydney because someone might die

Most damaging of all a 1:30am curfew where you cannot enter a licensed premises, which deliberately aims to kill the trade of any business that operates at night.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced today his support for 24-hour liquor licences:

Cr Doyle supports a partial extension of opening hours into the early morning at smaller venues and those serving food.

But he said a return to the days of 24-hour beer barns was not on the cards: each venue would be judged on its merits.

All-night public transport was changing the way the city worked at the weekend, and Cr Doyle said the city needed to prepare for extended hours “and move towards a real 24-hour city”.

The contrast could not be more stark.

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Leyonhjelm on the consequences of lockout laws

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NSW LDP senator David Leyonhjelm eloquently explains in today’s Australian Financial Review the disastrous effects of his state’s lockout laws:

… [J]ob losses and venue closures in Kings Cross since the lockout laws have been staggering: a third of licensed venues in the area have closed. The rest are hanging on by a thread, hoping the NSW government will see sense. And it’s not just the pubs, nightclubs and dens of iniquity that are suffering. Restaurants, shops and newsagents are also closing.

Hundreds of people have lost their jobs and many others have experienced significant reductions in working hours. Such changes have the greatest impact on the most prominent demographic represented among nightlife employees: young people.

What makes it worse is that it is not at all clear that lockout laws are a permanent solution to the problem of alcohol-related violence. A 2014 Australian Institute of Criminology study concluded that lockout laws have mixed or uncertain results. In Melbourne their implementation in 2008 led to an increase in assaults between midnight and 4am, and they were ditched three months later.

… If 200 people in an ailing car factory were about to lose their jobs, politicians would be angling for taxpayer subsidies to prop up their employer. By contrast, hospitality, tourism, and sex workers are apparently expendable while their employers – pubs, bars, restaurants, strip-clubs – are written off as “vested interests”.

Read more here.

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Lockout laws punish many for the sins of a few

Australian_masthead_resizedMy colleague Simon Breheny on New South Wales’ controversial lockout laws:

“They are a giant hammer that has been used to smash not only those who have done the wrong thing but also a whole range of other patrons who do the right thing and a whole range of businesses,” Breheny says.

“There was a far more targeted response that would have achieved better outcomes than broad, general-application laws . It has had a devastating impact on (the city’s) night-life and culture, and that is a very sad thing.” Breheny, who is also director of the Institute of Public Affairs’ Legal Rights Project, wants to see the laws replaced by more targeted measures and a greater police presence.

He says the crackdown in Kings Cross and the CBD has simply propelled revellers into suburbs such as Newtown, Pyrmont and Double Bay, which are not as well equipped for crowds.

Read the full report here ($)

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Fifty years since Victorians stopped having to skol their beers

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the end of the six o’clock swill in Victoria.

Laws to close pubs at 6pm had been introduced in most states as a temporary measure during the First World War on the basis of helping the war effort. However, as with so many temporary regulations, it stayed in place even after the original rationale had passed. Arguments by the temperance movement for tighter restrictions on the operating hours of hotels had been gathering strength from the 1890s and, once early closing had been implemented, the wowsers fought hard to keep it.

Of course, in practice six o’clock closing did not reduce the amount of alcohol being consumed. It just meant that large quantities of beer were drunk in an unnaturally short period of time, hardly an ideal way for alcohol to be consumed. For half a century, Australians would head straight to the pub as soon as they knocked off work and, standing several deep at the public bar, get through everyone’s shout by 6pm. It certainly made doing overtime a particularly unappealing proposition.

After the passing of the six o’clock swill, 10pm closing became the Australian norm until, in the 1980s, further liberalisation took place. However, we should not imagine that the swill is just a historic curiosity. Many of the same forces which fought to keep the swill can still be heard today, challenging the right to have a drink.

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The cost of ageing in the Nanny State

A discussion paper from Christopher Snowdon at UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs published this week looks at the costs associated with an ageing population. This excerpt, from the introduction, highlights the flaws in the oft-used argument that restrictions on unhealthy habits will save taxpayers in healthcare costs:

If healthy lifestyles lead to longer lives and higher costs, it might be expected that unhealthy lifestyles lead to shorter lives and fewer costs. Nobody would advocate unhealthy lifestyles on the basis that they save money, but if the issue is reduced to cold financial facts this is a logical conclusion to draw. However, quite the opposite conclusion would be reached by reading the popular press and listening to public health campaigners. It is routinely claimed that groups with lower life expectancy, particularly smokers and the obese, are a ‘drain on the taxpayer’ because of the costs of treating smoking and obesity-related diseases. The clear implication is that expenditure on public services would be lower if there was less smoking and less obesity.

… There is no doubt that lifestyle-related illnesses require healthcare expenditure. The real question is whether these costs are higher than the longevity-related costs associated with ageing, not only to the NHS but to the government as a whole, including the social security system. The aim of this discussion paper is to find an answer to that question.

You can read Snowdon’s answer to that question here.

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Australian Medical Association takes dangerous position on e-cigarettes

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The Australian Medical Association today released an updated position statement on tobacco and e-cigarettes. Or should that be e-cigarettes and tobacco? Because tobacco is no longer the lead concern for the AMA. E-cigs are now the main game. Here’s an excerpt from the AMA’s media release:

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said the AMA wants the Federal Government to work with the States and Territories to introduce nationally-consistent controls and restrictions on the marketing and advertising of E-cigarettes.

“While some States have taken a strong stance on E-Cigarettes, others have not, which sends conflicting messages to consumers,” Professor Owler said.

“The AMA is concerned that E-Cigarettes are particularly appealing to young people, and the marketing of these products builds on this appeal.

“The promotion of E-Cigarettes to young people as recreational products has the potential to undermine tobacco control efforts, and normalise the act of smoking.

“The AMA believes that E-Cigarettes should not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age.

“E-Cigarettes should not be marketed as smoking cessation aids, because this is not currently supported by evidence.

Here’s what’s telling about the AMA’s e-cigarette concerns.

The most important issue in the e-cigarette debate is whether they help smokers to quit. They do. Study after study after study has shown this to be the case. But this isn’t the first issue addressed by the AMA. It’s revealing that the AMA prefers to focus on regulatory differences at the state level (yes – Australia is a federation), and the suggestive idea that e-cigarettes are ‘appealing to young people’.

Even if there’s doubt about the evidence, the decision about whether to use e-cigarettes is a voluntary one, and the AMA has no place lobbying for laws that restrict their use on the basis of uncertainty.

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