Happy little nannystatists

Good news, everyone! Your benevolent leaders have decided that you shall be allowed to continue to eat Vegemite:

A shadow has been cast over the future of the spread as a Federal Government taskforce considers special taxes and other deterrents on the sale of fatty, sugary and salty foods…. but today Ms Gillard said Vegemite’s future on Australian grocery shelves was assured.

“I am a very happy Vegemite eater and there is no way in the world that Vegemite would be banned in this country,” Ms Gillard said.

Vegemite’s safety is assured, since it’s an iconic and popular foodstuff and is enjoyed by no less a luminary then the deputy Great Leader. However, if your tastes for unhealthy food run to something a little more obscure, you are instead invited to eat… well, this is a family website, so fill in the blank.

The taskforce’s final report, due in June, is one of the most eagerly anticipated of all the health reviews under way, the newspaper says. They propose extra taxes on “energy-dense” foods;

So far, so meh. Probably unlike most of the people reading this, I don’t really care if the government wants to incentivise eating certain foods. Even if strongly opposed to this, you have to concede that it’s philosophically miles away from banning foods, or regulating their ingredients, let’s say…

regulating fat, salt and sugar content in food and drink

Which of course, the government also proposes to do. I can’t wait for the protest against this. We can all show up to Parliament House and eat huge lumps of Roquefort cheese, followed by mudcake and double-thick cream.

29 thoughts on “Happy little nannystatists

  1. Funnt you should mention Roquefort – they only recently overturned the ban on it due to the Australian government’s paranoia about raw milk (In France pregant women happily eat raw milk cheese). In fact you still can’t get the best type of Roquefort (Société) because the Australian government deem it to be a ‘health risk’.

    The reason most Australian cheese is so tasteless is because of the continued ban on cheesemaking with unpasteurised milk. We can’t even import the far better French stuff because the vast majority of that is banned also.

    It’s a bit late to start protesting about nanny state food regulations.

  2. Oh dear pommy, don’t start with that horrible stuff the brits eat! It would not be Ok, as it has a higher salt content than Vegemite.

  3. we should arrange an ALS picnic outside Parliament in Canberra – deep-fried Mars bars (a cultural delicacy of the North of England), a McDonald’s half-pounder with extra cheese and bacon, a KFC Happy Meal, and a tub of popcorn washed down with gallons of Coke.

  4. Sorry pommy – I must defend my Scottish ancestry and correct you here – Deep-fried Mars Bars are a ‘delicacy’ that hail from further north than ‘the North of England’!

    In any case KFC and Coke lowers the tone a bit. I would make the protest more civilised – I rather prefer the idea of Roquefort, and maybe some civil diobedience thrown in by serving brie de meaux au lait cru and real Spanish chorizo sausages, both of which are already outlawed.

  5. i eat “energy-dense” foods because one of my hobbies is weight training, and being a young dude i have a naturally fast metabolism anyway

    so i eat high energy/high GI foods on days i’m training, because i actually need all those calories so that i can exercise properly + get a good recovery when i’m done

    i understand that 90% of people out there consider walking the dog or watching the cricket on TV to be vigorous exercise.. but why do we have to be governed as though everyone was like that?

    i can’t help but feel that i’m being discriminated against because i look fantastic

  6. james: Don’t hate you because you’re beautiful?

    papachango: I mentioned Roquefort because of the ban (although I wasn’t aware it had been overturned). Also because in the linked article, blue cheese is mentioned as one foodstuff that might be banned.

    I can confirm that deep fried Mars bars are very common in Scotland. Whether they actually originated there I don’t know. I couldnt stomach trying one when I was there. People on my tour mostly found them pretty disgusting.

  7. i can’t help but feel that i’m being discriminated against because i look fantastic

    One of the best blog lines ever 😉 I wonder if you’ll find much sympathy amongst the usual ‘victims of discrimination’ industry types…

    Nicholas Gray – did the yanks have the inspirational idea to deep fry the Mars Bars? I think not. Not sure why anyone would want to claim such a ‘delicacy’ as their own however.

  8. I’m so glad we have a deputy prime minister involved in the important business of preventing Vegemite from being banned. Clearly the government making the tough decisions necessary to protect our way of life. Idiots!!

    Completely off topic but what do people make of the bans on owning certain dog breeds.

  9. This should not be the job of the government. If some dogs are vicious, their owners should pay the consequences.

  10. Sort of misses the point. Children are most likely to be mauled by dogs. It’s always a fraught question how deeply law enforcement should pry into parental responsibility, but there’s no doubt there is such a thing as child abuse and that putting children in dangerous situations can qualify. Allowing children to handle loaded guns, explosives, drugs etc should not be a matter of parental discretion. There’s an argument to be had about what pets it is appropriate for children to be exposed to, but I don’t think that argument is solved by saying “the owners should pay the consequences”.

    NB: I personally think there should be no laws about dog ownership.

  11. Lots of perfectly responsible parents have taught their kids how to shoot. I don’t think that constitutes “child abuse”.

    I’m so crazy I even managed to handle fireworks as a child. In Zimbabwe. If I was in Australia somebody probably would have called the police or child services.

    Rules for raising children are hard to set in stone. There is so much legitimate diversity in approaches, and in situations. And the set rules justify a lot of inappropriate state intervention in parenting (eg stolen generation).

    We need a system that recognises the rights of children, but has more discretion. I believe there is an implicit contract between parents and children. If somebody (the child or other concerned party) can show that the parents are violating that contract, then a court could make a number of rulings — including punishment, compensation, future restrictions or even cancelling the contract (ie removing the child).

  12. I think it is appropriate that I decide as and when my children handle loaded guns. I was allowed to handle a loaded gun when I was a child and I don’t believe it was child abuse. We also had a dog.

  13. John – I’m not that much older than you and when I was a kid it was not unusual for children in Australia to play with fireworks. The neighbours kids who were younger than me were allowed to. My dad wouldn’t let us so we scaped the heads of loads of matches and made some quite dangereous alternatives. 😉

  14. You must have been a right little delinquent Terje. ‘Bolt bombs’ I’ll bet. Did you ever try ‘touch powder’ it was fun? We used iodine crystals and some solution or other which I can’t remember now and the filtered residue when dry would explode when pressure was applied.

    We had fun once at college by spreading it around while the dormitory master was away. When he came in late pissed as a fart, he had this stuff going off nearly every step he took, culminating in his opening his door which we had worked some into. He fled to the prefects room yelling that the Martians were after him. You just don’t get that sort of fun these days.

  15. Obviously there may be situations where it is appropriate for minors to handle guns. But there are limits to this discretion. When I said “children” I was really talking about young children. You wouldn’t give a loaded gun to a 6 year old to play with. That isn’t parental discretion, it’s criminal behaviour. This is a bit of an academic example, because the number of people out there who will give children loaded guns is pretty small. There are other examples that are less academic. For example, where medical treatment is withheld:

    An 11-year-old girl ended up deathly ill and brain-damaged after her alternative medicine devotee father refused to take her to a hospital, the Australian Associated Press reports.

    The Brisbane District Court in Brisbane, Australia was told Tuesday that the girl was gravely ill when she was finally admitted to Toowoomba Base Hospital in September 2006.

    She had been suffering from a heart infection for two weeks before her 45-year-old father finally took her to hospital.

    At the hospital, the girl was found to have a temperature of 107 degrees. She was also hallucinating and weak, pale and could no longer walk, according to the report.

    The court was told her mouth was peeling, black and clogged from the alternative medicine her father had been giving her in extremely high doses.

    The doctor who examined her said she was the sickest girl he had seen in 35 years.

    The girl was in a coma after surgery because of bleeding on the brain. She now uses a wheelchair, has vision problems and suffers from ongoing cognitive and motor skill decline.

    I don’t see how this is anything other than criminal. Parental discretion has limits. It could be argued that parental discretion has limits when it comes to which carnivorous animals they allow to frolic with their offspring. I don’t think the risks are large enough to warrant government intervention; but I also don’t think the debate can be dismissed by saying “the owners pay the consequences”.

  16. First, I note that people only discovered this situation after the father brought the girl to the hospital. Unless you’re suggesting permenant survailence in all homes with children, I can’t see how 1000 laws would have helped in that case.

    Second, I can’t see how my suggested approach would fail. If you, or the child, or a child welfare agency, or anybody thought that the father was breaching his implicit contract with the child they could take the issue to court and have the court decide on the appriate next step.

    Third, saying “the owners pay the consequence” doesn’t dismiss the issue. It suggests a punishment for the owners, which is exactly what you are suggesting.

  17. Huh? That’s like saying laws against murder won’t do any good in preventing murder, because all murders are prosecuted after the fact.

    Your suggested approach and my suggested approach are the same. The difference only lies in where you delineate what breaches the “implicit contract”. Does allowing 6 year olds to handle loaded guns do so? I would say yes. Does owning dangerous dogs do so? I would say not.

    However, crimes of negligence are not crimes only after something bad has happened. Drink driving is not a crime only after you hit someone. Giving a six year old a loaded gun is not a crime only if they happen to discharge it into their faces. If you believe exposing a child to dangerous animals is a big enough risk to justify criminal sanctions (I don’t) then it is a crime whether or not the dog actually happens to maul the child. Saying criminal penalties will apply if and only if this happens makes no sense.

  18. My point was that illegalising activities which are hard to detect does not provide much of a benefit. Implicit in my comment is the idea that you shouldn’t introduce laws if they don’t provide more benefits than costs.

    Introducing a law doesn’t necessarily get rid of the crime. You have to look at it’s marginal impact. And sometimes it simply inconveniences a lot of decent people and costs a lot of money.

    I often hear people say “drugs should be illegal — look at all the damage they’re doing now”. Or alternatively, “anarchy wouldn’t work — look at all the crime we already have now”. These arguments seem to say “because the current system doesn’t work, we should not try a different system”. I don’t accept that logic.

    Regarding what counts as irresponsible, I want to leave that up to the courts, to allow the discretion I think is necessary in such issues.

  19. Alternative medicine?

    The current system has too many problems already to promote or enforce “responsible” medicines – see the rejection of Sipucel T cancer treatment. The US FDA had a definite conflict of interest against this promising drug.

  20. I was reading in the papers that Scientologists don’t believe in drugs for epileptics- John Travolta’s child, the one who dies recently, may have been subject to epileptic fits, which were misdiagnosed.
    So do we penalise them for having religious beliefs? Or do we accept that mistakes will be made, but that you can’t regulate every aspect of existence, or stop accidents?

  21. I learned how to shoot a gun as a kid (age 10ish), had fireworks (12+), and grew up with two large pit bull mixed breeds (8+). There is nothing special about this. Fairly young exposure was how I was able to avoid developing an irrational fear of each of those three. I knew about gun safety, fireworks safety, and dog safety.

    I wouldn’t give a 6 year old a loaded AK-47 and have him go to town on some cans in the back yard much in the same way I would not let a 6 year old kid boil water, cook with an open flame, or hell, even go swimming alone. But there comes a time when each one of those things comes to focus.

    Teaching children to universally fear things, not respect them, but fear them, does not make for a healthy adult population down the road.

  22. Nicholas Gray, some people believe in human sacrifice and cannibalism. Should we penalise them for having religious beliefs? Of course not. Should we penalise them for harming someone who didn’t or couldn’t consent? Absolutely.

  23. Alexander, are you therefore arguing that only people registered by the state should be allowed to diagnose illnesses- not their families, who might simply be wrong in their diagnosis? Should the Travoltas be penalised for NOT taking their children to state-sanctioned clinics. Is it harm to act by your own conscience? I am simply wondering where we daw the line.

  24. From elsewhere:

    I think the ALS (Australian Libertarian Society) should write a book, not a survivalist thing but something along the lines of: this is how to debug your life from interfering govt.

    Preface – please read freedom is a two edged sword and this is for adults

    1. How to brew and distil liquors

    2. How to grow tobacco

    3. How to be legally tax effective

    4. How to legally avoid highway patrol and other transport hazards

    5. How to acquire and posess firearms

    6. How to make your own firecrackers

    7. Legal highs: what is and isn’t, the health risks and dos and dont’s

    8. How to become a perpetual traveller

    9. How to lose the paper trail (not recommended because you’re probably addicted to FB anyway)

    10. They can’t ration this: updated for the 21st century – being a foodie in times of trouble, not eating shithouse rations or being a survivalist nut (NTTAWT)

    11. Choosing a good private school

    12. Freedom rankings of Australian locales

    13. Rankings of foreign entities

    14. History of libertarianism

    15. History on the decline of freedom

    16. Legal cases on rights etc

    17. Comparison of state taxes/levies.

    but much more comprehensive and professionally done of course -please feel free to add to the list.

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