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One hundred and fifty ways the nanny state is good for us

In Australia, anyone who supports rules and regulations that make products safer or improve public health can expect to come under attack from critics arguing they’re restricting freedom and turning the…

Some manufacturers resist making changes that will improve the safety or efficacy of their products. Image from shutterstock.com

In Australia, anyone who supports rules and regulations that make products safer or improve public health can expect to come under attack from critics arguing they’re restricting freedom and turning the country into a “nanny state”.

These “nanny state” critics are everywhere and they’re superficially persuasive. After all, who wants government to tell them how to live their lives? But scratch the surface and you’ll discover nanny state critics are frequently backed by powerful vested interests, like the tobacco industry arguing against plain packaging on cigarettes, or the secretive PR outfit know as the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) arguing against government per se.

Nanny state critics are almost always self-interested. They’re rarely motivated by the freedoms they purport to defend. And invariably their arguments crumble under scrutiny.

Personal liberties

In May, the IPA’s director of climate change policy and intellectual property and free trade unit Tim Wilson wrote an opinion piece that encapsulates the organisation’s opposition to nanny state regulation:

incremental attacks on our freedom to choose are single steps down a longer road to remove individual choice and responsibility.

Wilson wrote of the “rising groundswell of Australians who are sick of increasing local, state and federal government regulations of their choices” and denied that people like him want to “selfishly put their wants above the safety and happiness of others”.

Public health interventions are routinely ridiculed as the interventionist screechings from the nanny state. Image from shutterstock.com

Wilson also warned that we should all “learn to manage risk through our choices” and that it is not “the job of government to coddle us from the world’s evils, avoid risk and use taxes, laws and regulations to either steer or direct our behaviour”.

The IPA has academic pretentions and calls its associates “fellows”. But it has not the first idea about academic principles such as funding transparency, refusing to name its corporate sponsors (they include British American Tobacco).

The IPA has an infamous list of 75 policies and institutions it would like to see abolished. These include the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, repealing renewable energy targets, plain cigarette packaging and the alcopops tax, and the end of mandatory food labelling.

This isn’t surprising. I was a board member of Choice magazine for 20 years, and lost count of the number of times manufacturers staunchly resisted voluntarily making changes to their dangerous, ineffective or substandard products.

Public good

Changes to laws, regulations, mandatory product standards and public awareness campaigns have saved countless lives over the years:

Nanny state regulation #107: mandatory safety standards for children’s nightwear. Image from shutterstock.com

  • Before the advent of mandatory shatterproof safety glass for showers, many people suffered major lacerations and occasionally died after bathroom accidents

  • Before 2008, it was legal for fast-buck retailers to sell children’s nightwear that could easily catch fire: many children were hideously burnt and scarred for life

  • Prior to the introduction of safety guidelines, at least three Australian children were reportedly disemboweled after sitting on swimming pool skimmer box covers shaped like children’s potty.

And the list goes on.

With these, as with nearly every campaign to clip the wings of unethical manufacturers, there was protracted resistance.

Similar attacks once rained down on Edwin Chadwick, the architect of the first Public Health Act in England in 1848. He proposed the first regulatory measures to control overcrowding, drinking water quality, sewage disposal and building standards.

In response, the Times thundered:

We prefer to take our chance with cholera and the rest than be bullied into health. There is nothing a man hates so much as being cleansed against his will, or having his floors swept, his walls whitewashed, his pet dung heaps cleared away.

And yet on the 150th anniversary of the Public Health Act, a British Medical Journal poll saw his invention of civic hygiene, and all of its regulations, voted as the most significant advance in public health and medicine since 1840.

Counting the ways the nanny is good for us

Next time you hear someone attack “the nanny state” for intruding on personal liberty or being a heinous burden on business, here’s a long list of examples that show how nanny state coddlings and protections have paid off. I stopped at 150 but I could have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled the list.

Nanny state regulation #12: mandatory swimming pool fences. Image from shutterstock.com

We don’t hear much from the IPA and its ilk on any of these because they are all immensely popular, taken-for granted safeguards on our health, safety and quality of life. Because of them, Australia is one of the healthiest nations on earth. And other countries are climbing over themselves to emulate many of these as best practice.

So a public invitation to the IPA: which of these 150 heinous intrusions on people’s freedoms and the right to unbridled commerce does it wish to see abolished?

  1. Access to drugs: Drug scheduling
  2. Access to drugs: Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
  3. Access to health care: Compulsory third party motor injury
  4. Access to health care: Medicare
  5. Alcohol control: Minimum legal drinking age
  6. Alcohol control: Responsible serving of alcohol
  7. Building standards: Balustrade and railing height regulations
  8. Building standards: Elevator, standards & inspection
  9. Building standards: Fire safety building regulations
  10. Building standards: Floor space provision (preventing overcrowding)
  11. Building standards: Mandatory smoke alarms
  12. Building standards: Mandatory swimming pool fences
  13. Building standards: Maximum water temperature regulation
  14. Building standards: Safety glass standards
  15. Building standards: Swimming pool skimmer box standards
  16. Builing standards: Mandatory Residual Current Devices (electricity)
  17. Cancer control: Sunsmart regulations for schools and daycare
  18. Child protection: Background checks for staff working with children
  19. Child protection: Child pornography laws
  20. Child protection: Mandatory reporting of child protection incidents
  21. Congenital malformation prevention: Folate fortification
  22. Dental health: Fluoridation of water
  23. Disability: Disability parking permits
  24. Disease control: Mosquito control
  25. Disease investigation: Cancer registries
  26. Drug control: Pseudoephidrine pharmacy controls
  27. Drug regulation: Illicit drug regulation
  28. Drug safety and efficacy: pharmaceutical drug regulation
  29. Emergency services: 24/7/365 emergency service phone lines
  30. Emergency services: 24/7/365 poisons information service
  31. Environmental health: Backyard burning controls
  32. Environmental health: Burial standards
  33. Environmental health: Controls (air quality standards) for industrial emissions to air
  34. Environmental health: Controls on industrial discharges into rivers
  35. Environmental health: Emission controls on cars
  36. Environmental health: Lead in paint banned
  37. Environmental health: Lead in petrol banned
  38. Environmental health: Legionella control standards for cooling towers
  39. Environmental health: Petrol and diesel fuel standards (for emission controls)
  40. Environmental health: Planning regulations around open space
  41. Environmental health: Recycled water standards for reuse applications
  42. Environmental health: Septic tank standards
  43. Environmental health: Sewage discharge standards
  44. Environmental health: Stormwater drainage
  45. Farm safety: Tractor rollover harm reduction
  46. Food safety: Abattoir standards
  47. Food safety: Food additive labelling
  48. Food safety: Food allergy labelling
  49. Food safety: Food handling standards
  50. Food safety: Food standards (many)
  51. Food safety: Genetically modified organisms regulation
  52. Food safety: Pasteurisation of milk
  53. Food safety: Publication of filthy restauarant names
  54. Food safety: Regulation of food additives
  55. Food safety: Regulation of food store refrigerator temperatures
  56. Health promotion: Mandatory physical education in schools
  57. Health promotion: Mandatory school canteen standards
  58. Health promotion: Rights to breast feed in public places
  59. Infection control: “blood rule” in sport
  60. Infection control: Autoclaving of dental equipment
  61. Infection control: Bans on public spitting, urination, defecation
  62. Infection control: Chlorinated water supplies
  63. Infection control: Dog faeces disposal
  64. Infection control: Drinking Water Quality A124 standards
  65. Infection control: Immunisation standards and infrastructure
  66. Infection control: Infection control standards and protocols
  67. Infection control: Legalisation of brothels
  68. Infection control: Mandatory immunisation for health care workers
  69. Infection control: Mandatory sewerage and sanitation in urban areas
  70. Infection control: Notifiable disease laws
  71. Infection control: Sex worker health checks
  72. Infection control: Sharps disposal and blood borne virus controls
  73. Infection control: Skin penetration legislation re hairdressers, dentists, tatooists, body piercing
  74. Infection control: Veterinary and animal husbandry standards
  75. Infection control: Water standards in public swimming pools
  76. Information control: Advertising standards
  77. Mental health: Mental health scheduling
  78. Occupational safety: Workers' compensation
  79. Occupational health: Asbestos building ban
  80. Occupational health: Dust standards
  81. Occupational health: Hard hats
  82. Occupational health: Harness standards
  83. Occupational health: Noise standards
  84. Occupational health: Personal protective equipment regulations
  85. Occupational health: Scaffolding standards
  86. Occupational health: Smoke free workplaces
  87. Occuptational health: Asbestos removal standards
  88. Product safety: Condom standards
  89. Product safety: Controls, bans on lead (other heavy metals) used in toys
  90. Product safety: Myriad of standards, bans, recalls etc.
  91. Professional standards: Childcare facilities
  92. Professional standards: Continuing medical education
  93. Professional standards: Licensing of healthcare facilities
  94. Professional standards: Medical and allied health worker registration
  95. Professional standards: Nursing home regulation
  96. Public amenity: Noise regulations
  97. Public safety: Agricultural and Industrial chemicals regulation
  98. Public safety: Child resistant cigarette lighters
  99. Public safety: Child resistant medical packaging
  100. Public safety: Design rules for babies' cots to reduce the risk of asphyxiation
  101. Public safety: Dog licensing
  102. Public safety: Engineering standards for roads, bridges
  103. Public safety: Extraordinary powers under the Public Health Act to deal with emergencies
  104. Public safety: Gun laws
  105. Public safety: Hair dryer standards to prevention bath electrocution
  106. Public safety: Hazard reduction in child playgrounds
  107. Public safety: Nightwear for children mandatory standards
  108. Public safety: Pesticides registration and control of use
  109. Public safety: Poisons Act
  110. Public safety: Poisons labelling
  111. Public safety: Quarantine Act
  112. Public safety: Reduced ignition propensity cigarettes
  113. Public safety: Regulations around provision of footpaths
  114. Public safety: Safety standards for fitness and leisure equipment
  115. Public safety: Sunglass standards
  116. Public safety: Total fire bans
  117. Public safety: Toy standards
  118. Radiation control: Carriage and transport of radiated material
  119. Radiation control: Dental x-ray equipment standards
  120. Radiation control: Sun bed bans
  121. Radiation control: Uniformity in the control of radiation use
  122. Road safety: Air bags in cars
  123. Road safety: Bicycle helmets
  124. Road safety: Breath alcohol ignition interlock devices for repeat drink drive offenders
  125. Road safety: Double demerit points (driving)
  126. Road safety: Drink driving penalties
  127. Road safety: Energy absorbing steering columns
  128. Road safety: Graduated driver licensing schemes
  129. Road safety: infant and child vehicle seat restaints
  130. Road safety: Mandatory motor cycle helmets
  131. Road safety: Motor cycle helmet standards
  132. Road safety: Motor vehicle design standards
  133. Road safety: Pedestrian crossings
  134. Road safety: Provisional and learner drivers' licensing
  135. Road safety: Random breath testing
  136. Road safety: Seat belts in cars, school buses
  137. Road safety: Speed limits
  138. Road safety: Speed limits near schools
  139. Road safety: Standards for medical assessment of fitness to drive
  140. Road safety: Third brake lights on cars
  141. Road safety: Traffic regulation in general
  142. Road safety: Vehicle roadworthiness inspections
  143. Road safety: Dedicated bicycle lanes
  144. Tobacco control: Health warnings on tobacco products
  145. Tobacco control: Outlawing “light and mild” descriptors on tobacco
  146. Tobacco control: Plain packaging of tobacco
  147. Tobacco control: Smoke free public transport
  148. Tobacco control: Tobacco sales to minors legislation
  149. Tobacco control: Tobacco tax
  150. Violence control: Criminalising domestic violence

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261 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

    1. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Andrew Ramsden

      Speaking of straw men, Simon assumes anti-nanny-staters hate all regulations, and lists some good regulations as his knock-out blow.

      The problem is libertarians like Hayek - aka Satan - say things like 'to prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances, or to require special precautions in their use, to limit working hours or to require certain sanitary arrangements, is fully compatible with the preservation of competition'.

      This article is a superficial polemic, a mirror image of an IPA press release. Government intervention has both benefits and social costs. This is a more complex and interesting question that Simon ignores.

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    2. Lenard Smith

      Student

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James Jenkin wrote ;

      'to prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances....is fully compatible with the preservation of competition'.

      Hayek actually proceeded to say ;

      "The only question here is whether in the particular instance the advantages gained are greater than the social costs which they impose"

      In the case of nicotine-electronic cigarettes, which Simon Chapman has admitted several times in news articles to be far less hazardous than tobacco cigarettes, it makes no sense to…

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    3. Edmund Esterbauer

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Quite obviously James has never read Hayek. Hayek never opposed social interventions. He pointed out that government interventions could get out of control and were usually sub-optimal in outcome. He demonstrated that the world is complex and that too much intervention leads to unexpected outcomes. He came from an era where the dominant interventionist policies of national socialism and socialism created chaos. I suggest that James read Hayek's Constitution of Liberty before calling him "Satan"!

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    4. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Andrew Ramsden

      You are reacting exactly in the way Simon Chapman predicted. You may call the above article a 'motherhood statement' I call it a list of sensible laws.

      Item 29: Emergency 'phone numbers. I take it that if you were to suffer a stroke and your partner rang the emergency number for an ambulance to get you, you would turn it down? Wonderful piece of logic there, Andrew.

      As for item 116...You're in favour of letting people rip into building fires in the bush on forty degrees of summer heat with a strong north wind????

      Grow up!

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    5. David Wright

      Electrician

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      I suppose that opinion against electronic cigarettes in the BMJ was backed by a cohort study. Was it Simon? No it wasn't.

      E-cigs should be allowed because it is fair less harmful on spec, than combustion cigarettes. Your opinion in your BMJ response seems to be a fear that social "renormalisation" of cigarettes would be a problem: but you have

      1. No evidence that this is specifically harmful in a cohort study
      2. E-cigs don't actually directly harm anyone else: there is no 2nd hand smoke…

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  1. Peter Rutherford

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    From this article, the key messages I get are:
    The IPA lobby against a lot of things that are good for the community; and
    Of the 150 pieces of regulation listed above, "We don’t hear much from the IPA and its ilk on any of these because they are all immensely popular, taken-for granted safeguards on our health, safety and quality of life."
    So aside from what appears to be an intense dislike of the IPA, which apparently "has academic pretentions," what is the point of the article?

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    1. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Not sure that anyone has ever referred to the licensing of brothels as the nanny state. Or brake lights on cars.

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The point was to list things that are not Nanny State alongside those that are (and all with Wikipedia references) to make it easy to criticise this article.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Then, Ness, would you, or one of the other critics of this article, actually like to make some substantial comment by (a) naming the things in the list that aren't 'nanny state' (and I do expect some kind of reasonably authoritative definition there, not just 'because I think so') and (b) listing a few things that ARE 'nanny state' and are clearly negative in their net impact on society.

      All I've heard so far in criticism of the article is without substance.

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    4. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      No - the two were just examples of Chapman's straw-man argument of nanny-state objectors to every regulation.

      I am not going to waste my time discussin the other 148 in an effort to change your mind.

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    5. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, if you can't see it for yourself, here's some clear examples to get you started:

      Laws cited above regarding brothels, child abuse, brake lights and violence are not nanny state.

      Laws cited above regarding bicycle helmets, double demerit time periods and responsible drinking are.

      Can I use Wikipedia® to as a source of my authoritative definition as the author as done? I could always go edit the definitions first if that suits.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      So you have enough energy to list 2 out of 150, but that's where either your enthusiasm or your actual argument runs out. Nor ar eyou able to list any things that you think are nanny state and are negative.

      Underwhelming.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Alternatively, Ness, you could have a go at showing us all your definition. Or don't you really have one beyond things you aprove of versus things you don't?

      I'm looking forward to hearing exactly why brake lights are not nanny state but bike helmets are. Some pretty tight parsing to look forward to there!

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    8. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, thank you for the opportunity to clarify that a Nanny State law is not about approval (not sure where you got that from) but about influence on responsibility and choice.

      As you requested my own definition, I edited the Wikipedia® definition and present it to all as both my own definition and a credible source used by the illustrious author of this article.

      A nanny state: “the government regarded as overprotective or as interfering unduly with personal choice... government regulation…

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    9. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      It's 3rd (elevated) brake lights on cars which have been shown to reduce rear-enders & which were opposed by car manufacturers before they were mandated. Licensing of brothels carries important public health benefits -- again opposed by many.

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    10. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      The IPA & its acolytes frequently cite laws that regulate either or both business or personal behaviour as nanny state. The strenously object to many restraints on business (trans: on their funders)

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    11. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Wikis are often written and amended by highly authoritative people, and pull lots of info under the one link. How about you tell us about the factual errors in any wiki I've cited rather than display your snooty attitudes to that massive source of information?

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    12. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      I like Star Wars as much as the next man, but didn't know electricians named the circuit brakers after a little droid.

      A two-pole residual-current device.
      A residual-current device (RCD), or residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB) or residual twin-direct current couplet (R2D2), is an electrical wiring device that disconnects a circuit whenever it detects that the electric current is not balanced between the energized conductor and the return neutral conductor.

      You're a professor?

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    13. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      So who funded the bike helmet law? Wasn't it a result of federal funding to the states? Who was the business? Oh, that's right: no one.

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    14. Peter Rutherford

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      felix, what was clear as sunlight was the professori's obvious distain for the ipa. What would add value to the paper and the criticism of the ipa would be a tick box next to each of the 150 pieces of good regulation that the ipa opposed. Perhaps you could oblige, if you aren't too busy.

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  2. Dave Kinkead

    PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

    Hi Simon,

    While I think you are right that claims of 'Nanny Statism' are often the corporate equivalent kids who don't want to clean up their room, your conflation of the 'Nanny State' with the 'State' doesn't help your analysis or cause.

    Its the role of the state to protect us from the harms of others - even the most minimalist of IPA libertarians agree that the we need the state to regular the imposition of harms and negative externalities _between_ members of society because otherwise, we…

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    1. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      I don't remember including "making smoking and drinking illegal" on the list. There ave been many, many examples of corporate interests including these which sponsor the IPA lobbying very hard over years against laws and regulations designed to recent harms to others.

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    2. Dave Kinkead

      PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      And I never said you did Simon - way to play the straw man.

      Reading this and your other responses, it seems like you have no intention of engaging with peoples concerns regarding the over reach of the state. Your a public health expert, you know what's right and that's sufficient to justify policy.

      But ironically enough, this 'it should be a law because its good for you' line of reasoning actually helps those IPA sponsors you want to oppose.

      Now of course you may not think this at all but it certainly comes across this way.

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    3. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      That's an easy one: smoking and drinking are illegal in many locations, for example drinking champagne is illegal in a park while having a family picnic. Illegal. This list is a little poorly researched.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Ness, why does the fact that the list of 150 things (which the article said was only a start and were very intentionally chosen as positives) become 'poorly researched'. What would be the correct number to cross the threshold into 'well researched'?

      and you point is shallow - all sorts of things are restricted in some circumstances but okay in others. Why not cite 'killing people' - even the IPA would agree that this should be banned in most circumstances but almost everyone agres that it must…

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    5. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The "poorly researched" nature of the list is referring to the fact that some of these are not Nanny State, not about the length of the list. My comment on drinking was to show that a blanket ban on public drinking isn't appropriate if you wish to promote responsibility. Being responsible for your drinking. See what I did there?

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Ness, as you still refuse to offer a definition of the distinction between nanny state and non nanny state, there is really no content to your argument that anyone can grapple with.

      And the bit about a blanket ban on public drinking was a complete straw man, as nobody has anywhere listed or suggested it.

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    7. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      1. See Wikipedia® for my definition.
      2. "But they do object to things like making smoking and drinking illegal (as opposed to merely taxing their harms)." In this very thread. (Use the up arrow on your keypad).

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  3. Lenard Smith

    Student

    The author wrote ;

    "Nanny state critics are almost always self-interested. They’re rarely motivated by the freedoms they purport to defend. And invariably their arguments crumble under scrutiny."

    Unfortunately, proponents of the Nanny State are almost always ideological.

    For example, those who have opposed Australian's access to nicotine electronic cigarettes have continued to exagerrate the dangers of nicotine, and make unfounded claims about electronic cigarettes, meanwhile disregarding…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Lenard Smith

      I dont think you will find anyone that is a proponent of a nanny state but rather nanny state is a term used much like socialism is in the US

      Where you accuse the person you disagree with of being Communist, Nanny State, Socialist, Maoist, etc

      It is an extreme term that is used to categorise any position the opponent disagree's with.

      ie. I think we shouldn't let people drive drunk - You Bloddy Communist, want to turn this into a Nanny State

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Lenard Smith

      Lenard, I think you need more than a single example of a rather new technology (electronic cigarettes) to make a case of 'sheer arrogance.' a charge of great, maybe even excessive, caution you might pull off but, given the history of our lack of caution around things like DDT and thalidomide, I can't say I'd blame heakth authorities for being cautious of any, apparently benign new technology.

      And, in what version of reality does 'ideological' rate as a matching sin to 'self-interest'? Would that be the magical faraway land of the far right, where 'reality' is what they have and 'ideology' is what others who disagree with them have? it's about as feeble as the argumet that there actually is such a thing as an 'apolitical' institution.

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  4. Christopher Seymour

    Business owner at Location

    The problem with the nanny state is that it doesn't go far enough and it goes after the wrong issues. Smokers already know the dangers of smoking - they don't need more warnings. But obesity and the high cholesterol levels caused by lack of exercise are prematurely ending the lives of tens of thousands of Australians every year. We need an hours compulsory exercise every day to stirring patriotic music. And anyone with a BMI over 27 should be prohibited from driving a car. They must ride a bike instead.

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    1. Warren Heggarty

      Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      And these legions of public health people will have zero effect on obesity etc. becuase public health policies only influence the behaviour of people in higher income groups, you know, the same people who think that vaccinations are bad for you?
      Meanwhile the people in lower socioeconomic groups continue to develop worse health because they believe it is the government's responsibility to make them healthy [through the miracle of pharmaceuticals] and won't get off their backsides to do anything about it.

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      Exactly. First round up all the fat Police enforcing some of these laws (double demerits, bicycle helmets, public drinking) and put them on a treadmill.

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    3. Christopher Seymour

      Business owner at Location

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      The other issue is the Darwinian improvement of our species. Anyone who doesn't understand the dangers of smoking by now really shouldn't be handicapping future generations by passing on their genes.
      Regulation should be about protecting other people from dumb actions - so I agree with drink driving laws and smoking prohibitions in public places. But people should be allowed to wreck their own lungs and damage their own heads by not wearing bike helmets and terminate their own hearts by eating junk, but if they want to travel on a plane, anyone over 100 Kg should be made to buy two tickets.
      Of course the dumb genes are carried by their children too, but on balance I am in favour of child protections laws such as swimming pool fences.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      Slight problem with the Darwinian argument there Christopher: I don't think anyone has yet managed to kill themselves by smoking before they reached reproductive age. And, not only are they burdening the future with their genes, they're also burdening others with the medical costs. If you want to suggest, as some more readical anti-smoking doctors have, that those who smoke should be refused access to the public health system, then good luck to you (though I await the term enraged smokers come up…

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    5. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      " I don't think anyone has yet managed to kill themselves by smoking before they reached reproductive age. "

      Alcohol is more successful (so many young lives cut short), however many alcoholics also live long enough to have adverse impact on individuals who are unlucky enough to encounter them and the human gene pool in general.

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    6. Warren Heggarty

      Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, If your interested I will breifly explain my assumptions and prejudices explained: -
      I work among people who have massive social disadvantages, so I see with my own eyes each day that my clients tend not to be influenced by public health policy.
      Many in fact openly rebel against such policies (eg anti smoking).
      When I worked briefly in NSW health promotion, it was an open secret and a matter of concern to my professional colleagues that their health messages did not get through to the…

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      So, because some groups may (anecdotally) be resistant to some kinds of government messages means...what? We should not bother with regulations because they don't work 100%? We should not bother with education campaigns because they do not work 100%?

      Any suggestions, from your experience, for improving the regulations or campaigns, or do we just walk away because it's too hard?

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    8. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      I wouldn't bother trying too hard to persuade Felix, he tends to similar absolutism in his arguments as Simon Chapman.

      I.e. you say we don't get 100% compliance with public health messages, he accuses you of suggesting we give up...

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  5. Bart Brighenti

    Farmer

    Regulation has a place in a modern society as long as the regulation is also founded on fact and not used as a tool for self interest groups, corporations or political gains.
    We must also recognise that these form our standard of living and come at a cost.
    This cost increases our living costs, therefore wages and in turn this adds to the cost to do business.
    If we have these costs then we cant expect business to compete in a "global"market and have imports flow into our country not made with these regulations and costs, or the house of cards will collapse.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Bart Brighenti

      Bart, it's fair to note the costs of regulation, but you'd need to counter balance that account with a measure of the costs of refusing to regulate to prevent a tangible harm.

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    2. Bart Brighenti

      Farmer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      have no problem with regulations in fact in food it should be priority, the issue is it comes at a cost that cant be lumped on the farmer and the same regulations should be placed on the imports right through the supple chain

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Bart Brighenti

      Don't disagree with what you're saying at all there Bart - I just find arguments that only list one side (cost) without considering the other (benefit) to be useless. the question you raise of who should pay the cost is absolutely a fair one and it would certainly be inequitable for farmers to bear all the costs for things like food processing - though there is something of a tradition of people paying the costs of their particular industry.

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  6. Peter West

    CEO at Property

    Obviously the laws against child pornography and abuse are part of the criminal law, however too much regulation takes away the natural instincts of self-preservation and wariness, for instance a lot of regulations against financial products that can never guard against all incompetent and criminal behaviours.
    The argument has superficial merit, but how far do you want to go? Should we all be microchipped "for our own good", so our centralised medical records can be accessed if we have a stroke…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Peter West

      The 'how far should we go' argument has a big problem: we've already gon emuch further than the arrangements in place a few hundred years ago. some of it has been negative, but would anyone really want to go backwards.

      The only solution I know of to this problem is that a society has to make decisions, case by case, preferably based on good evidence, as each case arises.

      And the 'life was good back in the fifties' argument is, at best, very partial in it's judgement of the strengths and weaknesses of those times. Undeniably, some things were better, but some were worse. Of course, back then, we had a level of progressiveness in our taxation rates that would send modern economic 'rationalists' into apoplexy...

      And I'd quite like some evidence of actual causality behind the single mother's pension.

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    1. Warren Heggarty

      Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

      In reply to Deirdre Whitford

      Nothing would please me more than to have tobacco on its knees- and I have often cheered on Simon Chapman. I just don't think it can be done effectively by governments (especially ones associated with Nick Greiner...). My grandfathers had similar experiences in wartime, though luckily they lived till old age. My father began smoking in the Nashos. I smoked becuase they all smoked.
      Tobacco was similarly part of the standard 'rations' in mental hospitals. Cigarettes were used for 'reward and punishment…

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      So, Warren, if governments, with their capacity to create and enforce laws, cannot deliver that blow to tobacco (or at least the lion's share of it) who on earth is going to do the job?

      And your suggested alternative strategy to shock packaging would be? And the evidence you have that it won't work?

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    3. Warren Heggarty

      Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Perhaps the job won't get done.I think people will always do crazy things. You know, war is something that I really want to wipe out. But it might not be do-able.

      What I am saying on tobacco and other nanny state issues is that government cannot do the job any more than it has stopped murder. But I'm happy for coercion and deadly force to be used against murderers. Not smokers.

      I always lead by example. People ask me why I am a vegetarian. So I tell them. Maybe they will follow me. Maybe not. But there is no way I am going to get a convert by forcing them to do what I think is sensible.

      Remember that governmetn is not only a way for people to do good things collectively. It is equally a means for people to do great evil collectively. Not woth the risk of letting governmetn go too far.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      But Warren, surely the punishment is proportional to the crime? Because murder is a grave harm, we punish it severely; smoking is a far lesser harm and there are no direct punishments for smoking, merely minor ones, at worst, for breaking rules like smoking in certain public places or in cars with kids.

      The fact that we will never be able to 100% prevent a bad thing is no argument for abandoning rules and systems of detection, trial and punishment.

      And I think your final argument is a slippery-slope fallacy: the fact that we might allow governments to bring in some regulations does not inevitably mean that, because of that, we will end up with tyranny. Each law must be judged individually on its merits an dthe fact that I might suport partial bans on smoking doesn't mean I'm thereby more likely to support seriously repressive legislation.

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    5. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      That's just ill-informed Warren (although thanks for the cheers). Government action has driven down smoking like nothing else. Why do you think Big Tobacco lobbies so hard against laws, taxes & regulations?

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    6. Ivan Denisovich

      logged in via email @btinternet.com

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      It is entirely unsurprising that someone who is paid to constantly dream up new ways in which government might act and to then lobby for them to become laws believes this approach to be necessary and effective.

      More worrying is the apparent attempt to break some sort of non-sequitur record.

      I realize that many of those fortunate enough to be employed by "Big Government" feel that those who have to make a profit to survive are their moral inferiors but that is no excuse for lazy argument.

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    7. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      Siumon,
      Your thoughts are shallow. There is more to be feared from alcohol than from cigarettes. Yet, with dismal frequency, we see trendy medicos popping up on TV saying that a glass or two of red each night might even lessen heart complications.
      Ask the Salvos about their workload, blown out by alcohol.
      You can't single out tobacco without application of similar standards to alcohol.
      Prohibition of tobacco has not been tried much, if ayt all.
      Prohibition by Nanny State USA was tried and failed.
      Next????

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  7. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    To me the main thrust of the nanny state debate is where any (proposed) legislation is aimed at a minority, but affects the majority.

    Tobacco legislation affects only smokers, who are hopefully a minority in the community. And the wider community may benefit in the reduced cost of providing health resources to smokers.

    In terms of alcohol, most adults are drinkers but most are not problem drinkers. It is then incumbent on any legislation not to penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.

    I believe the argument against the nanny state is that it does not impinge upon the liberties we take for granted in a democracy.

    And it does not seek to legislate to modify behaviour of the few, and in so doing reduces the freedoms of the many.

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    1. Deirdre Whitford

      Un-Worker

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Sure, SJR, as long as it's always clrearly understood that, for example, alcohol legislation, affects not only the rights and liberties of drinkers themselves, but also those of spouses, children, fellow road-users, passers-by, people whose taxes fund the health system and others.
      We only need any laws at all because the competing, conflicting interests of different citizens need to be accommodated, ideally in as fair a way as possible, if we are all going to share a civil society together.

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    2. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      So you'd oppose Random Breath Testing, airport screening for bombs,gun laws etc -- all inconvenience the majority because of the threats posed by an often small minority

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  8. Tim Benham

    Student of Statistics

    > Nanny state critics are almost always self-interested.

    Well duh, Everyone is self-interested. I've found my interest in this article evaporating before I've finished para, 3,

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  9. Matt Mason

    Social Science Student

    I hear the term "nanny-state" flung around quite a bit over dinner conversations and at the pub.

    I think many people who use the term as a criticism, use it in response to more paternalistic and other regulations that may coerce a consenting adult individual away from activities (or simply ban something they may enjoy) that harm nobody but themselves.

    So, forgive me for my initial impression that your article on nanny-state critics attacks a straw man as I'm sure many would vary in their opposition to this kind of state control thus described.

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  10. Ivan Denisovich

    logged in via email @btinternet.com

    "Nanny state critics are almost always self-interested. They’re rarely motivated by the freedoms they purport to defend. And invariably their arguments crumble under scrutiny."

    Reading this paragraph, it is hard not to conclude that the author believes that anyone who disagrees with anything whatsoever that he and his public health industry colleagues say is wrong and is doing so only because they are being paid to.

    This is in my experience untrue and I find it incredible that it is considered…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ivan Denisovich

      Ivan, if you believe paragraph 2 of your post follows logically from paragraph 1, you have a different understanding of proff to me.

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    2. Ivan Denisovich

      logged in via email @btinternet.com

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Proff? I think that unfortunately I understand "Professor" Chapman all too well.

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    1. Ken Piaggio
      Ken Piaggio is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Medical Practitioner & Senior Lecturer at School of Medicine - Ipswich UQ

      In reply to Kate Sommerville

      Thanks Kate,
      I also found the article informative.
      The 'list' was a great reminder to me of the distance we have travel in this country towards the maintenance of a civilised society.
      I like your pink batts reminder. We do not like regulation but as soon as something happens the knee jerk response occurs and, in areas of special interest to someone, they declare there has not been enough regulation, or that regulations (in case of pink batts - state regulations) are not being policed.
      The issue…

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  11. Michael Brown

    Professional & academic

    All a bit pusillanimous Simon. Why don't you get serious and lobby for bans on motorcycles, hang gliding, mountain climbing, international solo sailing, quad bikes, cycling on roads, alcohol, football and all contact sports, and also advocate a universal speed limit of 10 km/hr? Then the emergency departments would go really quiet and you'd get the adulation you so clearly deserve.

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    1. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Michael Brown

      I agree. Public Health sector invites Nanny State criticism by supporting unrealistic laws with easy to challenge assumptions. Have any of you actually tried to drive 10km/h?

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    1. Deirdre Whitford

      Un-Worker

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Thanks for posting that, Rosemary, and even I know that you are someone who would likely know what she is talking about here.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Ness, don't tell me you've finally recognised the difference? In that case, woul dyou like to tell us which items on Simon's list represent 'obsession' rather than 'care'. Equally, would you like to cite some protective legislation in place that represents 'obsession'. While there undoubtedly is, at least in principle, such a thing as obsession, you really need to demonstrate that it is occuring, is significant and is actually having an impact before it stands up as much of a criticism.

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    3. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, Simon's list that you so defend, is complete with many things. Obsession? I quickly looked at the list, and I chose: "South Australia's child restraint laws". Come on down.

      Regardless of the size of the child, the restrictions apply (based on age). So a tall and fat six and a half year old needs the same booster seat as like a tiny four and a half year old. Maybe i should replace obsession with incompetence, my apologies.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      That's the point Ness, you're tossing fragments of data around so loosely they prove nothing. Some kind of child restraint legislation is manifestly positive - an example of care rather than obsession. The fact that a certain piece of legislation in this field may be poorly designed doesn't make it obsessional or 'nanny state' - it merely means it's a poorly designed piece of legislation.

      So, still no actual example of a piece of obsessive nanny legislation to offer?

      Is that really all you have?

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    5. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      No Ness, please tell us what laws you'd put in place if you were health or transport minister and you knew what happened to infants who were projected through windscreens.

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    6. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      Okay Simon. I'd base the laws around size of the child, not age. I thought that was pretty clear.

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  12. Rowan Pritchard

    logged in via Twitter

    This is one of the worst pieces i have ever read from The Conversation. Blindingly biased and ignorant of our democracy. This is not what i thought The Conversation stood for!
    I avidly back The Conversation as a source of clear, unbiased and factual analysis of current events. Somewhere the public can go to make sense of the noise coming from biased media companies with ulterior motives. This piece does not reflect that policy and does not reflect well on The Conversation.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Thanks, Ness, for proving conclusively that you have no intention or arguing rationally, merely repeating your assertions.

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Thanks, Felix, for proving conclusively that you have no intention or arguing rationally, merely repeating your assertions.

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  13. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Anyone!

    "In Australia, anyone who supports rules and regulations that make products safer or improve public health can expect to come under attack from critics arguing they’re restricting freedom and turning the country into a “nanny state”."

    What a joke.

    Gerard Dean
    Glen Iris

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, this is the first example that comes to mind. Something described as "the new coolest thing for paternalistic policymakers and their nanny state" The paper is called " Marketing obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids."
      Before you use your gut to write a letter you might consider two things.
      1. The findings of this paper.
      2. The power of corporations who want to sell highly processed junk food, and use kids as bait.
      This is an example of what Simon Chapman is talking about.
      http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1011/11rp09

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Actually what would make a convincing argument for regulation isn't examples of vested interests opposing regulation - it would be empirical evidence that regulation reduces, for example, consumption of junk food.

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    3. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to James Jenkin

      How can self regulation work when
      "Up to four years: advertisements seen as entertainment.
      Ages six to seven years: believe advertisements provide information. Ages seven to eight years: cannot distinguish between information and intent to persuade.
      Then there is the question. Why do so many junk food ads occur during kids tv programs?
      Countries which are concerned about the long term problems of obesity and health.
      Do not advertise junk food to children under the age of 12, taxes highly fatty food, educates, and promotes healthy foods. Norway is an example of a country which has achieved success through all these measures. "Regulation reduces consumption of junk food." as you say.

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    4. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice there has been HUGE amounts of information to the general public about food & nutrition.

      If we all know about what to eat and what not to eat.
      The fast food industry has criticised and demonised to the point you'd have to be an idiot not to know the message.

      And yet many people just go on eating their way to ill health and disease.

      It cost so much less to eat well than it does to eatl badly.

      Fruit and veg are way cheaper than a packet of frozen chips and pies. Cost is not an issue - dumb people are.

      If people don't get it now, they will never get it.

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    5. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James

      It is difficult to gather evidence when all attempts to regulate advertising of junk food to kids fails because of the political power of food and advertising companies.

      Surely the resistance to curb such advertising to vulnerable children is proof enough that the current lack of regulation is effective in increasing consumption.

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Rosemary,
      You write
      "It is difficult to gather evidence when all attempts to regulate advertising of junk food to kids fails because of the political power of food and advertising companies. ".

      With a few changes, we have -
      "It is difficult to gather evidence when all attempts to regulate advertising of politics to voters fails because of the political power of political parties."

      Change the second and you can change the first - if you are wedded to the nanny State.

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    7. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      I hear what you say Rosemary - BUT there have been countless pieces/docos/shows on good and bad eating habits over the past 5 years.

      Even the two current affairs programs (and I use the term loosely) on 7 & 9 have recurring themes of good nutrition. I think you may have been on several??

      I still believe that people have the necessary info, but choose to

      i) ignore the message

      ii) don't care

      iii) are too damn lazy to cook vegetables, but would rather press the 3 minute button on the microwave for processed junk.

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    8. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I agree with what yr. saying Stephen, and have for many years been doing these things. I coin a phrase as an educational tool for the now older kids I have. Maccas, maccas food, sex, telly, etc. They get it.
      But the point still identified by others including many health organisations, is the cynical exploitation by big food companies of the very young who do not have the ability to think critically or in a informed way, (and sometimes adults as well) and the obvious cost to public health that this food causes along with lack of exercise etc.

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    9. Greg Edeson

      PhD candidate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Stephen, that is not what the article says, as someone in your role would be well aware. There is a difference between a single 'expert opinion' and and a common 'cut through' message, and one that is self evident.

      The conclusions section at that link says:
      Conclusions
      Despite existing policy collaborations, a clear 'cut through' message is yet to be endorsed by all alcohol control advocates. There is a need to articulate and promote in greater detail the specifics of policy reforms to minimum…

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    10. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      Yes, Rosemary, I take your point that industry opposition to regulation may be because they know it's effective. On the other hand, it may come from unfounded fear, or an ideological position. It's circumstantial evidence - and not necessarily a 'smoking gun' that food regulation will improve our nutrition.

      Also there's a danger of misreading the situation if we assume all big food is opposed to all regulation. It's not as simple as 'pro-regulation good guys' and 'anti-regulation bad guys'. For example, the AFGC 'endorses the Competition Policy Principles of adopted by the Council of Australian Governments' and likes the idea of front-of-pack nutritional information(http://www.afgc.org.au/policies.html). You could suggest big business, out of pure self-interest, sometimes likes regulation because it's more expensive, and prices smaller competitors out of the market.

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    11. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, if it's a joke, the punchline is written repeatedly all over this page. Isn't that exactly what happened when Simon simply tried to raise the point that a great deal of what could be lumped under the heading 'nanny state' is actually beneficial and positive, eve nwhen the small loss of 'freedom' is accounted for.

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    12. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I disagree on one point Stephen - eating healthy is not cheaper than eating junk. Indeed, that's one of the problems inherent in the food industry. Comparatively speaking, fresh food is much more expensive (on cost alone, not including time and effort spent in preparation) than a high-energy packaged alternative. If I was so inclined, I could easily feed a family of 4 on high-energy, low nutrition pasta or indeed a back of chips for $5. I'd have to be lucky to buy sufficient fresh-food bulk to equate to this level of 'tummy satisfaction' for the same price. Fruits, vegetables and nuts (and high quality meats) are (sadly) much more expensive than high fat/sugar/carb alternatives. There are many reasons poverty and poor nutrition go hand in hand and cost is one of them.

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    13. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      Greg

      you can hardly say I am hiding who I work for - I give my employer's name in my title, and a quick google reveals all.

      As to the other point - please read the full article.

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    14. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James
      Your reference to AFGC's front of pack labelling support is for their Daily Intake Guide. This system was developed by the food industry and has been much criticised on many grounds. As the DIG has not had the desired effect of changing consumption patterns, the Dept of Health charged a group of representatives from packaged food companies (including an AFGC rep) and public health, state government and consumer representatives to come up with a new interpretive system.

      The group has come…

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    15. Greg Edeson

      PhD candidate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      but it is hardly explicit that you work for the distilled spirits lobby group - I had to google it, which I only did once I read the article that you posted and wondered why someone would be going about misrepresenting it. DSICA is not exactly a household name.

      As for the point of the article, admittedly I only scanned it, I found two mentions of unity or singular opinion:
      "All respondents were unanimous in their assessment that the current system of voluntary, self-regulated, industry codes…

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    16. Warren Heggarty

      Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, that is a good summation of what Simon has tried to do. The problem is that he has overlooked the fact that government power can be used for evil as well as what Simon may think is good. Those who accept government as a necessity are better off seeing it as a necessary evil and keeping its reach as limited as possible.

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    17. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      Warren, he kind of also overlooked the fact that it's agood idea not to stick your finger in a power point. It's a slightly unfair argument to suggest that a piece is faulted because it doesn't address every issue, or to conclude that he doesn't recognise something merely because he doesn't mention it.

      I too would see any government action as a necessary evil and agree that the default should be to avoid censorship or regulation. All that Simon was trying to point out, and I agree, was that a lot of what gets branded as nanny state is actually fair and sensible regulation to reduce uneccessary and avoidable harm. I struggle to see how anyone's fundamental liberties are infringed by a little bit of safety regulation. All you're really left with after that is a slippery-slope argument that, because we allow some (good) regulation we thereby become more likely to allow too much and bad regulation. it is, at very best, an exceptionally weak argument.

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    18. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      In the Discussion, first paragraph

      "Our findings offer insights from experts that may assist future advocates to join the public conversation and for all advocates to present a united front, arguing the case for evidence based pragmatic solutions for alcohol related problems.

      In the abstract - Background
      "News media coverage of these priorities has not reported public health experts as in agreement and Government has not acted upon the legislative recommendations made. We investigate policy…

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    19. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      In one way Alice it's the nanny state in reverse.

      Parents may use tv as a baby sitter and so the messages from advertising are inculcated by the kids.

      The other point is that this issue is where parents and education need to triumph over the immature cravings and wants of children -
      after who's the mummy & daddy here?

      And once those cravings are satisfied in children they become a pattern of later life.

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  14. Rowan Pritchard

    logged in via Twitter

    While i will avidly back societal institutions such as public health and public safety services, i feel that in many cases we have gone too far to enforce regulations on societal practices and consumer goods that is cost us more (in money and time to regulate) than it is doing the society good.

    Could we not put more onus on the individuals who chooses the inferior/unhealthy/unsafe option? Furthermore, rather that hundreds of band-aid regulations, could we not spend more money on education - teaching…

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    1. Christopher Thomas Jules Macquet

      Director

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      I agree with Rosemary, about "It is a strange society...."
      Coles have misrepresented the fruit and vegetables they sell as coming from Australia, get fined $ 60 000 (water off a dick's back) yet still believe they have not broken the law.
      So, the answer is go a lot further than just expose the malpractices and misrepresentations of big business (as this is not going to stop them) but providing the public with the means of voting with their feet against big business.
      Use the power of the Internet to get people to eat good food - local, seasonal, fresh, ripe, organic, etc (some 20 different choices) simply because bad food is bad for them.

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    2. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      "It is a strange society where clever advertisers get paid enormous salaries to ply their trade. Compare this with the payment made to those who educate and care for our children."

      This is essentially a moral judgement.

      I would also point out that there are far fewer clever advertisers than teachers and carers, their salaries and jobs are far more at-risk than teachers, and they get very starkly evaluated on their individual performance and contribution (unlike teachers who have their salaries set by indsutrial negotiation).

      The advertisers also have to keep their clients happy and satisfied about paying large amounts of money for the advertising, not a group of children.

      They earn their salaries.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Then, banning junk food ads would, by your own reasoning be effective. I presume, therefore, you'd support it?

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    4. Greg Edeson

      PhD candidate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Are you suggesting that, for example, someone who gets paid 200k to work on advertising for fast food, alcohol, cigarettes etc. creates more social value more than a teacher?

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    5. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      Social value is totally unrelated to salary. Completely different systems for deciding and assigning.

      Surprised you asked.

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    6. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      No idea at all how you reached the conclusion that I think banning junk foods would be effective.

      Salaries are a measure of value to the employer, moderated by scarcity of skills, stress, etc. Pointless to try to relate salaries to moral worth or benefit to society.

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    7. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Stephen

      If, as you say "The advertisers also have to keep their clients happy and satisfied about paying large amounts of money for the advertising", I suspect they convince the client that the advertising will work to increase sales. As the client is unlikely to continue forking out large amounts for something that doesn't increase sales, I think we can assume that advertising junk food to kids is financially beneficial to the client.

      What do you think of the morality of flogging junk to kids when there is good evidence (as cited earlier) that children do not understand the intent of advertising?

      I have heard some say that parents should watch television with their kids so they can explain the intent and purpose of advertising. However, the advertising occurs on the internet, in games, in sport and many other places and no child can escape it.

      And what do you think of the morality of those who rail against any attempts to protect kids from this predation?

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    8. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Rosemary Stanton

      There is a huge difference between increasing the sales for an individual company and increasing overall sales of all junk food. Advertising is companies competing amongst themselves. One companies loss is anothers gain.

      Childrens' understanding of advertising is of less importance and impact than parental control and oversight of their diet. Parents choose what their children eat, and if they don't then no amount of advertising banning is going to help their children.

      Predation is an interesting chhoice of word. Junk food must have some benefits to its consumers. The best marketing in the world won't get some-one to buy a terrible product twice.

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    9. Rosemary Stanton

      Nutritionist & Visiting Fellow at UNSW Australia

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Stephen

      Overall sales of junk food have increased.

      I agree that parents need to take some responibility for the foods they buy. However, ask why no one helps them fight against the tactics of those who make their parenting so difficult. Go to the parents Jury website and see the reactions.

      I don't deny that junk food tastes good. The problem is that it has gone from being an occasional 'extra' to now providing almost 40% of children's kilojoules and 36% of adults' intake.

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  15. Michael Gormly

    Editor at Superkern Design Pty Ltd

    Thanks for this, Simon. While it may be "a mirror of an IPA media release" as one commenter said, the IPA's well funded PR needs such a mirror. Very refreshing - I'll be reposting it.

    I'll disagree on one point though - Your No. 27, drug prohibition, totally fails to "regulate illicit drugs", which are distributed with no controls whatsoever by an international underground industry approaching the size of the oil industry. Drugs can be regulated (and taxed) only when they are legal.

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  16. Freestyle Cyclists

    logged in via Twitter

    People who want to see bicycle helmet laws repealed are certainly self-interested. They want the health benefits of cycling and find themselves less likely to ride a bike because of helmet laws. They have also realised that other people's welfare would similarly benefit from repealing this harmful, ill-conceived law.

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  17. bill parker

    observer

    I think the problem is with the header. Remove the word "nanny" and we are talking about public health protection, safety etc.

    With the increasing corporatisation of Australia society, the corporate empire will naturally fight back and protect its secrecies. What does or does not go into food should be none of our business. Oh no? I think not. I want to know what I am eating. That is bugger all to do with nanny anything.

    There is of course the overzealous local shire who is often doing nothing more than covering itself against legal attack. Should a sign say "Do Not Swim here you could drown" at Bondi Beach? That too is not "nanny", that's legal advice!

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    1. Christopher Thomas Jules Macquet

      Director

      In reply to bill parker

      An American food scientist came into our organic and healthy good a couple of years ago and asked : "Why is ANZ the only place in the world where one cannot get any information on the food we are eating?" yet we are supposed to be a 'nanny' state.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      Stephen, just in case your argument is actually based on reasoning, could you please indicate where in the article Simon constructs his argument as you suggest.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Ness, in case Stephen is unable to provide the evidence I requested, would you like to have a shot?

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    3. Greg Edeson

      PhD candidate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      "No one argues about pool fencing for private homes where children live. Having all pools everywhere fenced 'just in case' is a bit more arguable."

      What about neighbours with children? What if the pool is easily accessible to passersby? What's the safety cut off line?

      The thing about evidence informed policy, is that is based on evidence. Kids drown, the cost of putting a pool fence up is minimal. If it means fewer kids drown, then its a good thing. Are you suggesting that there's an equivalence…

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    4. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Greg Edeson

      Trying to create a zero-risk environment or a zero-loss outcome is extremely expensive and the money it takes up can be used by the nation for better purposes.

      So fencing all pools even when no child is ever likely to be around diverts money from other uses that might be of higher benefit. A better and less emotive example would be funding a zero accident traffic management policy.

      In regard to your other assertion, I wish I had your clarity on what the public health evidence shows.

      Evidence of effectiveness about which policies control consumption best does not actually answer the wider political questions about the state's right to stop people doing something they enjoy but which sometimes has negative consequences, and where to strike the right balance somewhere between the two extremes of total liberalisation and prohibition.

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  18. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    'So a public invitation to the IPA: which of these 150 heinous intrusions on people’s freedoms and the right to unbridled commerce does it wish to see abolished?'

    Simon's presenting an 'all or nothing' argument - you're for or against all these regulations. It's not black and white. Some of the examples he lists are controversial, and do have unintended consequences. Shouldn't responsible law makers look at our real-life experience of laws, and assess the positive and negative effects?

    For example, there's some evidence that highway speed limits are associated with higher fatalities, that drug control contributes to higher consumption, that bike helmet laws mean fewer people ride bikes, that overregulation of traffic makes people less cautious when they drive.

    Maybe this alleged evidence in individual cases doesn't stack up. Maybe the positives outweigh the negatives. But you need to find out.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, by what reasoning process does a challenge to abolish items on a list become a chalenge to abolish anything that someone somewhere might put on a list that may or may not exist?

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      They are on the list though ('traffic regulation in general', 'illicit drug regulation', 'bicycle helmets') - I might be misunderstanding you?

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to James Jenkin

      It's the 'all or nothing' bit - he merely challenged anyone to reject any of those items individually.

      I'd agree that there are nuances and possible improvements needed in the areas you mention but that neither negates the item itself (at least in principle - unless you want to suggest we should abandon any effort to regulate sensibly in those areas) nor the total list, because Simon simply did not make it an all or nothing case.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Paul Sutton

      Thank you for this comment, Paul.

      The argument against so-called 'nanny-state' is usually predicated upon the idea of a reasonable person.

      Even the very best of us, being human, cannot claim to being reasonable 100% of our lives.

      Nations like Australia and the USA have so much more freedom than so many other less enlightened nations, that to people from these oppressed regimes our arguments must appear incredibly ignorant and self-obsessed.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Paul Sutton

      Yeah, if americans had been allowed to have no more than a squirrel gun as "protection" on the mantel, or permit for a larger calibre double shot for protection from a grizzly, would gun related deaths be lower? Something more like what was intended by the second amendment. There seems to be so many guns of all types saturating american culture that it's impossible to see an easy way out. I don't think guns as rapid fire assault machines was thought of at that time. Nanny state and freedom seems to be mentioned a lot by those who like these things.

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      As with my previous post and nutrition, in terms of America and guns, the same thing applies. If they don't get it, then who really gives a damn.

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    4. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Paul Sutton

      Quite so Paul. But as with most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Just as no government is bad, so is totalitarian government. The problem, I suppose is that the middle ground between these two is so spacious.

      As you point out, market failures need to be corrected and exploitation needs to be erradicated. However, should people be saved from themselves?

      I think the answer lies in the finesse with which regulation (in its broadest sense) is developed and applied and the clarity of its purpose.

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    5. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      It's a civil society we all expect to live in. And when young boys are grabbed by thugs from western sydney, bashed, raped, and murdered, we expect a civil society to do things like legalise homosexuality and educate the public about homophobia and tolerance. Who gives a damn? Institutionalised bigotry, and lack of tolerance of homosexuality has contributed to hundreds of murders throughout sydney not being investigated properly as murders, but rather seen as gay sex gone wrong. And probably continuing longer during the 30 years it went on, because nobody cared. With impunity. This is why living in a civil society is a good thing. Is a policy working? what are the costs? how can something be done better. Poofta bashing used to be ok., now it's not. Control of high calibre rapid fire guns in primary schools is a good thing. And I reject your argument.

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  19. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    The author's claim that 'anyone' who questions the efficacy of any of the items in his list is 'backed by powerful vested interests' is over the top.

    Can it be true that 'anyone' who questions point 27 Illicit Drug Regulation when calling for decriminalisation of marijuana usage is backed by powerful vested interests.

    And who were the 'powerful vested interests' that backed the 'anyone's who questioned water fluoridation. In fact the powerful vested interests, being the fluoride chemical suppliers…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, perhaps if you could show a single word in Simon's article that argued what you suggest, it would become harder to dismiss your nonsense.

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Paragraph one: "anyone who supports rules and regulations... can expect to come under attack from critics..."

      Paragraph two: "you’ll discover nanny state critics are frequently backed by powerful vested interests.

      Gerad has got the 'anyone' from the first and accidentally put it in with the second, but his point is still valid - that not all critics are supported by vested/commercial interests and not all proponents are free of vested/commercial interests.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Um, if you switch words around tha thardly means they remain valid, Ness.

      Your two quotes do anything but prove Gerards' argument. They merely show that Simon suggests that it's common to encounter attacks if you support regulation (as a crude straw poll, this page is pretty good evidence for that supposition!) and that critics are frequently (that's 'frequently' - it has a subtly different meaning to 'inavriably') baked by powerful vested interests. If you examined the history of regulation around tobacco, alcohol and gambling, I think you'd find pretty powerful evidence to support this assertion.

      And in your final paragraph you merely show that the point Gerard really made (or would have, if he'd got his words in the right order) is simply exactly what Simon did argue; not that ALL critics are backed by vested interests, etc. which is an egregious example of misconstructing a comment.

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    4. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Um, I thardly posited a straw poll was inavriably baked by powerful vest wearing interests. Egalitarian misconstructed connects made Gerard would have.

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  20. Warren Heggarty

    Writer and Peer Worker in Mental Health at Psychosocial Rehabilitation

    Simon has found 150 reasons the nanny state is good for us but I can find one big reason it is bad for us. The state has coercive power, the power of life, death and incarceration of people. Most of the 150 reasons are quite trivial and can be dealt with by sensible adults without the need for deadly force. You might think that a public health policy is anything but trivial, but think again. After all of the measures taken against tobacco, what sort of people still smoke? The very people the government…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      Warren the fact that a policy or program is not 2100% effective is hardly an argument that it is worthless. It might be fair to look critically at the real return on investment from various alternative strategies.

      But the problwm you refer to - smoking - is one of the hardest nuts to crack in public health, given the exceptional level of addictiveness of smoking, both physical and psychological.

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    2. bill parker

      observer

      In reply to Warren Heggarty

      Sensible adults? How exactly does a sensible adult find out what is in processed foods if they are prevented from doing so by the lack of proper regulations that would compel manufacturers to provide adequate content labelling?

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to bill parker

      Bill,
      If you eat a product and it makes you sick, you tend not to buy it again. Self preservation.
      In my early visits to China, I learned that you could not look at a jump of food and determine if it would make you sick. You got hungry, so you ate.
      It would not have mattered a stuff if some government agency had put a label of contents on it.

      Back to Australia. What do your fear from modern foods? There are some people who go into shock after eating certain foods, but cannot the maker label these, instead of having a department of government do it?

      We have buckets of people doing useless jobs in governments. Don't encourage the little buggers to breed.

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  21. David Wishart

    Iconoclast

    Nice list, Simon. Being a lawyer, I could add many, many more. Perhaps you could add prohibitions of cartel conduct, just to confuse the opposition.
    Contrary to many comments here, your linkage of nanny-state critics and self-interest is, in my opinion, justified. It is justified not least by being a rhetorical counter-stroke to the public choice argument that all regulation is rent-seeking -- self interested. The IPA has run that argument on many occasions, hence targeting it is appropriate…

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    1. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to David Wishart

      The point is not well made as the 'public interest' in this case is determined, and shared by, the Public Health industry.

      The collective good of compulsory bicycle helmets, for example, was to have less people ride bikes. I wouldn't consider that a public benefit, but due to funding models some do. You can carry this point through to all Nanny State regulation: have the costs outweighed the benefits? If the cost is measured as a cost to society by producing rule following sheep, then maybe they do. If the benefit is consumers reading nutritional guides, then maybe not.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Ness, merely raising perfectly reasonable questions doesn't actually demonstrate a failure to answer them properly on the part of those with whom you disagree. Do you have vidence that the wicked Public Health 'industry' (funny how, just like the word 'religion' that tends to get used as a pejorative by those who find their commercial and religious affiliations challenged) has systematically failed - or worse, chosen not - to address those questions in formulating regulations and policies.

      So far, you've really only listed the issue of bike helmets and that is, at best, controversial. I'd like to see some concrete backing of your generalised claims with rather more and better evidence than that.

      In short, rhetoric is cheap; evidence is a bit tougher.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Maybe you could just put up your definitions and let everyone examine them openly?

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  22. Jim KABLE

    teacher

    Institute of Public Affairs. What do ordinary citizens beyond the academic campus imagine when they hear that? Some benign post-grad academic research institution - surely! The use of the word Public and the use of the word Institute - each with resonances of unchallengeable respectability - is devious usage by the IPA. Better might be SIL (Self-Interest Lobby) or VIL (Vested-Interest Lobby). Last night I watched/read the VIL spokesperson of the moment attacking Graeme INNES - Human Rights Commissioner! How low! How insensitive! On Disability Care Launch Day! Simon CHAPMAN does well to charge this selfish interest group for its dangerous whittling away/threats to whittle away our social protections! It offends me that it exists at all. Who funds it? Who are all its Professors/Lecturers? Servants of profit-makers at the least! Grr!

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    1. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      I wrote my response before reading your article Simon - so incensed my feelings about the IPA and their negative existence - and then finding you had covered much of my thinking - a confirmation!

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  23. Mark Chambers

    logged in via Facebook

    Commentators on this article seem to think that people should be allowed to make decisions about their own welfare based on the belief that the commentator himself would make a sensible decision if required to do so.

    They seem to be forgetting that most people aren't that smart.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Only when the vice kills you before you breed.

      besides, if that were true, given that the dreaded 'nanny state' is barely 100 years old and it tends to take quite a long time for a gene pool to be significantly weakened, how come there are so many fools around? How come so many of our grandparents smoked? (All four of mine did!)

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  24. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    Chapman's article starts with his selective description of an issue. It is wrong, so all that follows is on a wrong premise
    There. are many actions that individuals and special interest groups can and do deal with often and adequately.
    At the other end of a spectrum of issues, there are some which are best dealt with by a collective such as a Government. These were defined for the Commonwealth in the 1901 Constitution. Defence is a good example
    In the mid part of the spectrum, we find the essence of Chapman's essay. His position in brief is 'When in doubt, bring in government rules and regulations..'
    The IPA position relies on common sense and intelligence of the concerned individuals.
    Problems arise when governments assume that they should intervene, just like the dog licking his privates, 'because they can.' Courts often side with them.

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  25. Ketan Joshi

    Research and Communications Officer at Infigen Energy

    This might sound bonkers, but isn't the manufacture and sale of cigarettes a serious infringement on the personal freedoms of a human being?

    If a chemical is powerfully addictive, to the point where it becomes extremely difficult to stop using it, isn't that an adjustment to the level of autonomy and will that that person can exert over their own behaviour?

    And so, shouldn't people be slightly more concerned about the internal effects of tobacco, rather than efforts to curb the thousands of deaths that occur each year due directly to tobacco use?

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    1. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Ketan Joshi

      I'd add one more - cigarettes aren't just about an individual's choice to use them. If someone smokes in my vicinity, I too am forced to breathe in the consequences of their choice. Of course, I have the option to walk away but if I want to be at in a beer garden on a sunny day having a quiet drink, why should I have my right to breathe clean infringed upon?

      I think anyone should be free to smoke - in the comfort of their closed home where the smoke doesn't infest anyone else's space.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ketan Joshi

      Ketan, that only applies to naughty drugs like heroin, not nice ones like nicotine!

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  26. Etienne de Briquenel

    logged in via Twitter

    Hazard reduction in child playgrounds? Modern bubble-wrapped playgrounds are not only boring for kids but also inhibit their ability to engage in adventurous and imaginative play. They're also terrible at allowing kids to learn and understand risk mitigation.

    There's merit in trying to protect children but it becomes ridiculous when safety legislation overrides their basic development. Unfortunately there seems to be a habit among public health and safety wonks of strenuously denying the untintended consequences of their policies.

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  27. Ness Steadman

    Director

    This article should be titled:

    "Thirty one references to Wikipedia® is good for the IPA and anyone else who wants to react to this article with a mixture of disappointment and disdain."

    Perhaps a subheading of:

    "A thinking person's guide to easily refutable challenges on examples of a Nanny State."

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  28. Brian Byrnes

    Retired

    There are just a few things left off this list which surely should be included to demonstrate that proposed interventions by Public /Preventive Health advocates should be subjected to close scrutiny and criticism. They are -

    Prohibition - resulting in a decade long crime wave and arguably a worsening of the problem it was supposed to address.

    Six o'clock closing which probably did more than anything else to ingrain binge drinking into Australian culture.

    Forced removal of aboriginal children from their parents for the kiddies own good.

    Forced adoption of babies born to those "irresponsible girls" which resulted in lifelong pain and worse for so many people.

    When state policy goes wrong it goes horribly wrong. Questioning proposed policies is rational, not simply self interested.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Brian Byrnes

      Yes, Brian, but - with the exception to date of drug prohibition (which by the way is more upheld by law enforcement than public health authorities, who tend to take a rather more nuanced view on this complex subject) most of the things you mention have been removed precisely because they failed to pass a benefit-for-cost test. Looks to me like public health is doing a pretty good job on balance - at least, like science and unlike neo-liberal economics, it demonstrates an ability to learn from past mistakes an dmake better decisions in the future.

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  29. david gray

    agricultural scientist & economist at Agriculture

    The reasons I can see why the State should intervene in the collective interest include:
    a) many behaviours or products have negative and costly outcomes for those around the actor or consumer - external effects;
    b) many if not most in the general population just do not understand the outcomes of a particular behaviour or product, so we need trusted experts;
    c) at least some members of the community behaving in a negative way or consuming a dangerous product do not have the awareness or self-discipline to act or consume in a balanced way.
    Much of the reaction against the "nanny state" (other than sectional interests)reflects a lack of trust with those enacting and administering the regulations. Unfortunately this lack is sometimes justified. We all yearn for "good government", but so few of us take the next step and get involved.
    Thank you, Simon, for reminding us of the many wise and benign examples of regulation in our collective interest.

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  30. Peter Wilkin

    Australian Realist

    I have noticed that those who most vocally oppose the nanny state are also more likely to be self appointed police for their nanny religion.

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    1. Christopher Thomas Jules Macquet

      Director

      In reply to Peter Wilkin

      A joke perhaps?
      As a new immigrant, and having just read Peter FitSimmon's book, the "Eureka Stockade, The Unfinished Revolution", I have great hopes that one day Australia moves to a more democratic society, rather the current 'over-governed' mess we are currently facing. The majority of people in Australia have absolutely no say on major issues.
      Less governance, more education is better than a nanny state? no matter who rules it?

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Peter Wilkin

      Yup, also the most likely to cry that 'environmentalism has become a religion', as if religion were axiomatically a bad thing, when it's really just code for 'an alternative world view to my own religious beliefs'...honestly, it would be simpler if they just went back to screaming 'heretic' and waving lighted torches: at least that would be a fair fight!

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Christopher Thomas Jules Macquet

      But how do you equate a few sensible, evidence based restrictions on destructive behaviour with the issues you raise? We can't smoke in some public places, therefore the spirit of Eureka has been defeated and all our civil liberties removed?

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    4. Peter Wilkin

      Australian Realist

      In reply to Christopher Thomas Jules Macquet

      No, not even slightly a joke.

      Many people think they want less government and less taxes, until they're in the Dandenongs during Black Saturday, or in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina strikes. Then it's " How come no-one did anything about the too many eucalypts near towns" or " How come no one maintained the levee banks? "

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  31. Ness Steadman

    Director

    I'm not a fan of the IPA, but I am also not a fan of the Nanny State.

    So here's a quick response on all of our behalves.

    Drug scheduling, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Compulsory third party motor injury, Medicare - not Nanny State.

    Minimum legal drinking age: makes alcohol forbidden and/or part of adulthood and therefore desirable to younger people wanting to be treated as older.

    Responsible serving of alcohol: the name says it all. What about responsible drinking of alcohol…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      So, can we take it you would remove the minimum age for drinking, prevent the serving of alcohol, encourage regular sunburn in children, not even attempt to do background checks on childcare workers, anything you don't like the taste of?

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      I would remove a minimum age for alcohol. Oh no. That's just balmy.

      I wouldn't prevent the serving of alcohol (did you mean something else?).

      I wouldn't encourage sunburn, but I would encourage slow exposure to the sun.

      The background checks aren't done so I don't need to comment on that one.

      Fluoride tastes funny.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Flouride tastes funny. The only way to get sufficient vitamin D is with exposure to the sun. Responsible drinking of alcohol has meaning, but responsible serrving of alcohol doesn't.

      Great arguments there, Ness, thanks.

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    4. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Okay, you got me on the 'tastes funny' response. How about causes cancer?

      http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/water-fluoridation-and-cancer-risk

      As for Vitamin D, how about this nugget from betterhealth.vic.gov.au?

      Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and overall health. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but it is also the main cause of skin cancer. A balanced approach to sunlight exposure can help you avoid vitamin D deficiency, which can have significant health effects.

      Responsible drinking puts the onus back on the person doing the drinking, not the supplying. Bit grey but one is personal responsibility and the other is legislation.

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  32. Rex Gibbs

    Engineer/Director

    So the IPA are conflated with the Tobacco Industry - purveyors of Cancer inducing products and even worse described a secretive PR outfit. At the very least I would have thought the second is an oxymoronic descriptor - a secretive PR outfit - how does that work. Lets face facts - the IPA are up front libertarians. We all know where they stand. They challenge the rent seekers. And as one involved in public health service provision. I can tell you there are plenty of those.

    My firm carries every…

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    1. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Rex Gibbs

      There is big money - or at least lots of enduring jobs and careers at stake - in the regulation industry.

      Spot on about removing sewerage from drinking water being the biggest public health breakthrough of all time. I would add vaccinations and getting lead out of the environment (petrol and paint) as the second and third biggest.

      But once you go beyond the removing of those disease and pollution vectors, public health has become much more about behaviours, and so a lot more controversial and value-laden about what is the public good..

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    1. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Alan Davies

      Oh dear. I'm saddened to think I might have anything in common with IPA but I too think mandatory bike helmets are a step too far. (Not to mention counter-productive.)

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  33. Luke Mancell

    Equities trader

    So we have to accept all nanny state laws or we are just part of the pro-child molesting, domestic violence loving, secretive PR league. Nice false dichotomy.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Luke Mancell

      Luke, nice paranoid projecton there...unless you are actually able to point to the words that mean what you claim?

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    2. Luke Mancell

      Equities trader

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The second paragraph doesn't sound like: "if yur not fur us, yur agin us" to you?

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  34. George Naumovski

    Online Political Activist

    People will complain when the “nanny state” does not cater to them as the most comment statement is “Communist”.

    Rules/regulations are there for all and to protect all of us and yes there are times when they are not suited to every single person but eventually/overall they are.

    A few will say at a certain time “my rights are being taken away” but it is to protect the majority and YOU who have said it won’t be punished “as in some countries”.

    When we have to follow the rules that don’t suit us at a particle time we complain but when someone else doesn’t follow the rules, we complain about “why doesn’t someone do something about it”

    No matter which way you look at it, we have always had rules and regulations!

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  35. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    Thank you, Simon Chapman, for this urgently required reality check.

    Although I had to laugh at this:

    "In response, the Times thundered:

    We prefer to take our chance with cholera and the rest than be bullied into health. There is nothing a man hates so much as being cleansed against his will, or having his floors swept, his walls whitewashed, his pet dung heaps cleared away.""

    Surely they were being ironic? If this is the ideological foundation for the 'libertarians'... words fail.

    What I notice with organisations such as the IPA, is that their demands for 'freedom' so often infringe upon the rights, well being and autonomy of others. Perhaps 'libertarians' are simply closeted anarchists (which has to be insulting to all sincere anarchists)?

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    1. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Reality check I think not.

      "The IPA has an infamous list of 75 policies and institutions it would like to see abolished."

      Not so, the list includes: "Means-test Medicare", "Allow the Northern Territory to become a state." and "End all government funded Nanny State advertising".

      Really, this article is a poorly researched, poorly referenced, self interested straw man.

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      So, because three things in a list of 75 are things you like, the whole list becomes okay? No wonder you have difficulties with public health arguments - they tend to be based os statistical evidence.

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    3. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, the list isn't a list of "policies and institutions it would like to see abolished" as claimed by the author of this article.

      While the list is largely made up of such policies and institutions, those three were just examples of points of difference. The nature of the list has been misrepresented.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Seriously weak argument. Simon's statement did not say the list comprised only things the IPA wanted abolished, you've simply chosen to construct the statement that way. it can just as readily be constructed a list of policies, which includes institutions they'd like to abolish.

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    5. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "The IPA has an infamous list of 75 policies and institutions it would like to see abolished."

      I didn't construct anything. Copy and paste. Try arguing your way out of that one.

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  36. Edmund Esterbauer

    logged in via Twitter

    Quite clearly there needs to be a reasonable balance between the public "good" and individual liberty. However, the problem in Australia is one of over-regulation and a constitution that does not protect the individual from the unlimited power and actions of bureaucrats and politicians. An example is the person who cannot keep his pet sheep and who is forced to pay $100+k in legal fees (because the courts always rule in favour of the government due to the unlimited powers given to governments by our constitution). Local councils are particularly intrusive and seek to regulate every aspect of life. I can understand the incredulity of a person coming from overseas where there is more liberty to find they are fined for having a pet. In many way it is better to be poorer and freer than "richer" and dominated by unaccountable bureaucrats.

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  37. Geoffrey Freeman

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    It's not the examples that Simon lists but the silly cases that get up the noses of sensible people. For example, at the Victoria Market last Saturday morning I noticed a sign telling me to smile at the person sitting at the table next to me. God knows how much those signs cost and what planning salaries in city hall are behind the actual fabrication and installation of the signs? And on my way home I passed a bus with a sign on its side telling me not to enter the bus through the driver's window. Schools are full of these stupid and unnecessary nanny state rules and regulations - like not running in the playground - I presume out of fear of litigation or merely the unpleasantness and inconvenience of injuries. It's those sorts of nanny state instances that give important health and safety regulations a bad name.

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    1. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Geoffrey Freeman

      I quite agree Geoffrey - it's not about the principle of regulation, it's about how far it goes. OHS is very important until it becomes the rabid zero harm ideology that prevents all sorts of common-sense activities.

      Perhaps the key points are (1) choice should be preserved but should be able to be based on unbiased information (which is why food labelling is important - 'trust me, it's yummy' from food corporations isn't enough) (2) regulation should be used only where there is a real and present risk from reasonable use of the product/service (eg, preventing shoddily made products and false advertising) (3) for activities/products/services that have inherent internalised externalities (eg, smoking, drinking, drugs) use pricing as a market signal rather than direct regulation (4) allow people to remove themselves from the gene pool at their discretion if they mis-use products/services with no fault sought elsewhere and (5) get back to the notion that accidents are just that.

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  38. Ross Ward

    IT Engineer at Higher Education

    The Institute of Public Affairs organization seems to be a strange eclectic mix of policy. Promoting anti regulation, free trade, a laissez faire environment while promoting the value of intellectual property.

    Freedom from restrictions, but not total freedom?

    They seem to be at ease with the concept of patent trolls, and shell companies that exist only to sue and extract license fees from genuine businesses.

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  39. Anna Young

    Project Manager

    While I don't agree with some of the examples cited as beneficial regulation, I think the point made (ie, that government controls can be beneficial) is a valid one. Notwithstanding this (and the bias in the article that presupposes that anyone working under a 'public good' banner has no self-interest...cough, cough), I think what's missing in the article and the conversation following is about the extent and method of that regulation.

    The problem governments have is they tend to use sledgehammers…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Anna Young

      Trouble is, Anna, nobody really has an alernative. In the meantime, an imperfect system that makes some mistakes is better than abandoning any attempt to improve things.

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    2. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      An alternative would be to use logic and reasoning in creating legislation, and admitting when it is not working or detrimental.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ness Steadman

      Another alternative would be for you to stop putting words in people's mouth, Ness.

      Seems I directly mentioned the fact that mistakes get made. In an earlier post I praised the public health 'industry' for being pretty good at recognising older mistakes and correcting them.

      The lack of alternative I was suggesting was about the fact that there's really no other institution than government with the authority to enact necessary rules. Nobody has ever suggested that logic and reasoning should not be used and, in the vast majority of cases they are. Nobody has ever suggested that mistakes should not be admitted and corrected. In both cases i've suggested precisely that they should.

      Do try to pay attention to what is actually being said before resorting to cheap shots.

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  40. Russell Walton

    Retired

    Agree completely Professor.

    Most regulations are not "incremental attacks on our freedom to choose" but restrictions on the capacity of manufacturers to deceive both the public in general, and consumers in particular, by lying about their products or concealing the detrimental effects of externalities to production.

    We can't make informed choices without information and corporations have usually sought to restrict knowledge of their products through advertising and outright mendacity. Many "nanny" regulations, in fact, improve peoples' capacity to make informed choices and impose increased responsibilities on corporations, which is, of course, the real issue. The IPA's phoney "concerns" in regard to civil liberties are nothing more than crocodile tears.

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  41. George Papadopoulos

    logged in via LinkedIn

    What a load of nonsense from Chapman again! Virtually all of the 150 or so ways he lists affect industry not personal freedoms.

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  42. Allen Rooney

    Manager at Science Communication

    I wonder if those who complain loudest about a nanny state and regulations are the first to rush to litigation when something bad happens and they need someone to blame rather than truly accept personal responsibility?

    It seems to me that many in our society want it both ways - to have less regulation and state 'protection' but want a really significant safety net when it comes to things going wrong. It's the 'I have a right to go without a bike helmet and I also have the right to expect the state to pay my medical bills when I hit a truck' sort of argument.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Allen Rooney

      Nailed it, Allen! It's just like the desire of neo-liberals to privatise profit and socialise risk, as in the recent GFC. 'Nanny state' is when you criticise one of my vices or destructive behaviours but, when one of yours impacts me it suddenly becomes 'the guvmint oughta!'

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  43. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    The Institute for Public Affairs was formed in the 1940s. Several illustrious people have sung its praises over the years, as will I.
    In the 1970-80 period there was significant development of the somewhat misunderstood concept of 'property rights', coincident in time with my ability to become involved. Your man in the street will interpret these words 'property rights' as allowing him to chase trespassers off his land, or some similar simple concept. In reality, the concept has become very deep…

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  44. john tons

    retired redundant

    I would argue that the problem is far more complex then it may seem from this article. There is a danger that people make the quantum leap that if a product is on sale then it must be safe for their are rules that protect us from unsafe products - regardless of what the regulations say people need to take responsibility for the choices they make. This would imply, to my way of thinking, that someone who sells any product needs to take responsibility to ensure that the product is fit for purpose…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to john tons

      Fair point, John, but the fact that some things are and some things aren't directly regulated doesn't remove the common law requirement to take reasonable care and avoid foreseeable harm. All the regulations do is particularly highlight areas where we have strong evidence that harm would be caused.

      And you're dead right about the complex nature of the public health argument - do we refuse to give medical care to smokers (who can be constructed as willful fools or duped addicts) do we refuse care to the obese...at what point does clumsiness become negligence? I think that issue is just too hard to define reasonablu so we cannot try to solve things at 'the back end' - even more reason why we need to act to try to reduce/preven tthe harm from the outset.

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  45. Harvey Westbury

    Not being a dinosaur

    I've always thought that the concept of a nanny state was ridiculous and lacking in reason. Rules and regulations usually arise because somebody, or some one, is doing something inimical that impacts on others. For instance, I don't want to walk along a beach in my bare feet and stand in a pile of dog faeces. Some dog-walkers don't care so we have designated dog walking beaches on which people are required to pick-up their dog's excrement. However, a minority still don't care and they continue…

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Harvey Westbury

      It's a nice point isn't it Harvey - if I cleaned up my dog's turds anyway (which I do) then I suffer no restriction from a law making that compulsory; if I don't clean up my dog's turds then I really deserve no sympathy (unlesss someone wants to suggest that the right to leave dog turds on beaches is one of those inalienable human rights...might make an interesting amendment to the US Constitution...).

      It's not all that neat, but a fair bit is.

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  46. Mike Puleston

    Citizen

    Much of what was done in the late 19C and through the 20C was about putting some limits on the laissez-faireism that ruled before that. I'll just mention slavery and child labour - there was so much more that was bad in those times too. Organisations like the IPA would like to take us back to those free-and-easy times, when a man had a right to own slaves and use them as he willed, or send 5 year-olds to work in his factory, picking lint from dangerous machines. The IPA aims to do this by chipping away at "nanny state" regulations, one by one, highlighting apparent absurdities and excesses in each one, till the very concept of regulation is discredited. Be very wary of these people, whose only interest is regulation-free profit maximisation.

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    1. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Mike Puleston

      If you think the IPA's ultimate goal is the re-introduction of slavery and child labour, you, sir, are delusional - with the greatest possible respect.

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    2. Mike Puleston

      Citizen

      In reply to Stephen Riden

      I appreciate your courtesy, Mr Riden. No, sir, I am not delusional. If you had read my contribution carefully, you would have observed that I stated that the IPA would like to take us back to the laissez-faire era. Two features of that era were slavery and child labour. I did not say that the IPA advocated these abominations directly. However, such abominations, or others just as bad, would flourish in an era when regulation was absent. But thank you for your comment.

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    3. Mike Puleston

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Puleston

      Furthermore, my comment was made in the context of the Western world. In fact, in some developing countries, slavery and child labour exist today, often as a consequence of the deregulated, free trade environment that the IPA espouses. Unfortunately, most Australians don't care where their cheap goods and food come from or how brutally they are obtained.

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    4. Stephen Riden

      Research and Information Manager, DSICA

      In reply to Mike Puleston

      I suspect that where slavery and child labour exists today, it existed in some form well before the globalisation of trade started.

      The only case otherwise that I can think of where trade expanded slavery is the slave trade from Africa to the US and the Caribbean.

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  47. John Kelmar

    Small Business Consultant

    I agree that many of these regulations/laws/practices/guidelines are beneficial to the community, my greatest concern is the lack of proper implementation of these "intrusions".

    I have noticed that the people who are supposed to uphold these regulations often turn a blind eye and refuse to act unless multiple complaints have been made and after someone has been injured as a result of non-compliance.

    Early notification of breaches are ignored with the cry that "whistleblowers" are not considered…

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  48. Ness Steadman

    Director

    In summary:

    A nanny state is good because people need public health and safety regulation. Most critics of a nanny state are motivated by money. A small minority are not.
    Public health industry is good at telling us what should be regulated, and the rest of the world wants to emulate us.

    Don’t mention Wikipedia® or the bike helmet fail.

    Okay, got it.

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  49. Jason Begg
    Jason Begg is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Perpetually Baffled Lawnmower Man

    Thank you for posting this article.

    These are the things Australia should be discussing this election. The sort of stuff that provides safety, protection, opportunity, respect, dignity, a sense of community and individual well-being. Where would Australia be without these safeguards?

    Slaves in a backwards country subjected to the self-glorifying whims of the coal-merchants!

    The comically named and ironically intentioned Institute of Public Affairs deserves far greater scrutiny of what it is, what it does, and who it serves. Not likely to happen in Australia dominated by a Murdoch media that ruthlessly sets the mainstream 'news' agenda.

    Given that many of the IPAs' luminaries also serve as Murdoch's puppets in the tawdry world of tabloid sleaze, I commend the author for placing himself out-there for ridicule that will possibly come from the usual suspects.

    I believe that the IPA has now taken over the ABC. Fascism is alive and well in Australia.

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    1. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Jason Begg

      The IPA may well be made up of ... but seriously, this article only lets them have fun.

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    2. Michael Low

      Student

      In reply to Jason Begg

      "I believe that the IPA has now taken over the ABC. Fascism is alive and well in Australia."

      Words fail me.

      You either have a serious misunderstanding of the concept of fascism, what the IPA stand for (they're against state encroachment - how on this article of all others you didn't seem to pick that up) or in typical fashion you have perfect comprehensions of the first two possibilities but are content in slandering ideological opponents by any means at you disposable. I think it's the third one.

      The ABC is right-wing? Might want to let Tony and his Q&A team know. Does this also mean we can rename Amanda Vanstone's ironically coined 'Counterpoint' program to 'The Point'?

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  50. The Warrior Factor

    logged in via Twitter

    This article highlights a major problem with the Nanny State - it's very definition. No one would argue that safe shower screens are good because they are protecting people that unknowingly would be in a dangerous situation. Same deal with heights for balcony railing. That's "regulation", and totally expected to be one of government's main purposes. Such situations are falsely pooled as a nanny state action, when actually it's basic governing.

    The "SunSmart" campaign involves both regulation and…

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    1. Simon Chapman

      Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

      In reply to The Warrior Factor

      I've worked in public health since the mid 1970s. I can remember there being a struggle to get the safety glass standard into regulation. There was opposition -- presumably from glass manufacturers who had stockpiles of shattering glass. There was STRONG opposition to random breath testing from the hotel industry. This article gives a few more illustrations http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/policy/resource-database/industry-fact-sheet-re-epa
      Many things on my list we take for granted & the IPA will…

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    2. George Papadopoulos

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      Simon, you certainly may have worked in public health as a sociologist since the 1970's - and certainly did witness the selfish behaviour of industries in their opposition to public health measures..

      Do you have any clue why the wind industry opposes the idea of making its noise and wind mast data publicly available?

      Could you also explain why you advised the Senate Enquiry into wind farms in 2011 that cohort studies into health and wind farms would be "expensive" and therefore not a good idea?

      So is your involvement in public health only for the sake of selectively demolishing industries while uplifting others?

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    3. Ness Steadman

      Director

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      You may have worked. But you have no idea how things work. The IPD may be a despicable thing, but you do the critics of it no justice by writing an article full of easily debatable topics like this one. Pool fences? Bike helmets? Please.

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  51. Ness Steadman

    Director

    Simon,

    Can you please tell us why does driving fined occuring a few days either side of a holiday warrant doubling the demerit points but not the fine? Are the offenses not considered to be double as bad?

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  52. Michael Low

    Student

    This article was disappointing for two reasons. Firstly, the personalisation of the attack towards the IPA, it lessened the integrity of overarching point; and secondly, the argument utilised to crush the straw man that you conveniently set-up for yourself can be used to justify virtually any encroachment by the state.

    So long as the state purports to act in the "public good", is it truly justified in trampling upon the rights of any individual it deems necessary? I don't deny at all that I support…

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