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Day to Day Politics: Ideology versus the Common Good

Saturday 7 October  2017

In my view the common good should always take precedence over ideology. A case in point is the amount of sugar fat and salt we consume. Common sense suggests that if the government legislated to lower the amount of these substances in processed food we would end up with a healthier society with less financial pressure on the health system.

However, political ideology would have it that governments have no right to tell the public how much of theses substances people they can consume. If that is correct then society must also accept the bill.

For me it’s a no brainer. The common good should come first. Why should my taxes pay for the unhealthy lifestyle of others. If lives can be saved, they should be. Political philosophy shouldn’t play any part.

How About a Fat Policy That Saves Lives and Money?

FAT, SUGAR and SALT are the major contributors to obesity heart disease and many other health problems. These three ingredients kill more people than tobacco and alcohol combined. All three are found in fast and packaged food. In Australia obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Governments continually tell us about the spiralling costs of our health system and not to far into the future health will take up the largest percentage of the budget. If science tells us that these three ingredients are killing us at an alarming rate you would think it was only a matter of common sense to at least reduce the amount we digest.

Just to digress, I recently said to my daughter when one of her children was drinking a can of soft drink.

“Would you sit the child down and pour 13 teaspoons of sugar into his mouth?”

“Of course not,” she answered.

“That’s the amount of sugar in the can,” I responded.

A quote of mine (years old now) that leads into my argument.

It is only when the health bill of this nation reaches unaffordable proportions that the government will legislate for a reduction in the amount of salt, fat and sugar in processed and fast foods. But the conservatives will probably still oppose it on the basis of freedom of choice.

The Lancet in its latest publication reported on the “Most comprehensive global study to date shows obesity rates climbing worldwide.”

Here are some comments from the report.

The authors warn that the study presents a worrying picture of substantial rises in obesity rates across the world and say that concerted action is urgently needed to reverse this trend.

In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity prevalence have been in the USA (where roughly a third of the adult population are obese), Australia (where 28% of men and 30% of women are obese), and the UK (where around a quarter of the adult population are obese).

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood has increased remarkably in developed countries, from 17% in 1980 to 24% in 2013 in boys and from 16% to 23% in girls. Similarly, in developing countries, rates have risen from roughly 8% to 13% in both boys and girls over the three decades.

There can be no doubting that the science is saying that the intake of these substances needs to be dramatically reduced. That concerted action needs to be taken now.

We propose, because we believe we have a duty of care of our people, to regulate the amount of sugar, salt and fat that is inflicted on the community in processed and fast foods. We don’t propose an immediate reduction but rather a gradual withdrawal to reasonable limits, as advised by science, over a five-year period. This will reduce the obesity and the mortality it brings with it. And with it reduce the pressure on our health system. We cannot idly stand by while companies destroy the health of our nation and particularly that of our children who if the current trends continue will have shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The objections of course would be twofold. One would be from the conservatives who would argue that there is too much regulation already and it takes away freedom of choice. But what is wrong with regulation if it serves the common good-by making people healthier. I struggle to think of a part of my life that isn’t regulated be it crossing the road with traffic lights, building a house, using a credit card or driving a car. There are literally thousands of regulations that I have to obey.

Two of course is the industries that profit from obesity. The companies that promote the consumption of salt, sugar and fat. It’s a capitalistic profit argument versus the health of people.My point though is that if these substances were withdrawn over a period of time consumption wouldn’t necessarily decline because people would adjust to taste. Voluntary withdrawal is not likely to work.

Therefore, it is a political problem that requires a political solution with government willing to show leadership on behalf of the people. Government simply cannot afford to hide from the science as it has with climate change.

The report interestingly doesn’t talk about reduction by regulation in the way I have, seemingly because it sees the wall of capitalistic intervention as being to high although Professor Klim McPherson from Oxford University in the UK makes this observation, “An appropriate rebalancing of the primal needs of humans with food availability is essential, which would entail curtailing many aspects of production and marketing for food industries.

Obesity in Australia

Australia is today ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
Here is a round-up of Australian obesity facts & figures:

Of great concern is the health consequence to Indigenous Australians, who are today twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be obese and are ranked the fourth-highest population in the world that is likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes.

Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese.

More than five million Australians are obese

If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.

Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.

On the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20 our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.

Secondary Complications

More than 900,000 Australians suffer from diabetes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the fourth highest rate of Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, or NIDDM) in the world and are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.

Australians reporting heart, stroke and vascular diseases aged 15 years and over were much more likely to be classified as overweight or obese than those without heart stroke and vascular disease (65% compared with 51%).

Health disorders in children like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, hypertension and sleep apnea can be directly attributed to childhood obesity.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) account for approximately quarter of the burden of disease in Australia, and just under two-thirds of all deaths. These three diseases often occur together and share risk factors, such as physical inactivity, overweight and obesity and high blood pressure.The growing curse of inequality.

Did you know that 10 per cent of Australians now hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined? Let me put it another way. The richest one per cent of Australians are collectively wealthier than the poorest 60 per cent. Or try this 62 mega-rich people across the globe now hold as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest. Try this. Australia’s richest person was worth $18 billion, equaling the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Aussies.

Here’s some more from an Oxfam report titled “An Economy for the 1%“:

The world’s richest 1% now hold more wealth than the rest of the planet.

The richest 10 per cent of Australians hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined.

The gap between Australia’s richest and poorest is accelerating.

In 2015, the wealth of Australia’s richest 1% outstripped the poorest 60%.

Australia’s richest person is worth more than all of the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Australians.

Dr Szoke from Oxfam, the reports writer, said Australia must be part of a global solution to a global problem, and a renewed international focus on corporate tax avoidance would be critical to efforts to address wealth inequality.

So isn’t it odd that the Turnbull Government is contemplating increasing the rate of its consumer tax in order to give the same companies a reduction in the amount of tax they pay. Figure that out.

My thought for the day

“When talking about the cost of living I think people get confused. There is a big difference between the cost of living and cost of lifestyle. A recent survey found that 56% of those complaining about the cost of living had taken an overseas trip in the same year. And a further 52% had reduced dining out from three to two times a week.”


13 comments

  1. Jaquix

    Sorry John, but I can’t agree with you that regulation is the answer. The best thing govt can do is insist on better labelling. That can of soft drink should have a big label of ingredients clearly showing sugars as 13 teaspoons. The consumer, then makes their own decision. Portion control is another factor, it’s got bigger over time and there’s no possible regulation that can be imposed on that. Young children could be taught how to read food labels, a lesson that will last a lifetime. PS the food producers hate labelling and want it as small as possible, to the point of illegibility.

  2. Jagger

    Jaquix, don’t you know that individuals have no responsibilities, it’s not their fault , it’s always someone else or something else that is to blame, I mean if I put thirteen tablespoons of sugar in my tea it will be all Labor’s fault.

  3. helvityni

    We can start with education, and follow up with regulation, whatever, but we have to do something; if Mal and his mates can detain kids without charge for fourteen days, I’m sure our agreeable Premiers would support a war on obesity without blinking and eyelid…

    We banned cigarette ads, Australia did it first, why not do something about the obesity epidemic, it’s affecting even more people than smoking…

    Think about the children..

  4. Vikingduk

    Agree with Jaquix, regulation not the answer. Perhaps a well informed population, led by an intelligent, committed and caring government, backed up by an honest MSM, providing all the vital information necessary for a largely irresponsible population to make informed decisions regarding the importance of healthy eating habits.

    This could give a more responsible, thinking population, possibly leading to a more enlightened, questioning society. Yeah, impossible, I’m off with the fairies, never happen dream world.

    A self responsible, thinking, questioning society is too big a threat to the traitors promoting this shit we live now. This fucking obscene farce called a democratic government.

  5. wam

    Wow Lord, have you tasted food without salt or sugar? Have you tasted fish, prawns, squid fried in butter? What about a chop without fat? When we were kids no pasta, rice pudding every now and then, no fast food, no lolly adverts, no cash. Today’s kids have plenty of all

    A school friend of mine, now a staunch nationalist millionaire with 3 racehorses and a health card, had unlimited supply of coca cola we drank a dozen every weekend and 2 or 3 every day after school with the result that once the physical activity slowed at 35 muscle became fat and we are obese and type 2. Sadly physical activity for many, never starts but the taste buds certainly drive the uptake of salt, sugar and fat and they have money to buy junk food at a cost of cents. Fresh food is comparatively expensive for all but for Aborigines, it is cheaper and better to share a fat soaked colworths chicken than buy fruit which usually is imported.
    My children, in their 40s, are like I was ‘fat’ and their children are FFAA, as I was fatless fit and active. The phone has become the greatest threat to health, fitness and activity. They will all have dexterous minds and thumbs and new kidneys will keep them from dialysis.

    ps I am a grumpy old opinionated ex-teacher. The embodiment of the middle of the adage.(if you can do if you can’t teach, if you can’t teach teach teachers).
    But I love reading this site and getting things off my mind.

    So it is pleasing to find some solace in opinions that suggest some accuracy of thought.

    I have long thought of the lawyer xenophon as a slimy self centred example of a patronising pollie. A greedy lawyer who pursues all avenues for wealth and power.(the basis of opinion comes from being a poker machine addict and a mum who lived in Adelaide) and often, since the election, repeated my assertion that the slime has qualified for a senate pension. He already has an upper-house SA pension, now a senate 6 figure pension plus bonuses and, presumably, is seeking a lower house seat in SA, so a triple pensioner??? There is time to prick his bubble in the next 3 or 4 months.

    Then my assessment of the septics as believing school deaths preventable but shooting white country and western countrymen is intolerable. So the rifle assoc are advocating a change to gun laws in the banning of ‘bump-stocks’. Wow, bet they are sold out?
    .
    There is a chance to test the power of the NRA electoral lobby and their rhetoric on their electoral influence could be challenged?

  6. Glenn Barry

    Information is key, clear, explicit, legible labelling is the solution – the coalition are recalcitrant whenever there is the possibility of adverse impacts upon business – beverages council in the case of soft drinks.

    Curiously the final outcome of the inherent selfishness in capitalism will be extinction, I wonder if the general populace will let capitalism run to it’s, and our ultimate conclusion?

  7. liblover

    Rather depressing,governments (big business)dont give a rats,so its up to us,as a community to keep fighting the good fight,its almost like politicians are another species,the need for greed overrides all decent,reasonable and caring principles.The hardest thing to comprehend is the fact that these greedy ……holes consider themselves as being part of the community,more like a cancer in our midst.

  8. Kyran

    “Therefore, it is a political problem that requires a political solution with government willing to show leadership on behalf of the people. Government simply cannot afford to hide from the science as it has with climate change.”
    It’s funny (not ha ha) that some issues are addressed immediately by regulation and government assistance (think ‘terror’ and ‘coal’), on the basis of ‘government knows best’. No need for oversight or justification. Yet fear of a ‘nanny state’ is wheeled out every time someone tries to promote informed decision making.
    The tobacco industry is still trying to conceal much of the peer reviewed medical research on the disastrous effects of smoking to mitigate the damages in class action law suits around the world. Research they had done in the 60’s and 70’s. If the consumers had a clear, unambiguous message on the products, ‘this product is potentially lethal, but is still legal to generate corporate profits and tax income’, would consumers have exercised different choices?
    Back on 26/2/14, ‘The Conversation’ published an aptly titled article “Food labels are about informing choice, not some nanny state.”

    “Clearly, there are problems with the current food labelling regime. But why does something that promotes informed choice have to be so difficult?
    Why would Jones and the assistant health minister Fiona Nash want to maintain an information asymmetry in favour of the food industry and at the expense of the people they’re elected to represent?
    At least seven years in the making, with the involvement of food ministers, government food regulation advisors, food industry representatives, consumer advocates, public health organisations, and an independent public health nutrition advisor, the Star Rating labelling system was a good start to positive change.
    The approach is informative, easy to understand and targeted at helping correct dietary imbalances that are one of the major public health problems confronting food regulators.”

    http://theconversation.com/food-labels-are-about-informing-choice-not-some-nanny-state-23320

    So, what would a responsible government do? We’ll never know, as we haven’t had one for years. What did this government do? On 27/2/14, the ABC reported;

    “Senator Nash has come under fire for ordering the Health Department to take down its food rating website hours after it went live.
    Her chief of staff, Alastair Furnival, resigned after it was revealed he had a shareholding in a firm that lobbied for junk food companies.
    The Food and Grocery Council has been opposed to the star rating system and CEO Gary Dawson says he contacted Senator Nash’s office the day the website went live to raise his concerns.
    “On the day, yes, we expressed a view that we thought it was premature,” he said.
    Mr Dawson says he did not ask for it to be taken down.
    Senator Nash has told Parliament the website was a draft that was published inadvertently.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-27/food-lobby-group-complaint-to-fiona-nash-on-day-website-pulled/5286976

    Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, seven years in the making, after consulting widely with ‘stakeholders’, led to a ‘premature’ decision being published ‘inadvertently’. Really?
    Regrettably, this is yet another health problem, best addressed by allowing the consumers to make informed decisions. The political problem is that we don’t currently have any politicians capable of making the distinction.
    Thank you Mr Lord and commenters. Take care

  9. James

    Yes John, the Govt limits damage caused by tobacco (packaging laws), road deaths (seat belts, alcohol limit of 0.05%) and alcohol (banning ads at sports events), all for the public good. Mandating seat belts cut deaths by a factor of 1/6 and rates of smoking have halved in recent years. On behalf of that section of the public who need help to get healthy, introducing a sugar tax makes sense. If someone doesn’t want to pay the tax, they won’t buy the sugar laced junk. Sugar cane growers can diversify.
    https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/880-A-sugary-drinks-tax.pdf
    Table 4.2: Many governments have implemented or announced SSB or soft drink taxes

    Wam, interesting observation. Most NRA members could look at the photos of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook primary school and feel no need to change the laws but the shooting of boot-scooters near a Las Vegas gambling venue they intend to visit, that’s a whole other story.
    Self-interest asserting itself for sure.

  10. Sir Scotchmistery

    I have to disagree in the strongest possible terms with the view that anything is solved by our dickhead government. The fact is they as a group could not successfully organise a shit fight in a country dunny.

    I also have to confess to a bit of a snigger, when after I got through the first paragraph the ubiquitous google adsense came up and of all things it was maccas offering delivery via Uber food delivery. Crap food and laziness in one ad.

    I was particularly taken by the incorrect geo-location, since I am 150km by road from the nearest arches, and 517km, from the nearest real uber driver. The irony of the ad, when looked at in the context of the article was quite arresting in fact. Perhaps IA could look at requesting no advertising from the likes of maccas, kfc and other life shortening product offerings.

    In terms of the idea of “regulation”, I think it’s reasonable to say that we are so over regulated in this country as to have North Korea using us as a template for how to control an idiot population. Which, for the record, we must certainly are.

    You are, imho John, one of the best writers in IA. I have seen you lambaste governments for their deceit for years. Don’t spoil that by expecting them to regulate another part of our lives, for absolutely no good reason.

    Health care costs based on bad food choices are down to us, as idiot voters. The government can stay out of my bedroom, my frig and my fucking lounge. I smoke. Stupid or otherwise, it’s my choice and I’m a fucking grown up. Likewise if someone’s mummy is stupid enough to feed her fat little bastards food that is bad for them, more fool her. They can bitch about it, at her, when they grow up and continue to make stupid food choices because of an educational system that accepts signage in schools, from the likes of MacDonald’s and KFC.

  11. stephengb2014

    I do not disagree John

    I do not like however the use of phrases that indicate that our taxes are used by our government for government spending when nothing could be further than the truth.

    I offer the following from Proffessor Bill Mitchell.

    Taxes Don’t Fund Anything by Bill Mitchell[
    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=9281

  12. Lord John

    Brilliant article John.

  13. Jack

    Now imagine if it was part of the plebiscite survey? Something like ‘Do you agree that foods with a high salt or sugar content should pay more tax?’ Then we’d get No campaigns funded by Coke, KFC, etc…

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