Posts Tagged regulation
It’s always great to see Australian domestic issues making headlines around the world. This morning, it is yesterday’s High Court decision on plain packaging of cigarettes that is doing the rounds.
The judgment upheld the benevolent decision by my Government to not allow me to look at all of those cigarette packages that were already hidden away in a cupboard behind the counter of any store.
Thank Government, I say. The temptation from that multicoloured packaging underneath the pictures of cancer and gangrene was so strong sometimes, it was all I could do to pull myself away. Now I guess I will be able to overcome the overwhelming desire of buying a little blue and white box with a huge picture of a diseased eye.
I particularly liked this report from the Jerusalem Post:
Several major tobacco companies challenged Australia’s legislation. But the industry’s attempt to derail this effective tobacco control measure failed.
Plain packaging is a highly effective way to counter industry’s ruthless marketing tactics, Chan said.
It is also fully in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which was ratified by 170 countries including Israel – but not the US, due to its strong tobacco lobby, and went into effect in 2005. “The Australian lawsuits filed by Big Tobacco look like the death throes of a desperate industry.
Sounds horrifying. Ruthless marketing tactics, Big Tobacco, strong tobacco lobby. Lucky Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek are here to protect us from this evil!
… as they were very keen to point out.
“This is a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco-related illness,” Nicola Roxon, the attorney general, and Tanya Plibersek, the health minister, said in a joint statement. “No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard.”
Mobile billboard?? Quick! Ban them! We can’t have mobile billboards with cigarette company logos under all those pictures of gangrenous feet and rotten teeth!
Even better was Roxon in Question Time:
I do indeed have some good news for the House: today the highest court in the country has confirmed legislation that was passed by this parliament. That means that Australians will no longer be subjected to tobacco being sold in packaging which is attractive to young people and which entices them to take up what is a deadly and addictive habit. This decision is good news for every parent who worries about their child taking up this habit.
Attractive to young people? Government forbid! Thanks Nanny Nicola for protecting us from that. As a ‘young person’ myself, it’s nice to know that I am in good hands.
But it’s not just the ALP that is looking out for my best interests. See, a few weeks ago a young man was tragically killed in Sydney’s Kings Cross by a random attack. Fortunately, the perpetrator was found and imprisoned. It seems as though he was on some kind of a rampage at the time.
Luckily, the NSW Liberals know exactly how to respond to such random acts of violence: regulate!
The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has announced the government will introduce a ban on shots, doubles, ready-to-drink beverages and glassware after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays for the area’s 58 venues.
No more than four drinks may be purchased at a time after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays under the changes and from 11pm two responsible service of alcohol ”marshalls” must patrol all venues and alcohol sales must cease one hour before closing.
Clearly there is a problem with alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross after 11pm.
Yes, you could say “well the boy was killed just after 10pm”, or “there’s no evidence that the attacker had been drinking heavily”, or “this was a random attack and is not really evidence of an ingrained culture”. And you would technically be completely right on all counts:
The man accused of murdering Sydney teenager Thomas Kelly, 18, in Kings Cross this month went on a crime spree lasting more than an hour, punching four people in total, police said.
According to police documents, Kieran Loveridge, also 18, allegedly began his crime spree at 10.03pm on Saturday, July 7, assaulting an 18-year-old boy on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street.
But why let a little thing like the truth get in the way of some good regulation? Clearly if I am no longer allowed to keep ordering drinks at night before I wonder out onto poorly-policed streets with no way of getting home, I am much less likely to go around punching random people in the head!
It must be all that alcohol that’s the problem, not the fact that the 3am enforced closing time happens to coincide with cab changeover and comes two hours after all public transport has ended, which actually leaves no way of getting home for hundreds of people.
That couldn’t be it.
This is actually one of those rare occasions where I agree with NSW Labor.
The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said the measures ”will not put a single extra police officer on the streets and they do nothing to address one of the biggest problems in Kings Cross – and that is getting revellers home on Friday and Saturday nights”.
I know, someone pinch me.
There has been a lot of attention on Turnbull’s recent Michael Kirby Lecture but I only just got around to reading it. Overall, it’s very hard to fault him – he systematically goes through the different arguments against legalising gay marriage and quite convincingly debunks them. Whatever your views on gay marriage, it is worth reading as food for thought.
HOWEVER, he did not quite follow his reasoning to the logical conclusion – a conclusion that I reached a while ago. And no, I am not saying “so near and yet so far” because he said that he wanted civil unions rather than pushing a bill on gay marriage at this time. Here’s what I’m talking about:
So there is a clear distinction already between what constitutes a valid marriage in the eyes of the state and in the eyes of the Church.
Of course this distinction is more clear cut in countries where a marriage is recorded by a civil official at a registry office or town hall and then, subsequently, by a religious ceremony where one is conducted. I don’t doubt that explains why the legalisation of gay marriage has been less controversial there.
In Australia however ministers of religion are authorised to perform both the civil function, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the religious one on behalf of their denomination.
My point here is that the question as to whether same sex couples’ unions should be termed a marriage by the state is not one which calls for a religious answer. No denomination can be compelled to recognise any particular form of marriage – it is entirely up to them.
So here’s the question: if that is true (which it is), WHY IS THE STATE STILL TRYING TO DO JUST THAT? And why is Turnbull supporting it? So long as the state figures it should be defining the word “marriage”, there will be problems that will be unnecessarily divisive and create a lot of avoidable public outrage. Why not let people who get married define what “marriage” should mean for them?
He only briefly supports state-regulated marriage substantially once, like this:
Study after study has demonstrated that people are better off financially, healthier, happier if they are married and indeed, I repeat, if they are formally married as opposed to simply living together. 
And his footnote said this (my bold):
 There is widespread evidence that marriage leads to better mental health, greater wealth accumulation, more stable households and better well being of children raised in a household. A 1998 study by the RAND Corporation, for instance, found that the median household worth of married households was almost four times higher those who were never married, with a median wealth of U.S.$132,000 compared to $35,000. Lupton, J., & Smith J., (1999), “Marriage, Assets and Savings”, available online here. The study measured 7600 households containing a member born between 1934 and 1941 (so between 51-60 years old). A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found varying levels of serious psychological distress according to different the different categories of marital status. Among adults aged 18–44 years, 6 per cent of those who were divorced or separated experienced serious psychological distress compared with, 3.6% of those living with a partner, 2.5% of never married adults, and 1.9% of married adults. Schoenborn, C., (2004), “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999–2002”, available online here. The study also found married couples enjoyed much greater physical wellbeing…
Did you see what was wrong? Turnbull is a highly-educated and very intelligent person, so I am a little disappointed that he would be making such a basic mistake.
Those results are not causative – they do not necessarily show that getting married has any benefits at all. What they could just as easily indicate is that people who are generally more wealthy, and who have better mental and physical health are more likely to get married and, if married, are less likely to be divorced.
I would put my money on the latter being the case, rather than the former – I see no logical reason why the piece of paper proclaiming you to be “lawfully wedded” would make one iota of difference to your income or wellbeing, however I can definitely understand why a couple in good health and with steady incomes would be more likely to spend their lives together happily than a couple living paycheck to paycheck while battling psychological illness.
STATE MARRIAGE is a harmful institution. Legal interests should be attached to demonstrated co-dependency and not on a ceremony conducted by an official with a license. Marriage should be conducted by the clergy, or by some kind of communal leader, or whoever the hell else wants to do it – that is not something that the Federal Government needs to have anything to say about.
Turnbull is definitely on the right track, he just needs to take that extra leap.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the Inquiry into the news media by Justice Raymond Finkelstein that is making waves in Australia. In the time that I have been reading it, everyone in the media has come out against it. And I mean everyone — from Andrew Bolt to the Green Left Weekly.
Many of these criticisms (including both Bolt and the GLW) stem from the claim that Finkelstein advocates imposing regulation on any blog with more than 15,000 hits per year. For some perspective, this blog received about 19,000 unique views in the last year (most of which would represent multiple “hits”) and that includes a good four-month period in which I was barely posting.
Other people to raise this as an issue include Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella, Institute for Public Affairs researcher Chris Berg, Sydney Institute head Gerard Henderson, influential political blogger Andrew Landeryou of VexNews and ABC’s Media Watch. Some even quoted the actual line in context, which I find absolutely baffling. Take a look here, pay attention to the sentence that comes after the one with the number “15,000″ — which I have conveniently bolded for you:
If a publisher distributes more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site has a minimum of 15 000 hits per annum it should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council, but not otherwise. These numbers are arbitrary, but a line must be drawn somewhere.
I feel like I may need to draw your attention a little more, given how many people seem to have missed this, so here goes:
“THESE NUMBERS ARE ARBITRARY”
That means he is not recommending the number of 15,000 hits per day. 15,000 was just a random number that he made up.
There is no possible explanation for this except that one person skimming the report noticed the number and then everyone else in the media saw that somewhere and decided to make a huge deal about it without actually bothering to read the report. Ironically, this is exactly the kind of low journalistic standards that Finkelstein identifies as a problem in a report that has been — unsurprisingly — blown completely out of proportion. I guess the press don’t have the attention-span to read through 334 pages anymore.
What is particularly ironic is that Media Watch also made the same error — aren’t they supposed to be the ones picking things like this up?
There has been a lot of what looks like sensationalism/paranoia surrounding the Finkelstein report on the media in Australia, so I have decided to read it myself. I will write on this when I have seen more, but I did want to highlight something early on.
Firstly, Bob Brown’s call for a media inquiry (my bold):
…but the leader of the Greens, Senator Brown, called for a general inquiry into the newspaper industry. He suggested that the inquiry should canvass whether:
· publishers should be licensed
· a ‘fit and proper person’ test should be applied
· there should be limits on foreign ownership of the press
· the newspaper industry is too concentrated
· there is a need for independent regulation of the press
A few pages later, Finkelstein summarises how the idea of a free press came to the British Common Law (and therefore Australian Law) (my bold):
The newly-invented printing press came to England in 1476. It brought about a sweeping change in communication possibilities. There was now a means, which could be employed by many, of carrying speech far and wide. It did not take long for the state to exercise strict control ‘over the printing, publication and importation of books’ in the interests of the state’s ‘peace and security. As early as 1484, monopolies were granted to publishers to print particular books. Then, in 1534, it became an offence to purchase a book published abroad. This was followed by proclamations against seditious and heretical books
2.9 In 1586 the Star Chamber issued a decree prohibiting all printing other than by licensed stationers. …
2.10 …The 1662 Printing Act was the last attempt to regulate printing by statute. The Act established a licensing system. The licensor was required to certify that his work was not ‘contrary to the Christian faith … or against the state or government’.
2.11 By the early 1690s advances in technology had significantly reduced the cost of printing and it was no longer practicable for the state to keep printing under control.
2.12 …The 1662 Act was allowed to lapse in 1694.
As a small point, Australia still bans the importation of foreign books to a large extent (or at least, this was reintroduced somewhere down the line).
More importantly, Bob Brown is trying to bring back the idea of licensing press outlets in order to quell criticism of the Government – an idea that our legal tradition got rid of more than 300 years ago. This is supposed to be progressive? I can’t think of many things more regressive.