Plain packaging: a failed policy export

We all know plain packaging is incredibly unappealing to look at, but statistics are consistently showing that it is also completely useless – and may even have effects that go against its intended outcome of reducing smoking. 

First, some background. Since December 2012, all companies selling tobacco products in Australia have been required to remove any branding or logos on packaging under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. This has meant that all products from all brands have same appearance – drab dark brown (or Pantone 448 C, “the ugliest colour in the world”). The drab packaging compliments enlarged pictures of a child dying from cancer, somebody’s rotten teeth, a gangrenous foot, or some other visceral and confronting medical image designed to scare people into giving up the habit.

Australia was the first country to implement standardised tobacco packaging laws, and has inspired at least 15 other countries … Read the rest

Read more

Want more women at the top? Don’t overtax the ones already there

Lowering the 32.5 percent marginal tax rate to 30 percent and abolishing the 37 percent tax bracket for people earning $125,000 to $200,000 helps women. Australian Taxpayers Alliance Policy Director, Satya Marar, published an op-ed this week in the Daily Telegraph pointing out that this tax cut would not only provide Australia’s economy with a much-needed productivity boost. It would also promote women’s workforce participation and would bring more highly educated and qualified women back into the workforce, and reward them with higher paying jobs.

The government is punishing the very women who are doing the most to eradicate the gender wage gap.

It is women who have the power to take control of the gender wage gap. Not radical social engineers who think that imposing constraints on companies, or pushing unmeritocratic affirmative action policies are the answer. Women who are keen to work hard and get ahead in … Read the rest

Read more

In defence of streaming services

In the world of commercial music the power balance has shifted – billions of consumers now have more pull than hundreds of thousands of recording artists.

It’s called democratisation.

The more people you have making decisions, and the more immediate the impact of those decisions, the greater the variation in choice. A large number of consumers have chosen to spend their collective music budget on a little bit of lots of different artists’ work, where previously a small number of record company executives had allocated it across a narrower spectrum on their behalf.

If anybody wants to argue that the price per impression on streaming services is too low, then it should be pointed out that the artist receives that minuscule sum every time their song is played, as opposed to an up-front lump sum when purchasing a record or CD. Divide the purchase price of a CD by the … Read the rest

Read more

The age of political hostility

It seems in recent times we have seen an unprecedented rise in hostility, not only here in ‘the lucky country’ but around the world. We have seen mass killings, heinous crimes, acts of terrorism, violent protests, ‘egging,’ and a general intolerance of people with different opinions to ours. At this time of writing, right before the 2019 election, the display of hate towards political parties has perhaps been the most exemplary of this intolerance.

There are several reasons for this rise, and I won’t cover all of them here, but will mention a few, as well as offer some solutions.

Social media, while not a cause, has been a platform and a catalyst for the hostility. Where people once had time to cool off before expressing their frustrations or rage at anyone who would listen, social media now provides them with an instant audience. The problem is however, that such … Read the rest

Read more

The train to Geelong

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ambitious $4 billion plan to improve the efficiency of a train to Geelong from Melbourne is a recipe for disaster. The new line is part of a $19 billion high-speed rail plan to improve the efficiency of regional trains in Australia announced ahead of the 2018-19 budget. The nation-wide project is aimed to reduce commute times, congestion and provide greater accessibility for people living outside large cities like Melbourne.

While the Prime Minister’s goals are no doubt admirable, taxpayers should be concerned as such projects have a poor track record, are highly susceptible to cost blowouts, and indefinite timelines. Consider how since the 1980s, every Federal Government has conducted a feasibility study of constructing high-speed rail, but no high-speed rails have ever been constructed.

The Federal Government’s rail proposal for Geelong and Melbourne is expected to nearly halve commute times from 62 minutes to 32 minutes, … Read the rest

Read more

Blocking media is the new book burning

During times of great chaos in Ancient Rome, the government of the day resorted to restricting citizens’ liberty. Similarly, in Australia during times of great media frenzies, it seems that the liberties of citizens can also be suspended.

It is as if the Enlightenment never occurred and John Stuart Mill’s arguments for a free press were never made.

Australia’s own Caesar, Scott Morrison, attempted to stop people from seeing the footage of the New Zealand shooting.

Mr. Morrison himself did not pass any laws or act with any executive orders; he just asked telecommunications companies like Telstra to prevent their users from accessing video hosting platforms like LiveLeak and various other media sites.

LiveLeak, for those unfamiliar, is a video sharing site similar to YouTube. Unlike YouTube, LiveLeak aims to provide an archive of raw footage from current events in order to give power to the people who can analyse … Read the rest

Read more

Federalism, Australian style: federal-state financial socialism

There has been a lot of public debate this year in Australia about the federal system of government, in general, and, in particular, the system of payments between the national level of government and the sub-national level. Australia has a federal system of government similar to countries like the USA and Canada. Like the U.S., there is a national government and sub-national governments called the states and territories. Like Canada, these sub-national governments are a relatively small in number and population compared to the U.S. and include territories. Australia has six states and two territories compared to Canada’s ten provinces and three territories remembering of course that the U.S. has fifty states plus sixteen territories. The Australian national government is called the “Commonwealth”.

Three Aussie states are strongly complaining that it is largely unfair and unreasonable that they respectively and collectively do not get nearly enough revenue back from the … Read the rest

Read more

WA lobster nationalisation leaves industry on the rocks

The West Australian fishing industry that has long exemplified successful export orientated local enterprises, now faces the threat of annihilation from Premier McGowan’s pugnacious policies. The proposed law tries to create more rock lobster stocks for a barely existent local market through enforced expropriation. If this bill passes the upper house, fishermen stand to lose their livelihoods.

The laws only set WA’s fishing industry back to the 1970s where it was uncompetitive and unprofitable as the government will seize over 17 percent of the fish stock. This will deter private investment and discourage new entrants while wrecking the industry. The prospect of such government overreach is unwarranted and exploitative based off the anaemic justification that rock lobsters are a ‘local rarity’.

Rock lobster fishermen rely heavily on the prices our exports attract due to high demand in Asian markets. The shockwaves of McGowan’s law are already being felt in the … Read the rest

Read more

Hashtag Big Public Health

Those following me on social media may have noticed the hashtag that I have started- #bigpublichealth. Some have asked what does this mean and why have I done it.

Good questions. Below is my explanation.

We are forever hearing about big tobacco, big food, big pharma, big sugar and just to round it out big banks. These terms are used derisively to imply that the size of these amorphous groups is of itself a problem and that due to size, their influence is considerable.

There is some credence to this view. The lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry is significant, especially on the USA. Allegations have surfaced about the behaviour of the sugar industry in paying researchers. The food industry, of course wants to protect its position. The tobacco industry has negligible power these days.

However, not one of these groups has the express backing of governments. Not one of … Read the rest

Read more