tip off

The legal drinking age: stout Crikey readers whine

Drinking age:

Max Laughton writes: Re. “Should the legal drinking age be raised to reduce road deaths?” (yesterday, item 12). Dr Alex Wodak stated in yesterday’s article, “Just imagine trying to defend this policy against concerns that a 20-year-old Australian is considered mature enough to vote and even die serving his or her country but not considered mature enough to enjoy a beer with the family at Christmas!”

That’d be a pretty easy policy to defend, since Australians under the age of 18 are already legally allowed to drink alcohol in a private residence, and even at licensed premises when having a meal while accompanied by a guardian — which covers the majority of Christmas functions. Since I learned this in health class at high school years ago, it’s not exactly tough research to do.

Also, the title of the piece is a bit baffling, since the point of the piece is that raising the legal drinking age may not reduce road deaths. Surely if, as the title implies, raising the legal drinking age would reduce road deaths, then it would be an easy decision to make.

Tom Richman writes: So Tony Abbott is against raising the legal drinking age to 21 because this, in his words, “is the action of a nanny state.” Carrying such a view to its logical extension, does this mean there should be no age limit for alcohol purchases?

Similarly, would he forbid compulsory education? Stopping at red lights? Medicare deductions?

Peter North writes: How can you possibly send 18 year olds to fight for our country and yet not serve them alcohol until the age of 21 is ridiculous on moral and blatantly ”wowserish” grounds. Do we also raise the age at which people can get a driving licence to 21 and the age at which people can vote to 21? I think not in this day and age.

The green loan:

Darren Walters writes: Re. “Tips for Tony: these talking points are staring you in the face” (yesterday, item 1). Without trying to sound like an apologist for the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts (I am one of the small number who has actually taken up a green loan — PV Cells go on the roof soon), the debacle that is the insulation and loans schemes highlights one very important point.

It’s all well and good for a politician to stand in front of a hungry press pack and promise “we’re going to save the world by giving everyone free insulation and a green loan” — it takes him less than a seven second sound bite to say that and the media laps it up. The real work comes in making it happen. The planning, design, implementation of processes, infrastructure, and resourcing, and then getting the whole thing actually running, often from scratch, is another matter altogether and should involve hundreds of people and several thousand man-hours work.

Having been on the end of a government decision some year ago requiring an impossible lead time to implement (on January 1 no less — thanks for the Christmas gift Minister), spare a thought today for the stressed workers in the department who do eventually make things happen, albeit somewhat slowly. My dealings with the Department of Environment have highlighted two things. After eight weeks and five phone calls it’s obvious they are stretched to breaking point with what must be a mountainous backlog.

But more importantly for me — if the environment is supposed to be the near number one issue of concern to most Australians, why is the policy for it set by a department that shares its resources with Heritage and the Arts?

Kirill Reztsov writes: There’s a lot of stories that can be written under the headline “Govt program fails to achieve desired result”, but I don’t really see how Peter Garrett is responsible for faulty insulation. If a small business buys a car using government funding and the car crashes into a power pole, is Peter Garrett responsible?

As far as I can tell, the insulation work was not carried out by public servants from the Department of Dodgy Wiring. The government only provided funding, which was used by private installers to install insulation on private properties.

The installers who stuffed up are the ones who are at fault here.

Barnaby Joyce:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Joyce is only at the extreme end of a nonsensical argument” (yesterday, item 2). I can only say beware of prophets who claim to walk on water but are found to have holes in their feet.

Tony Abbott has dismissed Lindsay Tanner. Minister for Finance,  as a “jumped up union official”. Isn’t it funny that these days a union official can claim a BA in Arts/Law and an MA from Melbourne University?  Yes, he has been a union official, presumably responsible for overseeing the financial well being of that organisation.

Now, like Lindsay, Tony has a BA (Economics/Law) from Sydney University and a MA (Politics/Philosophy) (Oxon), but his career has been in journalism, first  (as I remember) for The Catholic Weekly, then The Bulletin and The Australian, where he took pleasure in attacking the more liberal-Vatican 2 leaning arms of the Roman Catholic church, then became a political adviser to John Hewson.

Joe Hockey, Shadow Treasurer, can claim a BA in Arts/Law from Sydney University and a career dedicated to  firstly to acting as a banking lawyer and then to taking a lead role in the privatisation program of the NSW Liberal/NCP government under Greiner and Fahey;  which explains a lot about Joe, given that that privatisation program was a disgraceful abrogation of the responsibility of a government to its people.

Barnaby Joyce’s own website proclaims his qualifications as Shadow Finance Minister:

After leaving school Barnaby gained a degree in commerce, majoring in accountancy. Concentrating on developing this field of knowledge he worked for eight years between tax in a chartered accountancy firm, cost in a large multinational and finance in a bank. Whilst doing this he also attained his CPA before opening his own accountancy practice from an old shop front in St George, Queensland.

So what is a qualification to be selected either as a minister or a shadow minister?  In Joe’s case, is it an ability to privatise any government asset in sight, without using those proceeds to do anything other than vanish into consolidated revenue and not re-use them to develop other income-earning activities that would lessen the tax load on the constituents?

In Barnaby’s case, given his very careful re-rendering of the Pauline Hanson, I would not want to put either my accounts or my tax affairs in his hands.

A sweet truth:

Dr Rosemary Stanton, nutritionist, writes: Re. “Soda pop not that soft: fizzy drinks linked to pancreatic cancer” (yesterday, item 18). I am happy to bag junk food and soft drinks are certainly junk, but I wish David Gillespie would use a more objective approach when he quotes scientific research. The Karolinska study he quotes did not decide “soft drinkers were in significant jeopardy” nor did the paper have “warnings for anyone eating sugar at all”.

The authors more modestly concluded that “high consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods may^ be associated with a greater risk of pancreatic cancer” and that “further research is warranted”. They also noted that some other studies have not found the same result and that their study did not distinguish between sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened soft drinks.

Gillespie then quotes the Nurses Health Study which found that carbohydrate and sucrose intake were not associated with overall pancreatic cancer risk in the cohort, although as he correctly notes, there was a higher risk in women who were overweight and sedentary. These are the two factors that deserve Gillespie’s “first prize”.

If you want to knock added sugar and soft drinks, there are many stronger reasons to do so than its possible association with pancreatic cancer. In the two studies Gillespie quotes, pancreatic cancer occurred in 131 of 77,797 subjects and 180 out of 88,802 - an incidence of less than 0.2 per cent of the groups studied over many years. As the authors note, this low incidence challenges conclusions from a dietary study.

Gillespie once again misquotes the Australian Dietary Guidelines. These recommend consumption of “only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars” - and do not recommend 20% of energy be consumed as  sugar, as Gillespie claims. The lengthy narrative highlights the problems of high quantities of added sugar, but states  ”there is no evidence that, for most Australians, consumption of up to 15-20% of energy as sugars is incompatible with a healthy diet”.

Note the plural sugars. It includes the natural sugars in milk, yoghurt, fruits and vegetables as well as added sugar from sugar cane.

Baltasar Gracian” writes:  There must be something in the water at Crikey. Barnaby is not the only person preaching Armageddon. Ron Paul the distinguished U.S. Republican politician has a recent video interview on the fact that the U.S is headed for financial disaster.

When it all hits the fan Barnaby will like all people who are gifted with seeing the real picture will be vindicated. Alas too late to save us.

Gold suppression:

Alex Pollard writes: Re. “At a loss to understand prophet Barnaby? Read this” (yesterday, item 10). Greg Barns bemoans the activists who, 10 years ago, tried to tell him gold was being suppressed by governments. Back then, talking up gold, he said “at the end of the day no currency lasts forever”. So now as doubts grow about the viability of major currencies, he should be claiming vindication. Maybe the world really has “gone to pot”.

Governments are desperately and openly intervening in every market these days, so it is no surprise to learn that Governments have been intervening in the gold market covertly. The motive? Gold is the competition to the fiat currencies which Governments can, and these days actually do, print with reckless abandon. Containing excitement in gold helps keep bond vigilantes docile and thus keeps interest rates artificially low.

The “Strong Dollar Policy” is the public name given to this suppression effort. The means? Covert leasing of central bank gold — and a stupendous complex of unregulated over-the-counter derivatives, in the hundreds of trillions — many times world GDP and serving no legitimate purpose.

It is a crisis of unprecedented proportions waiting to happen — a crisis of confidence in all counterparties, and a flight to what little physical bullion is still for sale.

Men at work:

Chris Hawkshaw writes: Re. “Music copyrights and wrongs: money hits the right note” (Tuesday, item 3). Colin Hay claims the musical reference to Kookaburra in Down Under was inadvertent.  He is surely being disingenuous.

Check out the original film clip on YouTube.  During the offending bars the flautist is shown sitting in an Old Gum Tree.

downunder

So that’s an inadvertent visual reference as well as an inadvertent musical one. If only they’d given him a crown to wear, so a merry merry king of the bush he could be.

5
  • 1
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Rudd did say he couldn’t think of any reason to raise the drinking age to 21 or did the media all miss the reality in the rush to have a beat up about not much.

  • 2
    Graham Cairns
    Posted Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Ummm … that’s not a gum tree, old or otherwise.

    It’s a mangrove - and it was used because the outdoor setting being used for the clip was at risk of being inundated by the rising tide.

  • 3
    Tom
    Posted Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    On a sweet tooth’ - having just finished the absolutely brilliant Bad Science (http://www.badscience.net/2006/08/free-bad-science-book-give-away/) by NHS Doctor and Guardian columnist Ben Goldacre, my first though was to Google Dr Rosemary Stanton, nutritionist (Dr Ben does not like or trust them very much!!). Imagine my surprise when it turns out Dr Rosemary actually has a science degree in biochemistry as opposed to the usual “I have a doctorate but am technically not able to call myself Doctor as my correspondence based degree, (US$600) is from the university of MyBackShed in Utah which mainstream academia for some reason refuse to acknowledge. A sensible, knowledge based bashing of some VERY poor journalism. In my empire, every so called health journo across all mediums would be tied down and have Godacre’s book read to them twice before they can again put pen to paper. Anyone else who chooses to read it will also understand the abject idiocy of ‘Brain Gym’, that people who ‘detox’ are gullible morons, nutritionists (without proper science degrees) are the biggest bunch of hoodwinking ratbags ‘the market’ ever produced, how the weirdest religious cults don’t get within a million miles of the fanciful stuff espoused by proponents of homeopathy and most beautifully, just how absolutely crap the press is when reporting science. Dr Rosemary, well done!! if when next you write you give Cochrane and Systematic a plug I might even look you up on Amazon.

  • 4
    chinda63
    Posted Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    He’s also got a koala sitting near him.

    If it was a kookaburra I’d be getting suspicious, but I suspect all that is going on here is the visual referencing of various pieces of Australiana.

  • 5
    meski
    Posted Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    @Tom Richman: Two words - strawman argument.

    A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.[1] To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

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