Australia’s attorneys-general meet tomorrow, with restrictions on television programs such as Big Brother on the agenda.

Big Brother
has always been good moral panic material, here and overseas – and even
more so after recent events in the house. It’s also provided
libertarians with the perfect illustration of the failures of
regulation.

After the “sexual assault” in the Big Brother
house earlier this month, Communications Minister Helen Coonan demanded
a report on whether Channel Ten had breached the Broadcast Act. She then
had to admit that no violation had occurred as the episode had been
streamed online, not televised. Her populist stunt backfired.

The NSW Government is normally hamstrung by a hilarious mixture of populism and political correctness – take its reaction
to the Peter Breen case – but this time its Attorney-General, Bob
Debus, has offered an intelligent response. “There is already a
sophisticated electronic device for filtering this kind of material,”
he told The SMH. “It’s called the off switch.”

Exactly – but is anyone else prepared to blow the whistle on the Commonwealth?

We
all know about the populism of the Howard Government, but what about
its addiction to the nanny state? Even the Prime Minister knows it’s a
problem. He admitted as much back in May, in a speech
at the thirtieth anniversary celebrations for the libertarian right
Centre for Independent Studies think tank that, curiously, has never
been posted on his website:

There are times when governments need to look seriously at
policies which might appear paternalistic in the libertarian lecture
hall, but which help to reinforce social norms and values that are
under assault in various ways.

There are also things we can do better and cheaper ourselves. Like turn off the TV.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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