A consequence of prohibition. As the 2020 delegates gather in Canberra to consider, among other things, raising the drinking age as a means of stopping binge drinking, there’s a little article in the edition of The Economist on the web this morning that perhaps they should glance at. The story tells how the Reagan administration in 1984, spurred on by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), ordered states to raise their drinking age back to 21 or lose 10% of their federal highway funds. As the magazine puts it, “the states buckled under this fiscal blackmail but – surprise! – under-age drinking did not disappear. In some ways, the problem got worse.” The evidence for this conclusion comes from a group founded by John McCardle, the former president of Middlebury College in Vermont called Choose Responsibility which starts from the premise that alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans that cannot be “denied, ignored, or legislated away.” Delegates should look at the group’s white paper on the subject before blithely following the Reverend Tim Costello down the path of prohibition. And those involved in discussion of the problem of alcohol abuse in Aboriginal communities might also care to read the report in the  The Advertiser this week on the “massive” influx of people converging on Coober Pedy to drink alcohol as a “direct result” of the intervention in indigenous communities. With alcohol, for every action there is also a reaction.

The PR smarties have got me! I pride myself on my ability not to succumb to most of the entreaties of the public relations army which daily plies its trade promoting people, products and ideas but today they’ve got me. True PR genius deserves to be recognised and the team at Nestle surely qualifies with the way they have got the confectionery brand Smarties into London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Hence this little introduction of culture into Crikey. The occasion is an exhibition of “art masterpieces” created entirely from the little coloured chocolate beads that is currently on display.

Georges-Pierre Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières as recreated by “food artist” Prudence Emma Staite.

Seeking answers on plastic bags. Somewhere in my collection of vinyl recordings there is one on which Peter Sellers does a spoof travelogue on “Balham – Gateway to the South” which includes an interview with a worker who puts holes in the end of plastic tooth brushes. I couldn’t find it this morning so I’m relying on memory when I say the interview included the words “the other day the Duke of Edinburgh came by and had a couple of words with me. I did not understand either of them.” This flashback came to me while reading the statement issued after yesterday’s 16th meeting of the grandly named Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) which brought to Melbourne Australian Federal, State and Territory environment ministers and their counterparts from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Plastic, this time bags not toothbrushes, was the subject of much discussion and try as I might I have not the faintest clue what the EPHC decided. There were 233 words on plastic bags and I cannot understand any of them beyond a vague impression that there was actually no decision about anything. Meanwhile, as an EPH Standing Committee investigates further options for nationally consistent action, including “hypothecation for environmental outcomes of a voluntary retailer charge”, I am still awaiting for word from the ABC about my request for information on the blue plastic bag eating turtle featured on its website. The query I sent to the ABC was this:

Be prepared to wait up to four weeks for an answer is what the acknowledgement said after I submitted the query on 10 March.

The Daily Reality Check

The last week must be the most politics free week since Crikey has been conducting its daily review of the most read stories on the internet news sites. There are 10 sites in the survey each with five stories a day – 350 individual items a week. And just 22 of that most read bunch have been about politics.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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