On the F35s

John Richardson writes: Re. “Helmet headache for F35s” (yesterday). Crikey has highlighted yet another problem with Australia’s expensive new addition to its defence capability — the plane that “can’t fly, can’t shoot, can’t dogfight & isn’t combat ready” — the F35: namely the dubious nature of the pilot’s “heavy helmet” technology. Given the two day turnaround time necessary for the helmet’s designers, Rockwell Collins, to render the helmets ready for use, it sounds like the alleged technology company may be playing a central role in yet another spectacular coalition high-tech success story: the dreaded lead-footed NBN.

While defence experts are convinced that Rockwell Collins will contribute much needed “heavy lifting” to the government’s dubious “Jobson Growth” strategy, other less charitable observers are unkindly suggesting that it is just another failed cereal brand, while some more cynical souls are even claiming that it must have played a central role in the design of the government’s recent Census debacle.

On sugar

David Gillespie writes: Re. “Sugar, oh, honey honey, I am the nanny state, and you’ve got me watching you” (yesterday). Bernard, its probably a good idea to look behind the headlines on sugar consumption stats. The Australian study you link to (via Diabetes SA) was prepared by Green Pool Commodities and paid for by the Australian Sugar Industry. It accepts that there is no data on Australian sugar consumption and so makes some up based on extraordinarily spurious extrapolation from the series abandoned as inaccurate by the ABS in 1998.

The ABS, US and Canadian soft drink data you link to is based on self report. The ABS notes that it is under-reported by at least 17% in men and 21% in women for all foods in the latest version. A 2007 study of reporting of discretionary food intake found no statistical association between biomakers and what was reported by people categorised as obese (in other words the fatter we are the less likely we are to accurately report consuming sugar).

The difference between ‘misuse’ of sugar and the other addictive substances you mention is that they are not embedded in every food on the supermarket shelves. Very few individuals are making a conscious choice about their sugar consumption. And very few understand that the BBQ sauce on their bacon sandwich is 3 teaspoons of sugar or that the Heart Foundation approved children’s snack is 72% sugar. Until they do (and choose to do it anyway) the nanny state argument has no legs.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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