Latham's Law

Latham’s Law

11 February 2012

11:00 PM

11 February 2012

11:00 PM

One of the delusions of the nanny state is that laws made in the distant chambers of Parliament House can impact, command-and-control style, on the lives of ordinary citizens. Take this self-congratulatory serving from Bob the Blogger on 5 January:

One of the happiest campaigns I devised after leaving ‘the job’ [as NSW Premier] was in getting regulations to force fast-service food outlets to post calorie information on their menus. It came into effect on 1 January. It means a harried mum picks up information that enables her to make healthier food choices for her kids when she shepherds them into a McDonalds or Kentuckys [sic].

Ever curious about the claims of Carrism, I recently tested the effectiveness of this ‘reform’ with some field research at McDonald’s Narellan, in south-west Sydney. When I asked for a menu, however, the schoolgirl behind the counter looked at me like I had just bumped off Justin Bieber. ‘Menus?’ the diminutive toughie barked. ‘It’s all on the board, mister.’ I was left feeling as inadequate as the chubby chap on the TV advertisements who took his girlfriend to McDonald’s for a fancy night out.

On the display board behind the counter were gargantuan pictures of each food item, blown out of proportion in a manner reminiscent of Malcolm Turnbull’s head. Below the big hamburgers, in print finer than a Michael Clarke leg-glance, were the kilojoule counts: Big Mac 3,550 kJ, Quarter Pounder 3,790 kJ, McChicken 3,200 kJ, Choc Whirl Frappé 2,160 kJ and so on. Macca’s marketing ploy is to entice its customers through pictures, not by numbers.

Praying that little tough-nuts was not related to Bev Waugh or Penny Sexton and that this ‘incident’ (Weight-gate, perhaps) would not end up in the Sunday Telegraph, I tried another line of Carresque inquiry. ‘Does anyone talk about the kilojoules before ordering?’ Her reply of ‘What da?’ was instructive enough. Anyone looking for a healthy feed for their kids would not go to McDonald’s in the first place. Those that do go are not interested or concerned by the true meaning of 3,550kJ.

Carr’s reform has made the nanny state bigger, filling extra pages of bureaucratic regulations and paperwork. Its fat bloated carcass is hauntingly familiar. There it sits, hanging out with the really Big Macs, on the backing board of McDonald’s Narellan — a boomba marriage made in heaven.


With record levels of public distrust in the news media, most people now watch television for entertainment, not information. It was in this spirit that I enjoyed last year’s Underbelly: Razor series, particularly its rustic inner-city setting. It gave viewers a much-needed break from the drudge of outback Australian ‘drama’, with its big hats, cattle mustering and Americanised stagecoaches. For reasons unknown, our entertainment industry has been reluctant to embrace the great stories of Australian urban history. At least in its portrayal of East Sydney’s underworld during the Depression, Channel Nine has made up for some of the shortfall.

In reading Larry Writer’s book of the same name, it is clear Underbelly: Razor took a few shortcuts. One anecdote it overlooked was the friendship of Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine with Labor party identities, such as the firebrand of East Sydney, Eddie Ward. As Writer records, ‘Devine and Leigh, for all their devotion to acquiring money, were socialists at heart.’ They saw crime as a product of social circumstance, forcing the poor into illegal vocations. It was a logical step, therefore, to support Labor as the party of the dispossessed. Leigh and Devine campaigned vigorously in Surry Hills and Darlinghurst for the re-election of their ALP favourites.

One of the criticisms of the modern Labor party is that it has abandoned the best of its grassroots traditions. Rest easy, comrades, some things have not been lost. In recent years there has been a flurry of Labor activity associated with inner-Sydney shysters. The ghosts of Devine and Leigh are rattling their sly grog bottles and razor blades with joy.

ICAC hearings, for instance, have heard of how the former state Labor minister, Ian Macdonald, was given access to a young lady paid for by the property developer Ron Medich, himself due for trial for the alleged murder of a Sydney gangster. Macdonald needed these services for the treatment of a stiff neck. Macca’s mate and left-wing factional ally, federal minister Anthony Albanese, has also enjoyed Ron’s hospitality (of the restaurant kind) and accepted campaign donations from his companies.

Unfortunately, from knocking around with showbiz-types like Elton John and Dolly Parton, Albanese now thinks he is one. How else to explain his re-enactment a fortnight ago of Michael Douglas’s speech from the movie The American President? Albo needs to forget about Hollywood and reclaim his roots, starting with a fundraising lunch with Medich. He might care to invite the great Graham Richardson, for many years Ron’s paid lobbyist in Macquarie Street. As Tilly used to say, it’s the big shivoo.

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