The Nannies, as we call the annual Centre for Independent Studies awards, go to the government’s most absurd attempts to mind the private business of its citizens.
Given that the entire government is working for us, there are always many worthy contenders for the Nannies — and this year is no exception.
Draconian lockout laws, permits to hold a picnic in the park, harnesses that prevent your beloved pooch from hanging his head out of the car window — we seem to have a genius for dreaming up zany nanny state requirements.
The Nannies this year had a long list of contenders, which made the judging all the more difficult. The results include two dishonourable mentions.
The first goes to Joondalup City Council for deciding they were the summer fun police. A local man erected a 12-metre long water slide in his backyard pool, then invited all his neighbours to use it. People throughout his area took to gathering there and enjoying themselves — it became quite a community space.
The council was not amused. Building codes, noise, health and safety, local amenities, traffic, blah, blah, blah. The resident offered to make any necessary modifications, but the Council was adamant: take the slide down or face prosecution.
Our second dishonourable mention goes to Scott Penn, co-owner of the Manly Sea Eagles and former executive of Weight Watchers. Penn wants the government to tax companies that advertise foods that he believes have no nutritional value. His proposal has received support from at least one MP.
Of course, such taxes have been tried before. Chicago has now rescinded its tax on fizzy sodas, and Finland removed its tax on chocolate ice cream. In both cases, the tax was rescinded because it was ineffective. When the cost of chocolate ice cream went up, the Finns switched to other snacks. Similarly, when the cost of fizzy sodas rose, the Chicagoans moved to sugary juices.
In both cases, their weight never changed. The main cause of obesity is poverty. Taxing junk food just makes the poor even poorer. The best way to treat obesity is not with a tax but with a strong economy.
For the bronze, third place, Nanny Award, the judges were deadlocked. Half gave it to Senator John Williams’ campaign to slow down motorized mobility scooters. According to Senator Williams — whose wife was knocked down by a scooter — oldies are zooming down our footpaths at 35 kph. Manufacturers say that such speeds are impossible. Mobility vehicles have governors that restrict their speed to 10 kph, the legal maximum in all Australian states. But that’s still too fast for Williams who wants the speed limit lowered to six kph per hour.
Although no one has published a poll, I suspect that many of the speeding scooters are hurrying to the chemist to buy codeine, which will soon be available only by prescription — a move that won over the other half of the judges for third place.
Requiring a doctor’s visit for a prescription and paying a dispensing fee to pharmacists for putting the pills in a bag, will greatly increase the cost of painkillers.
In addition, to help smooth the transition, the federal government has given doctor groups $1 million and provided additional funding to pharmacists and patient groups. Moreover, it has been suggested that each state may be permitted to set its own starting date and to make exceptions for certain drugs.
The silver Nanny goes to Ladder Safety Matters, a federally sponsored campaign about how to use ladders.
This sexist and ageist campaign is aimed at men over the age of 65 who are silly enough to tackle DIY projects around the home.
The campaign brochure carries such helpful suggestions as (and I quote): “work safely up the ladder, know your limits, and take time to set up the ladder.”
Helmets for ladder users are not required, but they are recommended — especially, I presume, for those who are going through codeine withdrawal.
The gold Nanny makes it the second consecutive win People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, for short.
PETA won the gold nanny last year for its suggestion that Tasmania’s Eggs and Bacon Bay be given a vegan name.
This year, PETA wins for recommending that the iconic Australian band, Hunters and Collectors should also choose another name, as their current one “promotes the killing of animals.”
But why stop with Hunters and Collectors? Why not ask Meat Loaf to change his name to zucchini flower? Perhaps Cream could become chai. Hootie and Blowfish might be called Hootie and the vegan slice.
For those who find paternalism and political correctness depressing, I recommend a New Year’s resolution. Busybodies hate being laughed at. So, let us resolve to ridicule tyrants, meddlers and nosy parkers wherever we find them.
Let us make 2018 the year others stop minding our business — and start minding their own.
Professor Steven Schwartz is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies.
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