Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

AUS­TRALIA. The land of the long week­end and more Nanny State laws than you can poke a stick at. The land where your bad de­ci­sions will be not only for­given by the Gov­ern­ment, but en­cour­aged.

But not con­tent with sim­ply ban­ning ev­ery­thing and pe­nal­is­ing the many for the sins of the few, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment also sees a way to make a buck.

We al­ready have the “vice” taxes on booze and smokes, and now sugar is in the fir­ing line.

Can­cer Coun­cil Queens­land does fan­tas­tic work but it is pres­sur­ing the feds to im­ple­ment a tax on soft drinks and to ban junk- food ads.

It re­cently cited a sur­vey that showed 60 per cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported a tax on sug­ary drinks. This is ridicu­lous. Firstly, any­one who agrees pay­ing more for some­thing is a good idea – es­pe­cially by way of a tax – needs a se­ri­ous talk­ing to. Se­condly, such mea­sures un­fairly pe­nalise peo­ple who aren’t obese or un­healthy.

If you have a Mars bar and a can of Coke ev­ery day but ride your pushie to and from work, why should you have to pay the same tax as some­one who does no ex­er­cise?

If 90 per cent of peo­ple can watch an ad for gam­bling, al­co­hol or junk food and not de­velop an ad­dic­tion, why should the 10 per cent who can’t con­trol them­selves dic­tate to the rest what is ac­cept­able?

It’s es­ti­mated that a sugar tax would in­crease the price of a 2L bot­tle of soft drink by 80c and reap $ 500 mil­lion in tax rev­enue.

But it would only cut con­sump­tion by 15 per cent. So like taxes on booze, fuel and smokes, it’s re­ally just a bla­tant cash grab by a gov­ern­ment that can’t bal­ance its books.

If you want to eat a burger that drips grease down your fore­arms, and wash it down with a soft drink, you should be able to with­out be­ing taxed.

By the same to­ken, if you eat that stuff, don’t ex­er­cise and be­come a land whale, you shouldn’t have any­one to blame but your­self.

Uni­ver­sal health­care plays a part be­cause obe­sity- re­lated ill­nesses and af­flic­tions make up the bulk of health costs in Aus­tralia. This means you can be­come the size of a house and the Gov­ern­ment will pay for your bad de­ci­sions.

A bet­ter method of gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion would be to im­pose a co­pay­ment for all med­i­cal care, but es­pe­cially treat­ment of al­co­hol, tobacco and obe­sity- re­lated con­di­tions.

So you can party hard now but you’ll have to pay later when your liver, lungs and heart give out.

Or you can party mod­er­ately, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and not be a bur­den on the health sys­tem and keep some money in your pocket.

The other is­sue is that by not al­low­ing free­dom to ad­ver­tise – and ac­tively try­ing to re­duce con­sump­tion of le­gal prod­ucts – govern­ments wan­der into un­palat­able ter­ri­tory of lim­it­ing pri­vate prof­its, which threat­ens jobs. It also says to peo­ple: “It’s not your fault you can’t stop eat­ing junk food, it’s those com­pa­nies brain­wash­ing you with their clever ads.”

It also re­alises a so­cial­ist ideal of the gov­ern­ment tak­ing care of ev­ery­one, and re­moves from peo­ple the re­spon­si­bil­ity to look af­ter them­selves.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion es­ti­mates about 268 mil­lion chil­dren un­der the age of 15 will be over­weight by 2025.

This is not pri­mar­ily a gov­ern­ment prob­lem, it’s a par­ent­ing prob­lem.

Al­most ev­ery­one over the age of 35 to­day speaks fondly of a child­hood where you didn’t come home un­til it was dark, and then pleaded with Mum to let you ride around the block one more time be­fore tea.

The old footy’s stitch­ing would be com­ing apart from overuse and games of tiggy could last for days.

Kids would be los­ing skin off knees, they were tanned and trim and had great hand- eye co­or­di­na­tion.

Now far too many kids are al­lowed to sit in­side on elec­tronic de­vices. They can’t catch a ball, can’t throw, can’t kick, can’t run. Some kids just aren’t sporty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ride a bike or walk the dog for a cou­ple of hours a day.

A wel­come gov­ern­ment pol­icy would be to make sports more af­ford­able by of­fer­ing vouch­ers for equip­ment and travel.

With wage growth stag­nant and gov­ern­ment- caused costs of liv­ing sky­rock­et­ing, such a prac­ti­cal mea­sure would have mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits, not least of all for­go­ing the need for yet an­other tax.

BAD DE­CI­SIONS: If you eat too much, don’t ex­er­cise and be­come obese, you only have your­self to blame.

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